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As you’ve probably heard, the upcoming winter World Cup has prompted some challenging shifts to the English soccer calendar. The season has been compressed, and if your club is in European competition, things are even trickier, as the group stages need to be done before the season pauses. During Premier League Matchday 12, however, two of the biggest names — Arsenal and Manchester City — will be sitting at home.

While the game, which features the first and second-place teams in the table, in addition to some player-based storylines, would have been a treat for fans, it won’t take place until later in the season. What’s behind that reality? We’re seeing the implications of a domino effect started by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Arsenal and Manchester City aren’t playing because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and a postponed match

When Queen Elizabeth II died earlier this year, the Premier League canceled an entire matchday’s worth of games, plus a few extra the following weekend. The late monarch, however, is still having an impact on the domestic soccer schedule.

In addition to their league match, Arsenal were unable to host PSV Eindhoven in a Thursday-night Europa League match on Thursday, September 15, due to what UEFA called “the severe limitations on police resources and organisational issues.” Since that meeting is likely to determine who finished atop Group A, it can’t simply fall off the calendar. It has to be made up, and with Europa league matchdays set for Thursday, October 27, and Thursday, November 3, the makeup date landed on Thursday, October 20.

While that makes sense from a competition perspective — you simply can’t push a match that will affect who will emerge from the group forever — it did force a change elsewhere in the schedule. The Premier League has a matchday from Tuesday, October 18, to Thursday, October 20.

Given the time-sensitive nature of the Europa League match, Arsenal’s league fixture had to be postponed. That date happened to be with Manchester City, also putting Pep Guardiola’s team out of action.

That delay could be both a gift and a curse for both Arsenal and Man City

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (L) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (R)
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (L) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (R). | Getty Images / Staff

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While it’s not 100% true, common wisdom dictates that there’s no good time to play Manchester City. And while avoiding the defending champions might give Arsenal a better chance of keeping their winning streak alive, there are pros and cons for both clubs.

On the positive side of things, the Gunners simply won’t have to play an incredibly difficult match at a challenging time. After a week that included a taxing win over Liverpool, a tricky trip to the Arctic Circle, and a frantic visit to Leeds, the North London club was collectively showing signs of fatigue. Facing PSV won’t be a gimme, but playing against Manchester City at anything less than 100% is a recipe for disaster.

Similarly, City will get a free week to rest and recover. After a busy start to the season and a tough loss at Anfield, Guardiola will probably relish the chance to give his players a breather and do some work on the training pitch. He could almost treat this as the final huddle before a sprint to the World Cup, challenging his team to show their mettle.

With that being said, though, both clubs are facing the same potential downside: We simply don’t know what the future holds.

Beyond the unprecedented challenges of an in-season World Cup — things will look much different should someone like Thomas Partey or Kevin De Bruyne come back from Qatar injured — the schedule will still be compressed in the second half of the campaign. Things will be further magnified as both clubs seem like safe bets to go deep in their respective European competitions. At some point, the postponed match will have to be played, even if that means playing six matches in three weeks.

At this point, though, we don’t even know when Arsenal and Manchester City will make up this game, let alone what the soccer world will look like by then. Right now, all we can do is wait.

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