Offside call wouldn't have come at other end
After a Saturday unusually light on controversy, madness once again took over the Premier League on Sunday in two action-packed games at St James' Park and the Britannia Stadium.
Alan Pardew swearing at Manuel Pellegrini is hardly a talking point - only the extremely feint of heart are upset by expletives these days, and everybody knows by now that the Newcastle manager lacks class - but the incident that preceded his rant is certainly worth further discussion.
There have, as usual, been attempts to justify Mike Jones' decision to disallow Chieck Tiote's goal, but deep down everybody knows it should have stood. Even those associated with Manchester City.
There were three Newcastle players stood in offside positions as Tiote took the shot but none of them touched the ball or interfered with any opponent. This is where the justification of Jones' decision comes - some have suggested Yoan Gouffran was distracting Joe Hart - but the goalkeeper even admitted himself, according to James Milner after the game, that he would not have saved the shot regardless of Gouffran's presence.
Jones told Pardew that he thought Gouffran actually deflected the shot past Hart - if that genuinely was his belief, it'd make the whole distraction debate a pointless one as the decision could be explained simply by human error - but it appears as though the referee was desperately trying to justify his mistake however he could - Pardew claimed Jones also said Hart was being impaired.
The whole bizarre episode reignites the debate about whether it is sensible for so many laws of the game to be left open to a referee's interpretation - far too many mistakes are able to be brushed under the carpet by such loopholes, in this case the one about distraction - and it also adds weight to the calls for the introduction of video referees.
I have been against the idea historically and still believe there would need to be tight restrictions on what could decisions could be appealed, and how often, but I have also long held the belief that referees are biased towards the leading clubs.
It is a subconscious rather than a purposeful thing - referees pander to the most famous players, giving them the majority of 50-50 decisions, and they are bound to think long and hard about giving a big decision against a top club for fear of the media furore that will follow if they have made a mistake. It is easier to take upsetting mid-table Newcastle than it is title-chasing Manchester City with all their stars.
The top clubs do, of course, sometimes suffer from refereeing mistakes themselves, but it is no coincidence that it is the managers of the smaller clubs regularly complaining to referees chief Mike Riley about runs of poor decisions.
While the smaller clubs continue to see decisions go against them, the best teams, who shouldn't need any help from referees, continue to get soft decisions in their favour.
If I am right and there is indeed subconscious bias being shown towards the top clubs, perhaps a video referee, unaffected by the protests from the players on the pitch, would help to ensure a fairer implementation of the rules.
After all, it is one thing to make a mistake in the heat of the moment, but quite another to make one with the benefit of replays and time to think.
Were a video referee in place at St James' on Sunday, Tiote's goal would undoubtedly have stood. The end result could have been completely different. And were a video referee in place later in the day at the Britannia Stadium, Raheem Sterling almost certainly wouldn't have won Liverpool a crucial penalty against Stoke. The end result could have been completely different.
I remain a video technology sceptic, but football isn't as fair as it should be, and something has to be done about it.
Yanga-Mbiwa tackle a true horror
While it is easy to feel sympathetic towards Newcastle over the disallowed goal, it is rather more difficult to justify the 'tackle' from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa which led to what could have caused Samir Nasri a serious injury.
Yanga-Mbiwa clearly had no chance of winning the ball from Nasri, and it looked to be an obvious example of a player 'taking one for the team', i.e. intentionally fouling an opponent to stop an attack.
Yanga-Mbiwa will almost without doubt say he did not intend to hurt Nasri, but the force and height of the tackle was unnecessary, and he undoubtedly should have been shown a red card.
I will always defend a player that makes a genuine but mistimed attempt to play the ball, but that did not appear to be the case in this instance. For once, the anger directed at a player to have caused an injury is justified.
Bayern gesture puts Premier League clubs to shame
It says it all about the respective values of German and English clubs that Bayern Munich have subsidised ticket prices for fans travelling to Arsenal for the first leg of their Champions League tie next month.
While English clubs' aim is to sell the 'product' at the highest possible price, there does appear to be a genuine willingness in Germany to keep football affordable for fans.
The Bundesliga has the lowest ticket prices and the highest average attendance of Europe's five major leagues, and as a result the atmosphere at games puts the atmosphere at Premier League games to shame.
The fact that Bayern have made a profit for more than 20 years in succession proves that extortionate ticket prices are not necessary to be a successful business, yet the greed of English clubs shows no sign of going away with Manchester United charging Sunderland fans between £45 and £55 to watch the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final next week despite the fact that tickets for the first leg at the Stadium of Light cost just £20.
United should not feel forced to lower their prices just because Sunderland have, of course, and they will undoubtedly sell the majority of tickets for the game at the high price.
But the attitudes of United, Arsenal and the rest of England's clubs compared to those in Germany leaves an awful lot to be desired.