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The problems with VAR
Regarding VAR and its apparent success in the Bundesliga, I think it’s going to be used in the World Cup isn’t it? If so, I’d imagine its success or otherwise there will have a big bearing on whether it makes it to the Premier League.
I’d like to be a believer in it, I really would, but for me there are two big problems with using it in football. Firstly in cricket, rugby etc where it’s been introduced successfully, there are natural breaks in the game where it can be reviewed, which won’t always be the case in a game of football. Secondly, it gives the illusion of certainty when in reality, so many decisions can be debated one way or the other. As a perfect example of this, my team Stoke City was on the wrong end of an absolute shocker at the weekend with the Lanzini dive, or according to his manager, Lanzini collapsing with a sudden and incredibly short-lived attack of fatigue. On the face of it, it’s an obvious case for VAR. With it, Lanzini is booked, the game remains 0-0 and who knows where it would go from there. Without it, West Ham take the lead, the Stoke players’ fragile confidence starts to seep away and Lanzini gets a two game ban, for a cup game and a league game against one of Stoke’s relegation rivals, which doesn’t quite seem to be fitting compensation. But it also shows up the potential weaknesses in the system.
In a single passage of play, Stoke hit the post, Shaqiri was (very obviously) fouled inside West Ham’s half resulting in Stoke losing possession, West Ham broke away and ultimately, Lanzini dived for the penalty. So let’s say it was reviewed and Lanzini hadn’t dived. Is it a penalty? Well hang on, Shaqiri has been fouled so do you go back to that? If not, it’s still an injustice. So ok, you go back to there, but hang on, there was an attack before that. Do you go back even further? What if you now see there was a push in the West Ham penalty area? Is it a Stoke penalty now? What if Stoke had appealed at the time, the game was stopped but it turns out there wasn’t a push? Ok, no penalty but now West Ham have been denied the opportunity to break away and ultimately score as they did, albeit via the dive. This is an extreme example but not a purely hypothetical one, it happened just last Saturday.
Then on to the other problem. This really was a clear-cut situation, everyone agrees that Lanzini dived. Well apart from David Moyes, who thinks he suffers from narcolepsy. Don’t they? Well no. Some pundits have rather ludicrously used the “he had a right to go down” defence and argued that it was actually a penalty. So there’s even disagreement here in one of the most blatant cases you could ever hope to find. There’s no chance of getting consensus on, say, a contentious handball decision. That’s obviously a problem now but at least everyone understands, at least in theory, that it comes down to “in the referee’s opinion”. Introduce VAR and I’m afraid you’re selling the illusion of certainty, and it just doesn’t exist in these situations.
So yes, I’d like to be a believer, and my team would certainly have benefitted last weekend, but I’m really not sure it’s all that well suited to football.
Double save in the derby?
Just wanted to register my outrage at your statement that Ederson is providing stiff competition to De Gea for the best goalkeeper crown? Come on, are you serious? I’ve not even seen him make one game defining save yet for City. You’ll probably point out Lukaku’s shot from the derby, but that was hit at him rather than the keeper making a remarkable save. Granted he has great foot work and seems like an okay shot stopper, but let’s hold off putting him in the same bracket as the league’s best keepers just yet. At least until we see a game where City are dominated and rely on the keeper to bail them out (so probably won’t happen this season). De Gea is too far ahead of any of the Premier League keepers to be honest. I would say he is the best in the world, only Buffon and maybe Neuer can compete with him. In terms of the Premier League, I would say Ederson is not even on the level of Courtois and Lloris.
Pep great for the Premier League
I think Guardiola’s current success at Manchester City is great for the Premier League long term.
Hear me out.
Every once in a while, a world-class manager enters a league and raises the bar to such an extent that it changes the entire dynamic of the league. Clubs around him have no choice but to spend vast sums of money, hire a manager of a similar calibre, or both, just in order to compete. We have seen this in the past with Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho – Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex/Rafa Benitez, respectively, being their closest challengers. Pep’s own success at Barcelona preceded Real Madrid’s splashing out on Kaka and Ronaldo, as well as hiring Mourinho to break their dominance.
Another upshot to this is that the overall quality of the league improves. Looking back, we can clearly see Jose’s effect on Premier League teams since his arrival. There was a tangible improvement in the European performances of the then top four between 2004 – 2009. Constant high quality domestic tussles prepared the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and United to do quite well in Europe. I reckon Mourinho’s arrival was a major factor.
A similar effect can be seen after Guardiola’s initial success with Barcelona. Suddenly, there was a shift of power to the La Liga with Spanish teams dominating the Champions league for a while. Top players wanted to play with or test themselves against the best and having regular encounters with world class players/managers improved even lesser teams like Atletico Madrid, who became Champions League regulars.
A case could also be made for the likes of Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund (to a lesser extent) in the Bundesliga and others.
I guess we’ll find out in a few years if this season’s (potentially) record breaking Man City team brought about a golden age of English football or its downfall. I’m rooting for the latter.
Ian Rosario (Or, it could just be the money) LFC
Lukaku isn’t sulking
I really think Lukaku’s lack of celebration is being looked in to way too much.
At Bournemouth he didn’t go bat shit crazy because he was relieved at finally scoring – I think it would have been a bit weird to go mental after finally scoring a goal after so long, the main thing he is meant to be doing. But each to their own.
And people seem to really under appreciate Lukaku’s relationship with West Brom. They bloody love him there (he scored 17 goals in his only season at the Hawthorns, most anyone’s scored for them), and by all accounts he enjoyed his time there as well. I know it might be a bit difficult for PFM’s to comprehend, but sometimes players don’t like celebrating against clubs they used to play for.
If the games had been a few goals apart then there’d be no discussion, but alas….
Malin (well, I hope so anyway)
Sour over Sam
I can’t stand Sam Allardyce doing well at Everton. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for the club, absolutely – it was saddening to see them doing so poorly under Koeman – but Allardyce’s smug, self-congratulatory interview style makes me want to vomit. He is the Yoda of using words carefully to say it’s a team effort while actually accepting all the credit for any success, and then simultaneously protecting himself against any and all failure by pre-emptively blaming everyone else. I’ve taken these quotes from the Beeb today:
“From a tactical point of view, I’ve simplified the game. And I’m man-managing the players. I brought some experienced and talented staff with me, along with the rest of the staff – I want everyone to get better. To turn around so quickly is great credit to everyone. Not just me.”
I’ve just realised that he is David Brent. “But I did have a big hand in it. I’m just very humble.”
The next part is absolutely textbook.
“With this confidence if we can get a result there (Chelsea), we’re on the right track for finishing as high as we can. Let’s see if the lads can pull one out of the bag.”
And just like that, piles all the responsibility back onto the players. He literally goes from “we” to “they” the moment a potential failure rears its head. If Everton win at Chelsea, “we” won, and he’s making everyone better. If they lose, then “the lads” haven’t managed to “pull one out of the bag.”
I realise this is not news. I also know that I’m incredibly biased because I haven’t been able to stand Allardyce for a long time; there’s hardly anything he says that doesn’t make me scoff. It just still winds me up something rotten.
One rule for one
I assume that now that Joe Hart is second choice for West Ham, he will drop out of consideration for the England squad. Or is that a rule that Southgate just made up for Jack Wilshere?
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
So, Daniel Storey says: “I’m still of the opinion that selling Coutinho for £120 million would have been the right call, given that it would have allowed Liverpool to sign at least three excellent players in problem positions”.
This statement is a gross simplification of the situation. The Virgil Van Dyke and Naby Keita sagas have demonstrated that having money does not guarantee that you will be able to immediately get the players that you want, even if those players are desperate to join. And even if they were somehow able to spend all of the Coutinho cash, who’s to say that the new players would have been a success? Liverpool post-Suarez and Spurs post-Bale have demonstrated that spending the proceeds of a transfer windfall can be a bit of a crapshoot.
I think that Liverpool handled the Coutinho situation in the best way possible. The way he is performing at the moment it was a complete no brainer to hang on to him for another season.
With it nearly being the time of year for more transfer shenanigans to kick off, it got me thinking about those deals which include rather ‘out of the ordinary’ add-on’s for the selling (or buying team).
One that springs to mind is Gareth Bale’s transfer from Spurs to Real Madrid, which (if I remember correctly) was rumoured to have some kind of ‘exclusivity’ deal between the two clubs, which apparently gave Spurs first dibs on any Madrid player being sold in the next 2 years or something like that.
I wonder how many more ‘deals’ like that have gone on with strange add-on’s and such.
Chris, Rugby (the town, not the sport)
Like all of us at this time of the year, I’ve been thinking about the Football League Trophy, and how to sort out its current, much maligned state.
Why not make it an all-English tournament? After all, the reason for taking away this from League 1 & 2 clubs is “for the good of the English national team” so why not take that to a logical conclusion and make sure that only players eligible for the England national team can play? It makes more sense having George McEachran starting for Chelsea Under 23s than a £33m Belgian striker. Could also make it a cross gender thing and include anyone eligible for the Lionesses as well, show that we can be progressive as a country while simultaneously riding the current nationalistic wave that large parts of the press are keen to pump out.
There’s probably some major issues why this wouldn’t work, but that’s why we have two Mailboxes a day – one for crackpot harebrained schemes, and a second for polite rebuttals and name calling!
James Vortkamp-Tong, GFC, Brighton
Quick, to Leopoldville
I read the mailbox every day and have never actively hoped someone is a child, such was their level of disconnect from the harsh real world. Until today, when B CfC’s wild fever-dreaming got published. Willian for £60m+. Just get Sanchez and Ozil. Alex and Mahrez thrown in.
Heck, once these perfectly reasonable transfers are wrapped up lickity-split, we can all hop in to the Spruce Moose and fly with 200 passengers from New York’s Idlewild Airport to the Belgian Congo in seventeen minutes!
Paraic (Irish in Birmingham)
…Is it me or does “B CFC” ‘s Chelsea team look like a Garth Crooks team of the week. Mahrez at Right wing back, go on then! Ozil and Fabregas in a midfield 3, i know Kante is great but thats asking for too much from even him!
Chelsea don’t actually need that many players barring a left back as if Alonso is injured there absolutely no cover. Alex Sandro does not do it for me at all, I’d much rather pay half the price and get Bertrand back, he was excellent against us on Saturday.
When reading about Dave the Spurs fan new Wembley season ticket, I was thinking back to the recent Crystal Palace game and came to the conclusion that it can’t be that good a view up in block 551. Dave states that Palace showed ‘close to zero attacking intent’ but I am pretty sure that without the fine performance of Man of the Match goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, Palace would have walked away with at least the point they deserved.
Maybe there are some Selhurst Park style view obstructing posts up there that I am not aware of?
Palace Paul, Kent
Postcard from Grantham
In Monday afternoon’s mailbox I mentioned driving to Grantham. I was going to watch the Gingerbreads take on Buxton FC. Last time I went to see them I had lunch in a pub run by a friend who has a season ticket at Leicester City. I decided it was best if I didn’t go there this time.
*Going into the game, Grantham Town were second in league, albeit having played more games than all the teams around them, while Buxton were in midtable. When the sides met on November 18, the Gingerbreads emerged with a 3-0 win.
Two names stood out for Buxton: midfielder Ricky Ravenhill, formerly of Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Bradford City, and goalkeeper Jan Budtz. Manchester City fans with longer memories may remember him saving two penalties for Donny in a League Cup shootout in 2005.
*Grantham lined up in a 4-4-2, but like to play a high defensive line allowing goalie Kieran Preston to play as a sweeper keeper. Some Buxton fans near me considered this an alien concept, choosing instead to keep shouting “the 18-yard box is your bit, keeper”, every time he came out to play the ball. The Gingerbreads played a direct style towards their two strikers, neither of whom are especially tall. The two central midfielders were split out wider than most typical 4-4-2s, which meant that they struggled at times to link up and move the ball laterally. I was surprised they played this way, because it was so cold I thought the players would want to run around to keep warm.
Buxton on the other hand played what looked like an incredibly compact 4-3-3. At almost every goal kick, every outfield player (and Preston) were in one half of the field, with acres of space on the other side. They controlled the midfield and were a very physical and canny side. Quite often a defender had a subtle handful of a Grantham striker’s shirt, enough to distract him without attracting the attentions of the referee.
*The visitors took advantage of Grantham’s inability to cope with their compactness early on. Striker Liam Hardy won the ball while tracking back, and galloped into the vast space on the left-hand side. As there was no defender in the same postcode, Preston was forced to come out to meet him, something he failed to do and Hardy found the net from outside the area. The Grantham Journal blamed Preston for this, but I didn’t know what else he could do. This inspired Hardy to try his luck more often, leading to one spell where Preston denied him four times in quick succession.
*The Gingerbreads didn’t help themselves, as they struggled to string passes together. So often possession was surrendered when the ball was played forwards without a proper look at where teammates were positioned.
After this, Buxton set about wasting as much time as they physically could, testing the patience of the home fans (and players) but not the referee. Players ignored balls from ball boys that rolled past them by even a few inches, requiring a Grantham player to actually hand the ball to them. Throw-ins and goal kicks seemed to all take an absolute age, too – the whole thing was really childish, but irritatingly effective at winding the home side up. The game got a bit spicy and for a while tackles flew in both ways.
*Buxton also had two players booked for kicking the ball away. The first was Hardy, who after being flagged offside, punted the ball over the terrace and into the car park. This was gloriously petty, although it came back to haunt him a few minutes later. With Grantham pumping balls into the mixer, a clearance by the visitors crossed the halfway line. Preston collected it and was then clattered by Hardy, was shown a deserved second yellow card. The other incident saw the visiting left-back boot the ball into the car park after it had gone out of play, before Preston, who was chasing it, sent him flying. Both players had their names taken.
*The red card did little to change the game, in reality. The visitors were defending deeper and deeper to preserve their lead, and losing a striker meant they just did more of the same, only without their outlet. The Gingerbreads laid siege to Budtz’s goal, but he made some superb saves, and several acrobatic attempts from the home side missed the target.
*I realise this sounds massively patronising but the game was something of a lesson for Grantham. They’ve been on an upward trajectory, having finished 16th and 8th in the past two seasons, while mounting a serious promotion challenge this year, and can be incredibly proud of themselves to be 3rd having played half their game. However, they won’t be able to surprise anyone anymore, as teams will do what Buxton did, and come to the Meres intending to frustrate them and nick a goal. However, as much as Buxton came with a plan, worked it well and capitalised on some good fortune, Grantham have some good players and should be commended for the efforts to get something from the game, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful.
I had a fun day though. Going to a football match and listening to Sports Report in the car on the way home – living the dream.