Who’s up for swapping Thiago for Van de Beek?

Date published: Thursday 15th April 2021 9:18 - Editor F365

Get your mails in to theeditor@football365.com…

Swap deals
Clearly there is evidence of player swaps not working, but with finances tight what swaps would work for your club?

Watching the Liverpool game this morning I think Thiago is not the right fit for the club, class player though. I reckon a swap with Donny would work for both clubs. Donny has the speed of movement and a quick direct pass and Thiago is happy to sit and pass and pass and pass.

I’m almost resigned to lose Grealish this summer although everyone’s finances might give me another 12 months. I’d swap him though for Dan James, Lingard and McTominay though.

Pulisic and Havertz for Haaland?


Holding Liverpool to account
Liverpool needed that result badly. Had Klopp overseen a comeback last night, we would have had to hear about the magic of Anfield in Europe. Don’t get me wrong, those nights are great. But the truth is also great and healthy doses of it are needed every now and then.A win would here overshadowed the fact that for the second time in three years, the players of an opposing team were attacked and intimidated outside the stadium by extreme elements of the “fans”. Surely these incidents deserve some degree of punishment from the governing bodies.
I love the passion of the real fans but it looks like it will only be a matter of time before an opposing player is cut by breaking glass.The word being thrown around last night by the Liverpool fans who work as journalists was bravery. Is it really brave to go out and chase down a game you threw away as a result of some of the worst football even seen by an English side in Europe the week before? But if we are to go with the idea of bravery, where has it been all year? Are these not men who are too afraid to pass or shoot as VVD not being in the team makes them afraid of a counterattacking goal?If I am to believe the narrative, all of those missed chances last night were due to players being struck down by the absence of VVD. When you think of it like that, it really feels silly.Too much was written about VVD being missing.
And if we are to talk about psychology, should it be that these players played like any real resemblance of themselves when there was nowhere left to hide. They tried last night because they had no choice.

It’s time to make big changes at Liverpool and the first of these has to be a replacement of possibly two of the front three. I don’t want to hear they are tired, I have been told that these players are world class for three years and world class players don’t dip like this. Some will say that the standards are too high, but the wages and standards expected are there, tiredness is not an excuse.

Liverpool signed Thiago to play the role of James Milner and this is all well and good, however, why buy a player to play the Milner role when we have a perfectly good Milner in the squad. The side to side work horse midfield experiment has to die at this point. If our work horses are off the pace, that midfield looks like a bottom half setup.

Finally, is Andy Robertson world class as he was described during the week by Ken Early in the Irish Times? when he is running into 40 yards of space he looks very good. This season, without all that space to run into, he looks good but not world class. The idea being that you must be able to play in more than one scenario to be world class. His crossing has been truly awful this season. Why do they keep crossing the ball into small forward? It’s madness and exposes how limited the club are right now.

It’s either arrogance or blindness to keep hitting crosses into a box that sail over the heads of small forwards into the hand of very tall keeper.
It’s time for a rebuild and a change of ideas, the fans journalists need to hold the club to account.
Jamie, Eire


…As a Liverpool fan I will have eternal respect for klopp and what he’s achieved and as long as he’s Liverpool manager he’ll always have my support, but that doesn’t mean he should be immune from criticism.

I think some, most, results this year can be mitigated by the fact we have a loanee and a guy who we tried to sell as our first team centre backs. Critique that all you want but it’s true, missing even one key player effects all teams greatly.

What I don’t like is klopp making statements like “now we can concentrate on the league” it implies two things
1. We can’t compete in multiple competitions and need them reduced in order to compete.
2. That there was no focus on the league before.

The champs league is not something which comes along that often. There are numerous league matches which were totally unaffected by champs league fixtures – why did we lose those games?

You can’t keep making excuses for failures. There are real reasons for defeats this year – the fact klopp keeps sticking to a high line even though he doesn’t have the personnel to implement it well, the fact he keeps playing players who are horribly out of form (looking at you mane, 15 months is a long time to be shit), I think Elliot should have stayed and been used as an understudy to the front three and his time at Blackburn demonstrates that probably would have been good. But it felt to me like klopp was sweeping all those issues under the rug of too many competitions.

In some ways I hope that we don’t make the top 4 because I feel like if we do nobody will learn anything. They’ll all just keep sticking to the idea that it was JUST injuries which derailed us even though the signs of teams learning a way to play against us were there at the tail end of last season – they just hadn’t got a win out of it. Obviously the larger part of me knows what a financial catastrophe it will be if we don’t make it so I hope we do.

Next season I want to see the team realistically compete for the league, champs league and one of the cups. Its not the impossible mountain that klopp seems to imply. Even without city, Chelsea and United’s financial means we can give a genuine attempt – not the half assed efforts weve seen. I don’t wanna see another season where klopp effectively says we can only win one trophy if we abjectly sacrifice the others.

Flaccid Reds
The commentator has just announced that Shaqiri is coming on so I think we can safely assume this is over. Watching Liverpool is the closest you can get to having an aneurysm without having an aneurysm. And I would know as I’ve had one.

If they don’t pass it out, they pass it five feet behind where it should be. If they don’t cross it for a goal kick, they over hit it beyond everyone. And if they actually manage to craft a chance, they either blaze it 15ft over the bar or smash it straight at the keeper.

They are so insipid and flaccid, they make tofu look like concrete.
Oliver, London


Positives for Liverpool
No real surprise that we have exited tonight. It’s a shame that Salah didn’t bury the early chance because you just never know what might’ve been.

Mané and Firmino both were generally poor on the ball. I think the truth is that these empty stadiums aren’t conducive to magically finding your touch again. Jota didn’t look particularly threatening when he came on so in fairness I don’t think Klopp will have many regrets about the starting XI he picked tonight.

Nat Phillips passed the ball from defence really well tonight and helped to create a lot of attacking threat. Trent was also outstanding.

The potential positive is that if we play like this for the rest of the season, minus the poor chance conversion, then we might win some more football matches in the next month.
Minty, LFC


…Well, Liverpool went out. Bit disappointing, but I do not give a flying toss, because I went to an actual pub and watched it with my mates. Can’t wait to actually go to a game again
Dan, Plastic LFC


Pep’s tactics
We all know by now that Pep has a reputation for tinkering tactically in the latter stages of the Champions League, and it’s potential detriment to the team’s performances in these big games, and I have a theory as to why.

I believe Pep looks down on his own players to a degree. None are Messi, Iniesta or Xavi. It’s not Barcelona (his hometown), it’s City. It’s not the Nou Camp.

A lot of people have argued (me included), that Pep needs either Barcelona or Messi to win the Champions League. Or both, he might need both tbh.

However, I also believe he isn’t going to tinker this time. I think City have shown grit this season, and he should just let his team play, resulting in City getting to the final and winning it.

Thoughts? Will he stick or will he tinker?


How good is Phil?
Imagine how good Phil Foden would have been if he spent 2 seasons on loan at Birmingham learning his craft?
Matt, Manchester


A taste of what’s to come
I think the best thing the champions league is showing us this year is that the only teams really in contention for anything are those with unlimited funds generated by nations with questionable ethics

What’s worse is that will get worse this summer as they will be the only clubs with any money to spend so they’ll weaken any opposition and get stronger doing it

City vs PSG for the next decade or so, at least it’ll save me a ton of time giving a crap about football anymore as it’s pretty much pointless now


…Honesty is best, I’m a Liverpool fan, and gutted by the result, kind of happy with the performance, kind of disappointed, but that’s another mail.
The semis are now decided, and it’s Real Madrid, Chelsea, City, and PSG.
4 great sides no doubt, and there will be some fantastic football on display.
But what a sad situation it is now that the the 4 teams competing for the biggest prize are budget-less financial behemoths.
Everyone seems to take joy in Liverpool failing in the league, but they’re the only side to stop the oil money having a 4 year run on the premier league (as a minimum). Seems this is getting through to Europe now, and teams like Dortmund and Atletico probably can’t rely on superb scouting and coaching alone, their players are always for sale.
KC (for the sake of football, I’d rather Ancelotti won it with Everton than City/PSG in particular) 


…So now I have a choice of supporting Real, City, PSG or Chelsea in the Champion’s League?

Kind of like choosing which limb I’d prefer to get lopped off.
Aidan, Lfc (Real/left arm)


Brilliant Benzema
When Reading John and Paul’s emails regarding Suarez and Kane, it amazed me that they never mentioned another elite striker, one who has won more trophies than the lot of them and has had an incredible longevity. That is Karim Benzema. Is there a more underrated and disrespected player than him? He has been a mainstay at Real Madrid for 12 years. He had to challenge Raul, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Higuain, Adebayor, Chicharito, Jovic, Marcelo, etc for that number 9 role. He had to adapt to the constant changes of managers and high profile attackers such as Ozil, Di Maria, Kaka, Bale, Hazard, Vinicius, etc. He also had to change his game to allow Ronaldo to be the goal-getter, and then again when he left. He has been continuously criticized early on in his career by the Madrid fans. Yet despite all of this, he has well over 250 Goals and 125 assists for Real Madrid in his 375 games. He has won 4 champions’ league and is the competition’s 5th highest goalscorer. That was achieved while playing behind Bale and Ronaldo, and rarely if ever taking penalties. Additionally, he has also won the league 7 times. Again, 12 years as a starter for the club. None of the other strikers listed by Paul and John lasted that long at a club this high-profile as a starter.

Apart from his incredible consistency (31 goals in 2007/2008 with Lyon, 25 goals and counting this season), it is incredible how he has been able to change his game to the benefit of the team. He is by far the smartest player out of all these strikers and that is shown by his longevity, assists and great runs. While he massively benefited by playing in front of some of the world’s best passers, he also had to create space for them, and for Ronaldo. And when Ronaldo left, Hazard was supposed to replace the goals. Of course, he less said about him, the better. Yet Real Madrid’s performances have not spiralled out of control. Think about that for a second. The best player in the world left a team and within 2 seasons they won the league. Right now, 3 years after they are favourites for the league and are in the UCL semis. We can talk about Zidane’s wizardry, the Kroos, Casimeiro and Modric trio, but their strikeforce is 2 young brazilians and Karim Benzema.
Guillaume (I am loving all the bitterness from Bayern) Ottawa


Juicy stats
There were two articles published here recently, one about the amount of goal contributions from substitutes, and one about the most points gained from losing positions.

United/Ole top both lists, and the reason for this is, both articles are related. Not only is Ole top for subs contributing to goals, but those goals in turn have had a record impact on results this reason (as in Ole tops that list too), which results in United topping the list for points gained from losing positions.

People in the comments would (and have) argue that because Ole tops the list for points gained from losing positions, it means it’s evidence to his ineptitude and United’s demise. The argument is it means he’s incapable of fielding a correct lineup from the start and the players are useless and concede goals early.

You know who is 2nd on that list? Bayern! Isn’t Bayern a general fan favourite and everybody fawns over their coaches and Lewandowski?

Lewandowski is great because he helps his team gain points from losing positions, just like Ole.

Stats are great.


Answer to VAR is not more tech
So now the Mailbox is, once again, embroiled in a discussion about how to fix the fundamentally broken monstrosity that is VAR for offside. And the answer is … more, more more. More technology, more sensors, more accuracy, better cameras.

No, no, no, no, no.

VAR for offside is crap, yes. The “technology” (i.e. a man drawing lines with a mouse on a zoomed-out 2d image taken from a single angle) is not accurate enough to achieve what the FA/Premier League/PGMOL/whoever are pretending it can.

But improving the technology is to spectacularly miss the point.

The reason the offside rule exists is basically to stop goal-hanging. To stop the forward getting an advantage from being able to stand closer to goal than the defence and receiving the ball in that situation. For any of the contentious millimeter-margin offside calls I’ve seen (either given offside or not), I’ve never once noticed anyone who got an advantage because of those few millimetres (i.e. if they were a few millimetres further back but otherwise in the same position, they’d have scored anyway).

So why are we obsessed with how important it is to get it absolutely right? It simply doesn’t matter. All it serves to do is make people angry. Are we so partisan that we are incapable of thinking “yeah it’s tight, but if it was my team I’d want that to stand so this is OK”?

Again, let’s remember that it used to be judged by one person in real time looking in at least 3 directions at once, and it was mostly fine. We gave the benefit of the doubt to the attacker and “level” was onside. All that is gone.

Instead of drawing lines to try and maintain the “integrity of the game”, or other such nonsense, we should be ruling only on the obvious ones (yes, I know that’s not how it’s written). Getting the lines out to check all tight situations just in case we can rule out a goal is such a buzzkill and so contrary to the spirit of the game.

Let the VAR make a judgment with their eyes first. If they’re pretty confident it’s offside they can get the lines out to check if they’re right. If any VAR is regularly getting the lines out for non-offsides then their boss can have a word to be less of an officious tit about it. Simples.
Dave Lillis, Dublin


…Thought i’d write in about this VAR offsides debate as i have felt for a long time that this whole debate is getting way to complex and I fear that this system that was brought in to make these decisions simpler might yet end up becoming even more convoluted with all sorts of crazy (boring) Tony Stark tech.

I’ve read various things in the mailbox the last few days about what part of the body should be measured (it makes no difference), what new sensor tech should be added to boots or the ball (it shouldn’t) and that failing all that, we just need a referendum on VARxit – do we remain or leave (can’t believe i just wrote that).

I’ve always felt it should be a lot simpler than this. Maybe i am being naive, and i am sure the comment sections will point that out if so, but wasn’t the idea of VAR coming in simply to help the referees. They were doing a good enough job beforehand, surely that’s all they needed a bit of, you know, video assistance. It doesnt need to be about the absolute and clearly, nobody is bothered about knowing whether ‘technically’ a player was offside by the last millimetre of his nose.

So leaving aside things like interfering with play (this can’t be automated anyway), why not just…. take away the little lines. Delete the software. Pretend it never existed. 90% of everyone’s issues come down to the placements of those guides. Take them away and what are you left with..?

Well, technically speaking the system will be less accurate. Technically speaking. And yes, there will undoubtably be complaints along the lines of “that would have been offside if you checked it with the lines”.

But imagine a world where we go back to giving the attacking player the benefit of the doubt, a world where the emphasis is on giving and not taking away. Yes, we should let VAR look at an offside. Let them slow it right down. Let them view it from all the angles they want. But if they do all of that and still do not feel confident in calling an offside, then the attacker gets the benefit of the doubt and it is a goal. Effectively, what i am saying is, if it is SO close a call that it cannot be determined by the naked eye, at a slower pace, from a multitude of angles – perhaps it should be a goal. The very need to use the guidelines is indicative of a call that is too close. Just let the goal stand.

There has been much debate since the introduction of VAR around the subjectivity of clear and obvious. But i think that term becomes relevant when you take a step back for a minute and look at what we wanted from VAR. We just wanted it to clear up the clear and obvious mistakes. We weren’t bothered about millimetre margins. We just wanted to know that when England eventually get to a major final we wouldn’t end up crying ourselves to sleep having lost to a 90th minute linesman’s howler.

Perhaps, in terms of the tech, this is just a case of less is more?


…Before I start on this mail properly I’d like to point out that yes, I recognise the timing is poor. Liverpool are probably going out of the Champions League tonight and it could be embarrassing so you’ll get a ton of mails on that. Plus there’s been some mails on this already. But I don’t care, I’m going to have my say.

I work in IT, before you come up with a solution you have to first identify the problem. All this stuff about trackers and cameras with better frame rates are not addressing the problems with using VAR for offside. They are looking at accuracy within the technology (as opposed to the person operating it) and not only is this not the problem with VAR the proposed solutions clearly won’t solve it anyway. So what are the problems?

The length of time it takes to get to a decision
The controversy around which body parts are being judged onside or offside
The ability of the VAR to draw the vertical lines downward to a consistent pitch level

Some of these problems feed into each other, it takes time for the VAR to decide which body part is furthest forward or back and to then draw the lines. A simple and effective change is to only use the feet to judge offside. The vast majority of goals are scored with the feet. None are scored with the armpit. Once the frame where the ball is played is decided upon the VAR clicks on the feet of the players involved designating if they’re attackers or defenders and the computer does the rest. This is faster so solves problem 1. It removes issues with shirt sleeves and armpits so solves problem 2. Feet are generally close to the ground which solves problem 3. As a further improvement I’d advocate for more cameras to be placed along the pitch so you are far more likely to have a proper side on view of the incident. In that case you can clearly see which body part is closer to the goal as opposed to most incidents where because the view is at an angle the VAR has to draw vertical lines that seem more like guesswork as to whether or not they stop at pitch level.

So can we stop going on about frame rates and microchips in players and balls. We are not striving for perfection with this system, we just want something that is workable, doesn’t disrupt the game too much and is fair to everyone which I think my changes deliver. There will still be a margin for error and we have to accept that but removing the problems listed above will help with this.
Jim, Norwich


…Very quick thought on offside and VAR. I’m not going to go into where the line should be drawn or should there be a gap between the lines but I have got a thought on how the on field refs should use it. When the linesman feels it is a clear offside he should put his flag ip straight away. The reason being, whenever they let play carry on they are basically taking time out of the game. It might not be a lot each time but there is always a few every game and that builds up.

Now you might say what is “clear”. Well (and this might sound crazy) let the linesman decide. They’re the experts on this and they get most of these things, so let’s trust them to do so.

I understand someone is going to tell me why I’m wrong, but it’s the mailbox and that’s what you expect everytime you write in, but I’m really struggling to see an issue with this.
Bernard (Chelsea to finish 5TH and win the champions league, arsenal to win the europa, just for the bantz) MUFC


…In response to Sa’ad, Abuja, Jack and Bobby Charlton or more recently Frank and Ronald de Boer. nuff said
With regard to technology why don’t we just go the whole hog and have ball and player sensors. The player sensors will be able to judge who last touched the ball. If goal line technology is extended to all lines then it can tell if its out of play and which team gets possession. To remove assistant referees altogether, add LED light around the numbers on the players shirts and shorts. If they go offside the LEDs light up, then when they get back onside the LEDs turn off. Also increase the involvement of VAR to any on field decision for off the ball and other incidents the referee may miss or have an obscured view.

Or maybe just enforce the rules that currently exist , no matter how pedantic they are if they are consistently enforced the game will get better.

A bug bear of mine is when referees allow defending teams to take throw ins/free kicks from anywhere in a 20 meter radius of the spot , but is very specific about where attacking throw ins/free kicks are taken

e.g. Chelsea vs West Brom, on 3 occasions in the final minutes with West Brom attacking the Chelsea defender see the ball out for a throw in bedside the corner flag, then picks it up and throws it 10 meters down the pitch to the fullback to take it, who then proceeds to take another 10 meters before throwing it. The final position was past the penalty area.

You may say this has no impact on the game, but if a free kick is given to the defending team at the corner flag and the referee insists on it being taken from the exact spot of the foul, how many goalkeepers will go out to take it especially if its a tight ground where the advertising is close to the pitch.
If a defender takes it , it allows the attacking team to push up. Most of the time the kick ends up being taken near the corner of the penalty area.


How to rank the great strikers
Johnny Ironballs raises a good point in his wind-up emails, when it comes to the discussion about greatest Premier League striker/best striker etc etc, which is that talking about stats are only part of the picture.

I think people should look at it as ‘Who would you most want to build a team around’ as, although strikers can be interchangeable, the very best can define a team and any given match.

Aguero for me actually falls down there, as although he might be the finest finisher in Prem league history, he’s not gamechanging on his own (and has carried an air of the flat track bully about him in some seasons).

Even as an Arsenal fan, I think Kane is somewhat underappreciated as a striker (not that I like him) and would clearly put him above someone like Drogba or Rooney (who weirdly feature more in the greatest Prem striker zeitgeist, likely due to the rabid fervour of Chelsea/United fans). I would have Kane ahead of Aguero in my ‘fantasy’ team too.

But Suarez is probably the best striker in the league since Henry, and I don’t think it’s close (Ronaldo being the best player, but not really a CF). Possibly peak Torres, but Suarez offered the truly magical.

Shearer is a bit before my time (or rather, his Blackburn/Southampton brilliance days) but was also magic. Some of those Newcastle goals, and what he meant to that team. Incredible.

So yeh, my top tier of Prem strikers who offer the goal threat (not including someone like Bergkamp), who you can build a whole team off are Henry, Shearer and Suarez.

The pool below is probably headed by Kane and has Aguero and peak Torres, as well as Cole.

Next tier has peak RVP and I guess peak Drogba, with Rooney, Van Nistlrooy, peak Fowler and maybe Sir Les (again really don’t know).

So that’s my system. Not just the stats, but something more sublime and ‘take the game by the scruff of the neck’. The more you make it conversational, the easier it is to have a more nuanced discussion. Better that than people waving goals in front of your face (Rooney was excellent across the top line, but rarely even the best CF at United in a given season during his career) or some Chelsea WUM shrieking that Drogba has more trophies. My god. Insufferable.
Tom (Ronaldo, Salah etc sit in a different box but are obviously the standout wide forwards), Walthamstow


Is Johnny Ironballs mad? Kane has scored at least 17 league goals in his last 7 seasons, his lowest tally being achieved from 28 games. He scores with his right foot, left foot and head. He creates goals from nothing. And, most crucially, he does all this for Tottenham Hotspur.

How is Kane not a “proven world elite player”? Messi’s detractors cite his World Cup record yet Kane won the Golden Boot. You cannot have it both ways. Until he plays for one of the world’s best clubs where assists are laid on a plate to him, you cannot truly compare him to the other best strikers.

Do you honestly believe that he would not be producing even higher numbers at Bayern, Barca and Man City? He could lead the line for any team in the world. Sure, Suarez had one sensational season at Liverpool, but he’s past his best now. To repeat my first point, if you took him over Kane on a three year contract then you must be bonkers. And bearing in mind their respective ages, I would take him over Aguero and Lewandowski too.
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire

John Nicholson: VAR is both salt in the wound and the knife that cut it

Retort to Johnny
This is going to be long but I can’t let Johnny Nic get away with it:

“Remember the glory days? Remember a time before VAR? When we could just trust the officials to do their best to get almost every call right, moan about it when they got it wrong and then get on with our lives? Great wasn’t it?”

Yeh it was good l, everyone used to moan as much as they moan now, just about referees rather than faceless technology and it’s implementation. But it was less fair for sure.
And it definitely hurt when a decision went against your team and a tv replay shown less than a minute later showed the injustice (and showed it over and over again…).

“On and on it goes and I almost feel apologetic that we have to keep discussing it.”

Awesome, thanks for that, we can get in with our lives.

“But we do…”

Oh for f…

“But we do because it is such a huge change to the great game of Association Football that it has undermined everything we held dear about the game and we must drive it out.”

Oh spot on, this definitely an existential crisis for the game worse than anything like TV, racism, drugs, diving, greedy agents, high wages, foreign ownership, expanded European and International competitions, the 39th game, FFP and Sportswashing. “Everything we held dear”? It’s as is if your right to enjoy moaning about refereeing decisions should be listed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“You are almost certainly sick of VAR and want it binned as soon as possible. Sick of what it has done to the game, sick of how it sucked joy out of the most passionate moments, sick of its stupidities, its errors, its fussy nonsense, sick even of talking about it.”

Nope. I’m just sick of everyone moaning about it.

“You might still be in favour of VAR, but you’d be in a minority and I am certain you don’t want VAR as it currently exists. You want it ‘properly’ applied as you cling to the wreckage of a system that is antipathetic to the best things about football.”

Yes absolutely, in the same way that I don’t want to bin off the justice system just because it doesn’t work properly. The second part of that is extremely subjective. I highly value the sporting aspect of football, of which fair decisions being applied is a huge part. VAR was introduced to improve that, and even in its current guise achieves it (though I would like to see some stats on corrected decisions).

“Being anti-VAR is not and never has been some sort of old-mannish resistance to change. It’s just been the understanding of why it is not workable and why it will never deliver the satisfaction that its proponents crave.”

I’ve written previously about the statistics between the age divide on this and it certainly seems that a majority of younger people are behind VAR. You’re at risk of sounding a lot like an old man telling perhaps more idealistic young people that they’re too naive to understand the true nature of the world. Judging by some of your other stuff, I’m assuming this is not how you want to come across? I actually agree with you on the second part, because we’ll never get every decision right, but that’s not a reason not to try, nor is it the reason you hate it.

“You simply cannot apply a digital solution to an analogue game. It requires decisions to be made that were never meant to be made in a game played between humans.”

This is wrong. VAR doesn’t make different decisions, it makes the same decisions with higher accuracy. You may disagree with the level of accuracy…

Those marginal offside calls previously fell into the ‘looks about on’ or ‘looks about off’ category.
But the VAR can’t handle that. ‘Looks’ or ‘about’ is no good to it. It needs the question, ‘is it, or isn’t it’ answered, and thus we get down to the width of a sleeve. This is just one of the many pitfalls that was obvious to everyone who opposed its introduction. It’s a pedant’s charter.”

Actually, this is not a fault with VAR, it’s a fault with the law or it’s application. In the law you’re offside or you’re not. This can be remedied to some extent by applying a rule similar to the “umpires call” in cricket, or the daylight rule. It’ll still be fairer than a linesman not looking and then putting his flag up anyway. It doesn’t need to be a pedants charter, it just needs some tweaking.

“Of course it doesn’t stop there. The fact that contraventions of the law can be missed in the run up to a goal as long as it isn’t classed as being in the same phase of play is fine, making a mockery of one of the central tenets of VAR: to make the game more fair. But we’ll brush that under the carpet as well, eh?”

I mean, you can draw the line where you want. But again this is not a VAR problem, it’s an implementation issue. I personally would say only count infringements within ten seconds of a goal. That’s arbitrary but so is saying penalties are taken from 12 yards out.

“Then there’s the endless hanging around for up to three minutes to make a decision that drives most people nuts. I note that no-one is calling for refs to go to the monitor any more, as they’ve started to do so, and surprise, surprise, still no-one is happy. Turns out, that was just another solution that wasn’t the solution.”

Yes because asking a ref to mark his own homework is stupid. If the clowns in the box can’t make the call, stick with the call on the pitch. Again, implementation issue.

“Does anyone know what handball is anymore? If you think you do, you may be wrong, as they’ve probably changed the law again. It used to be so simple: if you put your hand out to touch the ball, it was a handball; if it was blasted against your hand from a metre away, it wasn’t. End of. VAR has given penalties for it bouncing up and grazing a hand, for just touching a hand accidentally, for when it’s booted against a hand, for when it’s next to the body, for when it’s away from the body, for when it’s come off altogether in a threshing machine accident. It’s pathetic and makes football look like a really stupid game.”

What you are describing there is the 25 plus years that I watched football without VAR. And again, this is an issue with the law, which changes every five minutes. For instance, why was it ever decided that defenders could get away with accidental hand ball but forwards couldn’t? That was a stupid rule change which had nothing to do with VAR. I would hazard a guess that on average, VAR has produced more accurate calls on this than we had before. But stats would be nice.

“VAR has been saved by the lack of crowds, so it will return next season for another go, no doubt with another raft of changes. But I’ll tell you here and now – it won’t make any difference. The basic premise on which VAR is founded is fundamentally flawed. It is a game played by humans and refereed by humans, whether that be on the pitch or in a darkened tactics truck by a bleary-eyed man surrounded by scrunched-up tissues and the smell of inadequacy.”

You do know that, I think with the exception of goal line technology (which people only moan about when it doesn’t work), VAR decisions aren’t made by technology, they are made by humans supported by technology? So you have the same thing whether you have VAR or not. You’re railing against technology, but it’s not the problem.

“But 2021/22 will be its last season. As fans return and voice their displeasure, don’t forget they were chanting “f*** VAR” before Covid intervened. It will, at some point in the campaign, be suspended for further consultation. That will take a few months and the results of the consultation will be thanks, but no thanks. VAR, you’re fired.”

Respectfully disagree, because I think the Premier League (if not the FA) a) need to keep TV viewers on side and b) will be looking at what the younger viewers think as they are going to generate more revenue long term. But hey, maybe I’m giving the Premier League too much credit for forward thinking.

“Of course managers and players will still moan about decisions, but we will not listen to them because we tried it VAR’s way and it was awful, so shut your yap and bite down on any errors that occur.”

Bollocks, you’ll all find something else to moan about.

“No-one will miss VAR, not even those who support it. It was never needed and it can never work. The fact it is here at all is television’s triumph. There’s a reason no-one calls for it in the lower leagues.”

I honestly don’t think it’s going away, I agree about it being TV’s triumph but TV makes VAR inevitable. And that’s the reason the need for a VAR diminishes the further down the pyramid you go. Perhaps what you really want is for football to not be on TV?

“It cleaved the sport in two and has stained every game it’s ever been used in.”

I don’t think it’s cleaved the sport in two. It’s divided people who watch the game between those who want to watch sport and those who want to be entertained first and foremost. The second part of your sentence is completely untrue and you know it. There are plenty of examples of VAR being used successfully. People didn’t complain about the use of VAR on that goal United scored at the weekend, they complained about the outcome. (If VAR hadn’t have been used, mails from Spurs fans would have poured into your mailbox moaning about Son being maimed.)

“It has turned referees into little more than delivery mechanisms for the VAR’s decisions and in that, has made them worse at the job. Why wouldn’t it? They’re now effectively redundant in making any or all significant decisions, just as we all predicted.”

Perhaps refs are happy that people have been distracted from their inadequacies and focused on the tech part of VAR which makes no decisions but is definitely easier for people to moan about. Also, they’re so redundant that the ref made the final call in that decision at Spurs on Sunday. And if you can’t do your job as well as can be done by another person or process, are you not by definition redundant? Why is that bad? We could feel sorry for refs, but from what I see there’s more and more of them making decision, good and bad, as a result of VAR.

“Those who still postulate the old ‘what if a bad call is made in a World Cup final and everyone knows it’s wrong except the referee?’ need to get with the programme. What if? I’ll tell you what if. We shrug and get on with life. That’s what if. We might bitch that we were cheated, but it is not worth ruining football on the back of just one, or indeed any hypothetical scenario that may never even happen. We cannot and should not try to insulate sport against mistakes being made. It is inhuman to do so and is a stone put in the shoe of the game by television and people for whom getting everything right is the be all and end all. Those people should never have been listened to. Football is more than their small, narrow vision of it. It does not benefit from the granularity of nitpicking.”

Fair enough, that’s your personal opinion, albeit expressed as fact. But I disagree that it is inhuman to try and innovate to improve things. Human history is a struggle to make things fairer and remove mistakes. Whether we should or not is an ethical question without a right or wrong answer generally. I personally am all for football being as fair as possible. It’s the reason we have laws and referees in the first place. Where we draw the line on that is also a human decision.

“Accepting things can be wrong sometimes is crucial to playing any sport, whether for participants, officials or observers. If you can’t accept that, well, you’re just going to have to lump it, because VAR is not the soothing balm you need for your agitation. Rather, it is both salt in the wound and the knife that cut it.”

Absolutely we should accept that sometimes things go wrong. But not trying to prevent them from going wrong again is completely against our nature and is bordering on insanity. Maybe you’ll just have to lump it, because maybe VAR isn’t going anywhere. What are you going to do? Stop watching football?

In wrestling a lot of the drama comes when the wrestlers break the rules. To the best of my knowledge there isn’t any form of VAR to stop it but it wouldn’t work because wrestling’s all about the entertainment. Every televised sport that I can think of has some form video or technology assistance because ultimately you want it to be as fair as possible. None without controversy, but by and large, it’s an integral part of each sport at the top level. I think football is at a point where it decides whether it’s entertainment for entertainments sake like wrestling or sport like every other professional sport. I think football is a serious sport and the players and fans deserve accurate decisions. I’d replace refs with an algorithm if it gave more accurate decisions made in good time. I don’t think it makes the game inhuman to support humans in making better decisions. If they still cock it up it’s on them and the authorities. The inhuman part is not holding them accountable.

Sorry this has been long but John deserves a proper take down for this constant moaning. Although the timing of his article with this week’s Prick of the Week is perfect. I think Dave just called you a prick, John
Ashley (love you really) Metcalfe


…I find myself agreeing with most of what JN says about VAR apart from the optimistic prediction that next season will be its last. They have invested too much into it to ever admit the whole thing was a terrible mistake. I’m afraid the pedants have won. We are stuck with this miserable, soul-sucking abomination forever…

Instead, we must still listen to the weird justifications VAR supporters come up with to explain their odd failure to grasp what makes football so good:

“It works in other sports so it must work in football” – yes of course there are other sports where it works, because what do you know, not all sports are the same. For stop-start sports such as tennis and cricket it is ideal. It is in or out – VAR is perfect. Football is a free-flowing game where the majority of officiating decisions are subjective. It is fundamentally unsuited to VAR. ‘Ahh’, I hear the VAR supporter say, ‘but what about rugby?’ Well in case you hadn’t noticed, rugby is a dull, slow-moving game where they spend most of the time on the floor and the fans are only there for a jolly. It doesn’t matter if they make it duller.

“It’s not VAR, it’s the rules” – No!!! It is not the rules. The rules were just fine before VAR came along. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the moment they started changing the rules for the benefit of VAR rather than the sport, VAR had already failed. The rules have evolved over 150 years and there is a very good reason why handball is meant to be intentional – because anything else tends to not be fair. Offside had the simple interpretation that attackers should get the benefit of the doubt. Admittedly, assistant refs were not always perfect at applying that interpretation but that is something they could have been encouraged to improve on.

“It works in Europe.” Well actually only the Germans really think it is ok and even their fans don’t like it very much. The French absolutely hate it.

But now we have to live with VAR. Tedious, pedantic, forensic examinations of every decision. Long stoppages destroying the flow of the game. Reserved goal celebrations because nobody is quite certain if it is actually going to count. All in a futile attempt to make every decision perfect. The best we can hope for is that they find ways to reduce the involvement of VAR as much as possible. If they can somehow revert to the original mission objective of only correcting major mistakes, then some joy and spontaneity can return to the game.
Jim (THFC)


Mailbox: How much has the Premier League regressed in last decade?


Regressed how?
I was going to try avoid this subject because it seems daft to me but after reading the mailbox today I have to pipe up.

People are saying the Premier League has regressed.

How so? It’s still 20 teams, they ll still play 38 games home and away, So we can safely say its not the fixture list.

We’ve seen 5 league winners this decade compared to 3 in the previous decade so it can’t be lack of competition.

The Premier League have signed 2(?) Multi billion dollar TV deals this decade so the sponsors and viewing figures would say the league hasn’t regressed

One mailbox entry referred to the lack of identifiable core group of players at the top clubs. That’s just daft. You can name 5 players from each of the top 6 who start and have contributed massively over the last few seasons. Go on I believe in you.

I think a lot of people feel the Premier League has regressed just to over saturation. There’s only so much pizza you can eat before you’re sick of eating pizza.
Dale (Better in my day) Leeds


I am surely late and might get crowded out by Liverpool fans’ CL mails but I absolutely gotta ask what James, Switzerland has been smoking.

First, of all the clubs in the world, Rubentus don’t get to complain about unfairness. Porto kicked you out in the first KO tie. Deal with it.

So Pirlo is fumbling the league that this squad has been winning with their eyes closed and that too to Inter who are not really very good and yet it’s okay? The expectation was not to win CL? Sure that’ll why they bought Cristiano effin Ronaldo in his late thirties because winning CL was not the immediate priority after the usual stroll to the league title?

They had injuries? Boo hoo. After years of dominance and choosing to splash cash on Cristiano (when CL wasn’t a priority anyway, right?) why was it not spent on quality depth? It’s like all teams deal with injuries at some point.

As a manager, Pirlo isn’t fit to lace the boots of Mourinho, even in his twilight days.
The Vocal Minority (Respect man, respect)


AB-solute Contradiction
In response to the mail from Eric of Galway, I must say that in many ways I understand his frustrations regarding the confusion of supporting a non-English team in Ireland. I am a PSG fan from Dublin since the time I spent in Paris and I also anchor a huge part of my life to those special few months when I was a teenager. In a lot of ways I have never fully moved on. However, I must say that when I took the time to hear my friends out, their rationale of supporting Irish international players or players with Irish roots in English teams, did make sense in a lot of ways.

What I fail to understand however is his stance as an “AB” supporter. To define your enjoyment of the game by the dislike of another team is a backwards approach to any appreciation of sport. Furthermore to state that you will always dislike a club no matter the players, the coach, the owners or the structures in place surrounding them is akin to bigotry. In fact many of the accusations leveled at Manchester United in England could also be said of Bayern Munich in Germany so maybe young Eric doesn’t have a full appreciation of the contradiction of his current stance. Perhaps some reflection is required.
Luvurbals, Dublin

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