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Something else Ole can teach Rashford
At last I read that Rashford is getting some lessons in finishing from Ole but I would suggest that he also teaches him the Offside Rule. I can’t count how many times this season a goal has been chalked off or an opportunity halted because Rashford has gone too early and strayed offside. He has the pace to beat the offside trap but not the nous. Laudable though his off the field activities may be he needs to knuckle down and do his day job properly.
Denis Cohen – Cambridgeshire

United weren’t that bad
Sorry boys, utd were not abysmal. While f365 and most of the mailbox seem to have concluded Man Utd were rubbish against Sheffield Utd, I disagree and counter that you are suffering from result bias where your viewing of a game is completely skewed by the difference in what you expected the result to be against the actual result that you completely ignore what actually transpired.

If you look at utd in the last 2 years they have struggled against sides that defend deep. They have definitely improved but still struggle. You only have to look back to the Burnley game where we scored late to win 1-0. That game was a very similar game to against Sheff utd but because we came away with 3 points we weren’t criticised. Burnley have been pretty shit all season but have since won 3 out of 4 including wins against Liverpool and Villa making utds 3 points look even better.

The Sheffield utd game was very similar to the Burnley game other than a few incidents. I don’t think utd played much worse than previous games, they just came up against a very good defence (like against Burnley) but the biggest problem for utd was that Sheffield utd did not defend with 11 behind the ball, they were also looking to have an out ball and to counter. That meant Maguire could not sit on the half way line to return the ball like he did at Burnley, he actually had to do some defending.

The second Sheff utd goal was the only thing that was abysmal. It is bad enough that you leave a guy unmarked in the box once, but the same guy remained unmarked even though he was standing still for a matter of seconds with utd players a few yards away also standing still and waiting for Sheffield utd to kindly give us the ball back so we could have our next comeback win.

There was also one occasion where Maguire decided to make way for an attacker to run through on goal but luckily Fernandes tracked back and made a great tackle.

In conclusion, while I am disappointed utd lost, give Sheffield utd some credit. Owen Hargreaves said it best at full time, that was the Sheffield utd of last season and I would not be surprised if they go on a bit of a run after being spanked by City.
Jon, Cape Town (and I see people are already talking utd-arsenal up as a goal fest when all previous evidence suggests 0-0 or someone to sneak a 1-0)


Arsenal v Man Utd: One big game, five big questions


Mid-season rule check
As we’re at the halfway point of the season, just wanted to pause and consider some of the refereeing/ interpretations of the rules that we’ve seen this season, because I certainly don’t ever remember them being so in the spotlight before.

The geniuses officiating our matches currently have the following, erm, intricacies:

1. Handball has different interpretations depending on attacking or defending, which will inevitably lead to Schrodinger’s handball when an identical action both is and is not a handball
2. An offside can be determined by the length of a hair, using slow motion and computers, but whether a tackle is a foul is entirely at the discretion of the referee, in real time, with one viewing*
3. * Except if that foul happens to take place sometime near a goal, or a red card offence, in which case the identical foul gets to be reviewed using slow motion, multiple angles and multiple referees
4. Defensive handballs in week 1 are no longer the same as defensive handballs in week 19
5. Coming back from an offside position in week 17 is no longer the same as in week 19
6. Using a hand to control a ball that leads to a goal shortly after is deemed unreviewable in week 7, but is reviewed and overturned in week 19
8. A goalkeeper should be strong and able to take a bit of physical contact in minute 20 of a match, and the whistle not blown so VAR can review just in case, but in minute 30 of a match, the whistle must be blown at moment of suggestion of keeper touch in order to avoid VAR review
9. Offside is not an offside – no matter how clear – until at least two players have had a chance to injure themselves or each other unnecessarily

So for me, when Mings says he genuinely didn’t know the rule, I fully believe him. Because from one week and one referee to the next, rules are applied differently, change mid season or mid match and generally leave a pretty sour taste in the mouth.

Can it be this hard to referee a pretty simple sport? Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Ryan, Bermuda

 

 

Justice delayed is justice denied
Just thought I’d chip in on the Dier/Firminho handball call, because what I think gets too easily lost in the VAR discussions is how long these retrospective decisions take.

To summarise- Dier is grappling with (and probably fouling) Firminho on the halfway line, but Firminho handles it (minimal intent) in a way in which helps him despatch the ball a bit quicker. Liverpool then spring Spurs’s high line, overload and score.

I don’t think many people would look at the replay of that incident and say it’s not handball- the problem that Liverpool fans have is that it didn’t took place ‘immediately’ before the goal, and so the goal shouldn’t have been chalked off. This hits home at one of the (many) issues with VAR deployment to date, namely: justice delayed is justice denied. It’s not that particular decisions are wrong (although they sometimes are), it’s that it’s come so long after the incident that many minutes’ worth of play are effectively rendered a waste of time as the play is brought back. Where this affects goals obviously players and fans will feel a sense of grievance.

So how to fix this? For me it’s all about speed, especially with calls like this where it really isn’t marginal. The video replay genie is out of the bottle now- it was long before we even knew what ‘VAR’ was (remember that!)- and as that technology improved it was always going to be involved in decision making. We currently use it in a murky, subjective way (only in the run up to goals, ‘clear and obvious errors’, etc) when we should embrace it in a fully proactive manner. Like the goalline tech, the ref should be notified of the straightforward video calls immediately- a vibrating watch first, then a short in-ear 5-10 sec description of the infringement and its location. Picture the Dier/Firminho goal- it never would’ve happened, because play would’ve stopped shortly after (like with any other call, VAR or not). Ditto for many other goal controversies this season.

Just think about how much much drama would be avoided. And also remember all the lost time that has crept into games under VAR as it is- like clear offsides, which seem to be increasingly used to waste time by teams that are ahead in the second half, because they know the lino won’t flag. Or the goal checks that seem to take an age- 5 minutes regularly goes by once the ball has crossed the line. 5 minutes is huge! The ball’s only in play for less than an hour. This sort of check takes an age precisely because a goal has been scored, so the stakes are so much higher- the decision could define the game, so the VAR naturally wants to get it right. But proactive VAR would again save time because these lengthy moments of prevarication (preVARication?) would be gone, and for all the goals that are chalked off, we wouldn’t be wasting huge chunks of play that occur after the infringement. That lost time is an opportunity cost for both teams.

Yes, it would take some of the decision making away from the ref on the pitch- but if we didn’t think that was necessary then we wouldn’t have the technology at all. It’s just about using the tech where the ref might’ve missed something- we just need to use it more swiftly. Fixing other issues like marginal offsides probably need something else, like a change in the rules, but there is plenty we could fix right now.
Andy Suggitt

 

Joy to the world
The black robes have been thrown off, the old Italian wailers have been sent home, the clouds have lifters, the air smells fresher, Liverpool have scored a goal in 2021 premier league.

I am always amazed at how the fortunes of my team can impact my outlook on life. Luckily they have generally been winning more than the lose over the last three years – way more.

I just wish that all fans could experience the same level of joy.

Then I look at the table and think, nah!
Paul McDevitt


16 Conclusions: Spurs 1-3 Liverpool


…A few random conclusions on Liverpool’s win at Spurs:

1. Make no mistake this was an absolutely massive game. After the bad run of results, a loss would have triggered full scale crisis mode. A draw would have been OK but a win is fantastic and a huge confidence boost.

2. Each of the front 3 had the ball in the back of the net, which is also highly positive. OK, Mo’s was chalked off but it was still an excellent attacking performance.

3. So pleased for Trent to have a goal and an assist. There has been some frankly ludicrous criticism of a young player who was in a bad patch of form, so let’s hope this triggers something and allows him to get back to his best. We really do seem to struggle when the full backs are not firing, so he’s such a key player for us.

4. VAR – meh. I’ve said it before, I’m not a fan. The disallowed Son goal felt less like justice being done and more like a lucky escape. And you can flip that around for Salah’s. Perhaps these decisions are technically correct, but really is the game any better for it?

5. Thiago looks to be growing into the team. He was playing further forward tonight and had a good game. People are far too quick to judge these days, and its a sign of modern football that we’ve had mails in writing him off or saying that he doesn’t fit the system when he’s yet to have a run in the team. He’s still settling in. Fabinho looked very suspect at first for us and now he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet. I have no dount he’ll continue to improve.

6. Every time Milner plays I’m impressed. There’s nothing new to say, he’s just immense. An absolute model professional and huge asset to the club. When he signed for us, it seemed like he might be seeing out the end of his career but he’s now played more games for us than he has any other club. He’s been a huge part of the Klopp project and probably our best free transfer of all time.

7. I was chatting to some mates on Whatsapp during the game, saying that while the league will be a huge ask (it would take a City collapse that just doesn’t look likely) we’d still be strong contenders for the Champions League. However, with Matip out injured as well I really don’t know. At the moment our first 4 choice centre backs are injured, which is ludicrous. So what makes a good season now?

8. The answer to that question might depend on the transfer window. Do we sign anyone? I’m guessing we won’t and I wouldn’t criticise the club for that. As Klopp says, who do you sign? There’s little point in splashing cash on a player that will end up being 4th choice and anyone who would challenge for a starting place will be unavailable or unaffordable. My guess is we’ll carry on as we are, hopefully Fabinho comes back soon and it’s a mix of Henderson, Phillips and Williams.

9. On a final point, even though we’re on a bad run, it did make last night’s game incredibly exciting. Although last season was amazing, by the time we got to January there was very little jeopardy in any match. Between now and the end of the season it’s going to be jeopardy central. Going into a match knowing that the result is critical makes the experience much more intense. Win and the highs are higher. Lose and the lows and lower. Whatever happens, there’s going to be some fascinating matches from here on in.
Mike, LFC, London

 

…One thing that surprised me was that during the first half, Kane and Matip tussled and in falling to ground, Mario’s leg straightened and Kane’s full weight landed on it (absolutely no fault of Kane whatsoever). While Matip didn’t hobble away, and carried on until half time, it struck me that it was probably going to be an injury.

They showed a couple of replays but then the commentary team were all surprised that Matip came off injured.

I guess that means that Klopp might finally have to accept that three serious knee injuries to central defenders is going to mean reinforcing and probably seeking a genuine long term partner for VvD. Always a fan of both Matip and Gomez, but their injury situation means they can only be considered understudies from herein.

Ah well. Nice win all the same.

Cheers
Rob, Brighton.



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