August 23rd, 2019

Premier League Talking Points-So VAR So Good?

Picture the scene. You’re caught doing 36 in a 30 zone and get a speeding ticket, who’s to blame? You? The law or the camera? Given the outrage over the two major VAR incidents this season, it sounds like a lot of people would blame the camera.

Both incidents come from players falling foul of new Premier League rules regarding handball that states:

By the letter of the law, the ball came off the hands of Wily Boly and Nicolas Otamendi on their way to the back of the net, therefore under the new rules, the goals do not stand. Simple, right? Not so much. It is with the introduction of VAR that this rule has become such a hot topic because the referee in both the Leicester and Man City cases did not see the initial “handball” and the VAR overruled the original decision, both times costing the scoring team 3 points that we’re seeing such debate around the subject.

Personally, I’ve got no issue with the new rule… yet, determining whether a handball was accidental or not is probably one of the hardest things for a referee to do short of keeping up with the likes of Sadio Mané and Raheem Sterling.

A quick glance on Twitter last night showed me a thread from a Man City forum where the stress of VAR has become too much for user ‘squirtyflower’ that he’s looking to sell his season ticket already. Stressful business indeed.

While I’m largely Pro-VAR, I can understand the frustrations of those who are against it. Particularly match-going fans who must have this nagging feeling in the back of their minds every time their team hits the back of the net. Waiting for what seems like an eternity for Michael Oliver or whoever to make that TV gesture with their fingers and determine whether the celebrations can continue or not. Last season the average VAR check took 84 seconds, and those without the benefit of big screens like Anfield and Old Trafford could be left particularly confused.

In fairness, 84 seconds doesn’t seem so bad when you take into account the game last season between Mainz and Freiburg in the Bundesliga, Referee Guido Winkmann called both sides back from the dressing room after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR) system and penalizing Freiburg for handball.

Until matches can be reffed by actual robots, VAR is here to stay whether we like it or not. For better or worse, for handball or offside ‘til the final whistle do us part’. Resistance is futile.

Outside of the Premier League bubble, the transfer window is still open with English clubs inexplicably giving themselves almost 4 weeks were other European teams can swoop in and buy top PL talent and there’s nothing they can do to replace them in January. It’s a bit mad that isn’t it? Like they actually decided to do that to themselves? Weird. Clubs really haven’t felt the pinch of it so far.

Time to move on?

With speculation rife around the futures of Paul Pogba, Christian Eriksen and others, let’s take a look at some of the big moves that could happen around the continent before the window “slams shut”, to quote Mr Deadline Day Jim White, on September 2nd.

Neymar

This is the one transfer that’s dominated the back pages on the continent all summer, the Brazilian forward Neymar has clearly had enough of Ligue 1 and is desperate for a move back to Barcelona. The thing is though, are Barcelona desperate for him to come back?

Leaving the Catalan club to get out of the shadow of Lionel Messi was probably a smart thing to do for the Brazilian, but to do it by going to a club who could win their league with a 5 a-side team and entire operation seems to be focused on winning the Champions League (which they can’t get to the semi-finals) probably wasn’t the best way to go about it.

PSG and Barca are rumored to be in constant talks over the transfer but given the big spending the Spanish club have made over the summer, it looks likely that it will be a loan or player plus cash deal that will be done, if indeed anything…

Alexis Sanchez

Another transfer saga that seems to have went on forever and ever and ever. Alexis Sanchez hasn’t anywhere near his best form since his January 2018 move to Man United from Arsenal and not even managing to make the match day squad at all this season.

Alexis Sanchez is seen as surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. His manager Solskjaer had said before Monday nights game at Wolves that he hoped the Chilean “would come good” at United but after he was quoted as saying: “Well, there’s still a couple of weeks left of the transfer window and there is a chance… some clubs have shown interest in Alexis, so we’ll see what happens.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement is it?

Inter look to be the club most likely to take Sanchez away from Old Trafford where he’ll link up with former team-mate Romelu Lukaku and the two can bitch about their treatment by OGS.

Christian Eriksen

The Danish midfielder was widely expected to join Real Madrid then all of a sudden became odds on to join Manchester United, as it stands he’s still a Spurs player for the time being anyway. He will be free to sign a pre-contract agreement with clubs outside of the Premier League in January, this is the last chance for Daniel Levy to cash in on the playmaker.

It would be a pivotal loss for the North London outfit, he changed the game when he came on in their opener against Aston Villa and Mauricio Pochettino will be very reluctant not to lose one of his most influential players. But when that player is coming out with lines like “I feel that I am a place in my career where I might want to try something new…” it doesn’t look good.

Dejan Lovren

The self proclaimed “best defender in the world” has found himself slipping down to 4th choice in the pecking order at Liverpool. Despite admirable performances in the latter half of the 17/18 season and throughout 18/19, the return to fitness of Joe Gomez and emergence of Joel Matip hasn’t left much room for Lovren beside Virgil Van Dijk.

It looked like Roma would come to his rescue with both clubs actively discussing a sale. Liverpool backed away from a potential deal when it emerged that the Serie A outfit were trying to secure a loan fee rather than the desired permanent deal. Perhaps this was Roma’s attempt at revenge after Liverpool managed to prize both Mohamed Salah and Alisson from them in the past two summers for what seems like pennies compared to their current values.

Given the sheer number of games Liverpool could be involved in this season, I can see them keeping hold of Lovren as the experienced centre-back cover will prove invaluable whether it’s to cover injuries or simply for rotation. He has big game experience having played in both a Champions League and World Cup final, and that can’t be a bad thing to have around the dressing room!

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