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VAR’s role in the upcoming 2019/20 EPL SEASON

We’ve already seen some questionable calls with VAR and its use in the Women’s World Cup, the Mens World Cup last year and the most recent Champions League.

Now it’s time for the almighty VAR to descend into the Premier League. And no doubt it’ll piss a lot of fans off when goal celebrations become meaningless.

So here’s a quick breakdown of the official way VAR will run in the Premier League:

1) OFFSIDE

If a player’s two front teeth are ahead of a defenders, it’s going to adjudged as offside. Yep, the incredibly tight calls will not go unscrutinised! And we usually see them once a goal has been scored. Of course, it raises the question; why didn’t the referee’s assistant flag it in the first place?!

2) MISTAKEN IDENTITY

This one’s minor, and I don’t think we’ve seen an incident of it yet. Sending off the wrong player for example. VAR can step in and correct any potential mistakes made by the referee. Which Arsenal fan remembers the player sent off by mistake in their game against Chelsea back in 2014?

3) RED CARDS

If a player is awarded a straight red card, the VAR overlords can advise if the correct decision was made and suggest it be overturned if necessary. Again, I can’t recall a recent incident. Similarly, if a player deserved a red card and got away with it (with just a yellow or a warning), VAR can suggest a red card instead.

4) PENALTY DECISIONS

Any potential foul that is committed inside the box will be reviewed. We all saw Alex Morgan receive studs to the shoulder in the Women’s World Cup Final. Moments like that will have a similar review. On the flip side, if the ref awards a penalty and it isn’t, VAR can overturn it.

One of the more common fouls inside the penalty box is…

5) HANDBALL

Save “the best” till last. The handball rule that saw Moussa Sissoko concede a UCL Final Penalty, and Danny Rose a victim in another UCL game against Manchester City. As we all know the rule, the arms should not be in an unnatural position during play. If you attempt to make a play with your hands, it’s a foul. What’s still a grey area is when it deflects off a person’s arm after hitting another body part. Or when an opposing player strikes the ball at such a force, that’s it’s impossible for a defender to move his arm in time. Officials have even admitted the rules are adapting as VAR comes into use (!!). So expect the same level of attention from VAR, but perhaps different final decisions from the refs…

For  more information on VAR, check out FIFA’s webpage on it:

https://football-technology.fifa.com/en/media-tiles/video-assistant-referee-var/

-JR

The Tottenham Sickness

Full credit must be given to my father for the title. He coined the phrase a few years ago, when Spurs had a strong points gap over Arsenal back in 2012-2013 and ended that season below them.

It “almost” occurs every year. Like an uncontrollable force or invisible plague that sweeps over the team, the players (from whichever year) just simply cannot close out seasons. Fans of the team will say they get tired of hearing their team called “chokers,” or “bottlers.” But the fact of the matter is- it’s true! Despite a resurgence over the last two years, where Spurs have comfortably locked in Champions League football, it appears the spring slump of the early 2010’s is back on. And with still no silverware of recent, it’s troubling times once again.

Spurs started the season brightly, despite the shock losses from Watford and Wolves. They appeared on course to potentially challenge once again, being the dark horse in that 3-horse title race. But once they faced Burnley, the metaphorical wheels fell off. A win for the Clarets began the phase of uncertainty for Spurs, knowing that their next 3 fixtures were away to Chelsea, at “home” to Arsenal and away to Dortmund. While the win over the German giants was admirable, it doesn’t take away from the fact that just 1 point was gained from a potential 9 in the EPL.

And then onto Southampton…starting with a lead created thanks to Harry Kane’s efforts. But then another 2nd half folding that saw a defensive calamity and a James Ward-Prowse free-kick that was frankly world class. The loss now makes it 1 point from 12! With Arsenal triumphant over Manchester United the same weekend, and Spurs with the prospect of having to face BOTH Liverpool and city away from home…it reads not only like a 5th place finish but the first time in 2 years that St Totteringham’s Day will rear it’s ugly head.

Sure, a lot depends on the remaining fixtures – and never dismiss Wolverhampton’s ability over the Big Six – but the historical Tottenham sickness would tell you that the run-in doesn’t look good.

So the big question. WHY?! Why does this keep happening? Many spurs fan will still remember “Lasagne gate”, an ACTUAL sickness bought on by food poisoning that cost Spurs a Champions League spot back in 2006. Can we simply not shake off that metaphorical taste?!

Jokes aside, here are some other thoughts:

  1. Team fatigue. Once again, the players are looking and getting tired. Although they haven’t had as many different leagues to contend with this year, they still had to fight Chelsea in the Carabou Cup over two legs and are still fighting in the Champions League. Can we blame many of the players’ World Cup involvement as an excuse? Perhaps not at this point. But moreover, Pochettino just doesn’t have the players he can efficiently rotate in. With a lack of money to spend, he’s forced to pick from the youth academy pool and while admirable and always praised by others, it sometimes doesn’t pay off. Harry Wink’s work-rate is apparent, but he’s not the Riyahd Mahrez or Kevin De Bruyne you can sub on to steal the win. (Except against Fulham, but beside the point!) Equally, when Kieran Trippier, who looked like a world-beater is clearly looking leggy, putting on Kyle Walker-Peters, the young man outrun by a Saints attacker who crossed the ball for their equalising goal, isn’t the solution.
  2. Can’t compete financially. Daniel Levy has spent in the past, but everyone knows recently that Spurs spent £0 in the transfer marker last summer and in January. It’s now coming back to bite him. And with a shiny new stadium about to open, one might suggest that, much like Arsenal when they opened the Emirates, Levy is not going to spend lavishly for a long time now. And in today’s game, you have to spend like City and Liverpool to challenge.
  3. Harry Kane. Here’s what interesting. Before Harry Kane returned from injury, Spurs had won 4 in a row. As mentioned previously, his return has only yielded just 1 point from 12. Has the superstar upset the balance? When a team so heavily relies on their star man all of a sudden, there is a suggestion for a potential unbalancing.
  4. New Stadium/lack of home. While this somewhat ties in with club finances from point 1, having a place to call home makes a huge difference to players. Spurs have almost spent 2 full seasons without a home, and while their success at Wembley has improved, the mentality shifts when you play a North London Derby on a mutual ground.
  5. Poch’s rotation/system changes. Some would have hailed Poch as a genius at the start of the season, rotating his players to get comfortable playing time and time to rest. But has he over-rotated now? It almost seems like Poch doesn’t have the perfect system/players to rely upon anymore, and even rested Toby and Son in a Saints game that needed them! Does Poch know his perfect 11 at this point? Some might argue yes, but then why underestimate teams like Southampton that are fighting to survive relegation?

I guess a lot can change over the next few weeks and with the beauty of the Premier League, you never really know who’s going to upset who. As a Spurs fan, it’s sometimes hard to ignore the potential hopes of this team once again get dashed.

-JR

How Many Horses Are In This Race?

For me, this Premier League season has not seen any foregone conclusions. As we all remember, Manchester City won the title back in November of 2017 and the Top 4 was pretty much locked up a month before the seasons end.

This season has been different in the sense that Liverpool do not seem like runaway winners. Having not won their last 2 games, Manchester City have now reclaimed pole position and may even start to grow a sizeable lead of their own.

But what about city?! They certainly haven’t set the league on fire this year and are a little off their sparkling form from last year. Their loss to Newcastle will still haunt many of their fans, and their Christmas fixtures, including the loss to Chelsea, were certainly a shock to many.

Now onto the 3rd horse. Tottenham. As one of the previous pod guests called them, the perennial chokers. Well, despite their wicked injury list, lack of transfers and no place to home still, they’ve somehow managed to hang in there. And with favorable fixtures against Leicester City and Burnley on the horizon, one might think they can still keep pace for a while. The big “but” will come when they face the other Top 6 teams. They still have Arsenal at Wembley, City at the Ethiad, Chelsea at the Bridge and Liverpool at Anfield. One “might” argue that wins from at least 2 of those might see them as sneaky underdogs.

It may seem like a bit of stretch for the other teams at this point in time, but the Top 4 race is certainly not over by any means. The resurgent Manchester United continue their charge with 8 wins from 9 under Ole and look set to sneak into the Champions League spots at the expense of Chelsea and Arsenal. The Blues themselves are going through a rocky season with Sarri at the helm, comfortably beating Huddersfield but losing to Bournemouth! There’s no pattern it seems and with disharmony in the camp with players like Hazard, it appears they can’t map out a comfortable route to the finish line. Arsenal’s cracks have finally surfaced with Emery in charge. Their “new manager” phase has faded and the reality has kicked in. The struggles for them seem more apparent however. Their aging defense. Players like Aubameyang and Lacazette can only score so many goals before the defense allows more and as the season wears on, it’s starting to show.

So what’s the final order?! Most people will agree on things in groups. Either Man City or Liverpool take the title, Spurs lock in 3rd, and either Man Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal take the final Top 4 spot. But crazier things have happened!

 

-JR

The Young Lions Roar into the Quarter Finals

Over the last…however many years England have featured in the World Cup, it’s hard to ignore the predictable and desperate outcomes. And once again, we all thought the same thing was happening when they conceded in the 93rd minute of their Round of 16 game.
But no. Something miraculous happened. They actually won a penalty shootout!
Yep! The hoodoo was officially broken. They beat Columbia 4-3 on penalties to make it into the Quarter Finals.
Having been wiped out early on in the last World Cup tournament (thanks to Suarez of Uruguay and Ballotelli of Italy), it’s almost strange to see England run down the field in jubilation! What’s more, having lost to Belgium in the group stages, their path to the final is arguably a comfortable one.  They face Sweden next, who barely squeaked through their own game and could then face either Croatia or Russia – who both won through penalty shootouts.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
To me, there were still some warning signs from England throughout this game. Kane’s deeper role in the formation was almost as bizarre as his role as corner-kick taker back in the Euros. Dele Alli’s lack of match fitness became apparent and the playing out from the back always makes me nervous! (Kyle Walker’s dwelling on the ball almost cost them big time, with a subsequent shot from Columbia just over the bar.)
Having said that, this young English team will now be well up for the challenge. Having been shellshocked by that late equaliser, they’ll go in with the belief they can take on anything. If Kane can get more service (as a striker!), if the creativity can flow a little more (but not too creative Dele), then I think England could see themselves in the Semi-Finals for the first time since 1990.
Then its only a matter of time before “It’s Coming Home!” right?…

Will Harry Kane stay as ‘One of Our Own?’

Once again, we near the end of another epic season and talks are starting to light up about Harry Kane’s future.

With the current Premier League goalscorer (23 goals at writing!) keeping Spurs well in the chase for a Top4 finish, rumours are once again circulating as to whether or not he’s likely to make a summer move. Ex-Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas recently came out to the press and pretty much said if he wants silverware, he’s better off at a more successful club. Ouch! Pochettino on the other hand, claimed Harry Kane is happy and can help win trophies at Tottenham.

We’ve discussed this topic a couple of times on the podcast, with Jared still believing he’s going to stick around. I do think it’s inevitable that a Real Madrid hounding is on its way, with an offer close to £200 Million landing in Daniel Levy’s inbox. Sure, that would help towards paying off their new Stadium, but once again we fall into the “feeder-club” trap, by selling our best players to the richer clubs and not coming close to winning trophies. Dare I bring back the memory of the Bale money? Of the 7-8 players Spurs bought, only 2 are still with the club. And one of them – Lamela – was out with hip issues for a good amount of time. End result- still no trophies!

My opinion? I think he’s got one more committed year at Spurs. If he racks up another 30+ goals for the season, but Spurs still fail to come away with any silverware, I think his agents, advisors and even fellow players will tempt him towards another club. I just hope to God it’s not an English one!

-JR

North London is…Pink?!

10/2/2018

Once again, we were treated to another special meeting of these two clubs. (And special thanks goes to “Strange Days Brewing” in Kansas City for being brave enough to host BOTH sets of local fans.)

In the build-up to this match, one could argue that Spurs were going to take this one. With most of their key players now returning to full match fitness and coming off wins from Man Utd, an FA Cup replay success with Newport County and a snatched point from Liverpool, the momentum appeared in Spurs’ favour. But despite Arsenal’s embarrassing losses – from the Swans and Bournemouth, their new signings (Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan) have both shifted the optimism of Wenger’s side and given fans a newfound hope. And their recent 5-1 demolition of Everton is nothing to skip over!

The 1st half was evenly balanced. Two teams clearly playing a chess game, trying to figure out which of them was going to break forward first, thus exposing the back. The midfield battles were clearly there and the occasional shot on goal from both was evident. But for me the second half was the turning point. Pochettino must have somehow got into his players’s heads as they came out firing! Even after going 1-nil up, they continued to dominate possession and easily could have made it 2 or 3, if not for Son’s tragic miss and Cechs heroic save.)

Fair result? Probably. Although one could argue that Spurs’ lack of killing the game could have cost them, with Lacazette’s last kick almost sharing the points.

But something tells me this Spurs dominance is about to see another signature Spring slump. Despite strong moments, Dele Alli is a not the same player he was last year. Harry Kane –  yes, he scored today, but has been missing his scoring boots of late. Something tells me a game upset might derail their passion to conclude the season. And knowing Arsenal, they’ll somehow bounce back from this narrow loss with a desire to kick on and take each of the 3 points as they come.

So North London is Pink. White from the Spurs victory today, but mixed with Red from the prospects of the Gunner’s future.

#WengerIn

-JR

“Race to the Bottom”

1/23/2018

As Both Jared and Boyce highlighted in the Episode “Alexis Sanchez and the Swap-Shop Invitational”, there is a mere 6 points between the club in 10th place (Watford) and 20th (Swansea). Typically at this point in the season, we see a significant gap between those 5 clubs circling the relegation drain, with predictions on who’s facing the drop. But this year, it’s quite intriguing!

Watford’s shock sacking of Marco Silva leaves the door open for uncertainty. Can their new hire (Javi Garcia) shift Watford’s mentality back to winning ways? He certainly isn’t tested in the PL, so it could be a tall order.

Despite the Saints gaining a point from Spurs over the weekend, it’s hard to ignore their poor run of form. They are now without a win in ten, having drawn a majority of them. But what about Swansea? Their shock win over Liverpool is one thing, but they’re lacking that cutting edge that PL teams need to win games.

Stoke City, who seem to be the butt of most of our jokes, currently find themselves out of the current relegation zone. With the hiring of Paul Lambert and their subsequent victory over Huddersfield, one gets a feeling that they might just survive it, just on pure luck! (Plus the fact that their next few games are not with Top6 clubs!)

My prediction at this point: West Brom, Brighton and Huddersfield to drop. For the two latter clubs, it’s perhaps too soon for both to be locking in that consistent PL-club status. They need wins over the lesser clubs which they just aren’t getting. West Brom would be the surprise relegation no-one was expecting and- similar to Leciester City winning the PL – would somehow find a way to go down.

-JR