Tag Archives: Premier League

FA set worrying precedent with Saido Berahino

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Berahino made a mistake, but why were The FA silent? Source: Sky Sports News

Last week, it was revealed that Stoke City forward Saido Berahino had been banned for eight weeks for taking “recreational drugs”.

The news was never revealed to the public until it was leaked, reportedly from his old club West Bromwich Albion where the offence occurred, and the ban was also kept hush-hush behind a Tony Pulis wall of “he’s not fit enough” or consequences still on-going from a transfer dispute almost two years old.

The Sun have also reported that the drug in question was of the Class A variety, which under criminal law would carry a potential seven-year jail sentence and an unlimited fine if found guilty of possession.

Now soak all of that in.

So why didn’t anyone know any of this as soon as it happened?

First of all, it’s clear why West Brom kept the new in-house. Any potential ban like that could seriously hamper the value of a player they believe could still fetch them a pretty penny, even if issues surrounding his fitness and team cohesion hadn’t helped in the first place.

Second, it’s also clear why Stoke would have liked to have kept it on the down low. A new player that they hope they can revive without too much scrutiny has suddenly been launched back into the spotlight for a mistake he made on the Baggies’ watch, not theirs.

Both were trying to protect their player, for different reasons, looking after a potentially misguided young man. It’s a reasonably hefty mistake, that many other 22/23 year olds do not make, but a first misdemeanour for someone in a place of power is always a slap on the wrist.

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The FA have a lot to answer for. Source: Wikipedia

What is not clear, however, is why the Football Association deemed it appropriate to keep the news away from the public. Again, the argument to protect the player could be trotted out but that’s a pretentious stance for them to take when in all honesty, that’s not their quota.

It also becomes hypocritical when they publish big bans like when Rio Ferdinand was banned for nine months for missing a drugs test or Mark Bosnich was banned for the same amount of time for testing positive for cocaine.

If The Sun are correct and it’s a Class A drug, as described above, for any other member of society it would come with a pretty significant punishment.

Even if it was a lesser class drug like Cannabis, which would better explain the shortness of the ban, why was it kept under wraps? Does that mean others get off lightly? What about those who are doing less?

Especially when players like Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish were chastised for seeking legal highs while a player who has made an illegal mistake is swept under the rug. How the FA can stand to punish anyone else for this kind of matter and get away without a big appeal pointing to this leads to the fact that this could lead to a much wider, deeper problem.

This is not to say Berahino should have been made an example of. He was given due process, he served his ban and is now back playing, it’s not an issue for him to reveal it if others are unwilling to do so.

The FA, on the other hand, have a lot to answer for. This is a bad precedent to set, not revealing a serious issue like this will lead to either others getting away with it and the potential for future leaks through the media could look very ugly for an officiating body under increasing scrutiny.

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Why video refereeing will work in football

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Mike Dean did not have the best of days on Monday night, to say the least. Source: The Mirror

Somewhat lost among the regular spiel during a match day weekend of referee rants and manager meltdowns was two instances where technology in football made a big difference. In two games, Hawkeye confirmed goals that otherwise were not caught by officials pitch side.

At the Etihad, Burnley clawed themselves back into the game after Ben Mee’s header was confirmed to have crossed the line after a scramble. The other instance was even more significant, with Gareth McAuley’s header against Hull City was not denied on the line and gave the Baggies their first lead in the game.

Both almost seemed like the norm, which is why there was no real talk about it. So, if that has significantly helped football, why can’t video evidence be used to aid referees in a similar manner?

There’s no getting away from it, Mike Dean had a bad day at the London Stadium on Monday evening officiating West Ham United versus Manchester United. Sofiane Feghouli’s red card is very harsh (it has since been rescinded), Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal was offside in both phases and with a couple of unpunished fouls, along with a deliberate handball that was given but no booking, it almost turned farcical.

Now avoiding the silly talk about Dean’s enjoyment of the limelight or how he seemed to never recover from the early red card, which all are slightly unfair shots at his character, let’s talk about how we can assist them. Without video evidence, none of these debates would have been brought up in the first place but with them there, there shouldn’t really be an excuse from the footballing hierarchy not to use them.

It would not take a dramatic amount of time to check them, the videos are available for TV companies in a heartbeat and after a few different angles, 95% of decisions are fairly clear cut. With an experience, official either at the game or a team based somewhere, it should be something that any major league or international competition could start quickly.

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This goal would not have stood if it wasn’t for Hawkeye in football. Source: The Sun

There have been a few trials at international friendlies, with incredibly interesting results. It was used in France’s 3-1 win against Italy and with the use of VARs (video assistant referees), they helped make sure a Djibril Sidibe challenge was not worth a red card within 10 seconds.

10 seconds. That’s all it took.

Some commentators say that the managers should have challenges as well, similar to the system used in the NFL. If they get the first challenge right, they get to keep it but overall over the course of the game, an NFL coach can only make a maximum of three challenges which is dependent on that first call.

Mixing that in with the referee being able to check things that quickly and it could turn things that can completely change a team’s season into the norm. With everything checked quickly and then given an extra time to look at them because of a challenge would completely clear any doubt over the referee’s decision, although some will still refuse to accept it.

The old guard will argue that the game’s gone to pot and with machines aiding it now, it’s not long until it’s completely out of pub talks forever, but they’ll soon get over it. The sport is continuing to modernise, even if it’s still vastly behind some sports in certain areas, and finally implementing these ideas would really help.

In fact, it will really help the officials the most. For how scrutinised they are, they can only give what they have seen on the field and especially when you only get one shot at it, then it’s almost a thankless task to have an absolutely spotless game.

This needs to happen as soon as FIFA and The FA can get it off the ground. It might seem a little hyperbolic but people’s jobs are at stake in this results-based business and the fact that it could change from the wrong decision should not be a factor in 2017.

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Why is football punditry so hated?

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Monday Night Football seems to be a fan favourite, so why don’t others follow suit? Source: Daily Mirror

On Saturday evening, many people watching Match of the Day on BBC One HD were without sound for the first 45 minutes or so.

Some would call that a blessing in disguise.

It didn’t matter to this writer, who skips through the analysis in the studio and sticks to the in-game action instead. Even if he did feel like a mad man either watching silence or commentating himself like he was playing Football Manager.

Don’t judge me, please.

But it did lead me to think about something that seems a hot button with everyone these days. Are pundits getting worse? Are they taking a little too much flak? Do we really know what we want from our half-time talking heads?

Let us start with those paid for their opinions. There’s a number of different styles to pick through with all varying degrees of usefulness over every media platform, the know-it-alls, the not-too-risqué and the all-too-risqué.

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Sometimes right, sometimes absolutely wrong, always a little bland, Jamie Redknapp everyone! Source: Sky Sports

Starting with everyone’s favourites with the know-it-alls. These are your Monday Night Football, European football clever-clogs that tell you the little bits you didn’t see and what you should be expecting from your overpaid superstars.

There’s a lot to like about what they bring. They pry through the game long and hard to give you something extra that you might not have caught on first viewing or simply didn’t know about to even look out for.

Sometimes what they can say is overly complicated, sometimes you are left a little lingering, hoping they’d delve in deeper. But the likes of Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher can’t give all their secrets away, otherwise they may be out of a job.

Honestly, there should be more in this category. A few are on the borderline, mainly the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves, but at least these are trying to add something to the game you’ve just watched rather than telling you with words what you’ve already seen with your eyes.

That moves us perfectly on to the next type, the not-too-risqué types. This eclipses most of your pundits you see, the non-offending smart shirt-wearing former professional who doesn’t try to stray too far from the given path.

They may go on a slight angry rant if something has grieved them over the course of the game or if it has been grinding them down in the past few weeks but they stick by the line. Say nothing too untoward, don’t have too much explanation it what has happened and give us a brief overview.

The perfect middle-managers of the pundit world. Keep it short, sharp and to the point so that everyone can understand what is said without making those tuning in feel like morons.

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Two hot-head mouthpieces that should no longer be on television. So fond of butting heads they thought they’d try each other for size. Source: BT Sport

Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with the Jamie Redknapp’s and the Alan Shearer’s of the world. They sometimes come up with something interesting but it’s more of a shame that they don’t go deeper when you want them too.

All in all, they are just a little too vanilla.

For those that prefer the taste of hot sauce and blood, there is the all-too-risqué types. The blood and thunder types that thrive in saying the exact opposite to everyone else just for the kicks and then thrive in their role as the heel to the watching audience.

I shouldn’t even have to mention names here, it’s the ones that sound ridiculous even when they make a valid point. They go over-the-top, get annoyed at the slightest thing and a fair few of them still live in the dark ages where you could kick seven shades of something out of the opponent without consequence.

These glorified shock masters should be culled. A controversial opinion should be welcomed with evidence but they never present any, hoping their shouty and aggressive attitude is enough to convince you that they are right.

So what do we want? The general feeling as we just want something added to our content. The more conscious viewer of the modern age wants analysis that gives us more of a “why” instead of a “how”, examples to show us both and ideas that give us though on how our own teams perform on a weekly basis.

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An example of what we could see, the European Football Show is always an interesting watch. Source: BT

We want stories, insight into the different teams and the reasons why certain things are done in a certain way. For example, the excellent panel of journalists on the European Football Show always come packed with little tid-bits on every team or even player that adds to the experience, even if they aren’t ex-pros that “know” every in and out.

Which is why there’s such a backlash against the status quo. We aren’t Neanderthals any more, the holier-than-thou attitude from those that act like it simply because they were gifted the talent to make a career out of it does not mean they can look down on us that only have the mind as sharp.

It’s proven in some of the absolutely outstanding work done out there by writers across Europe, by the superb stuff done by analysists and the social media age that have given us more access than ever. Former agents, coaches, scouts have given us tools we could have only hoped for in the past and it’s time for ex-pros to step up their game in time with that.

Overall, punditry should continue to be varied and give us a little more on every broadcast. The additions like those from writers and even ex-referees explaining decisions thoroughly without any bias has given us more, stating the rules as they are written rather than with the tinted glasses of a footballer.

The hope is that the current generation coming through are watching the love for the likes of Neville and Carragher and they follow suit. Give us a little more, fill our minds with your knowledge and more importantly, stop those who can fast-forwarding.

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Fabian Delph showing money isn’t everything

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

In an almost unprecedented move, Fabian Delph rejected the advances of Manchester City this week to remain at Aston Villa. That’s despite the two-time Premier League champions matching his buyout clause and offering a bumper contract, Delph stays to play regular football with the team he’s grown with.

At the initial news that he was due to have a medical with the Sky Blues, even I started thinking about the same old cliches about others that have made similar moves to the same club. Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Adam Johnson and to some extent James Milner all moved to the Etihad believing that it would be a big step in their careers as first-team starters and national team main-stays.

However, it never really worked out for any of them as they might have hoped.

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move.  Source: Birmingham Mail

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move. Source: Birmingham Mail

Rodwell and Sinclair never really broke into the side, Johnson was always going to be an impact player and whilst Milner had the most success, he was the most frustrated after performing well yet still not earning a regular spot in the starting eleven. All have now moved on and while it’s also clear that some have never reached the heights expected, most of them had their careers stunted at Manchester City.

That is not to say that this article is just to attack the methods of the blue side of Manchester, other than Milner there weren’t signs that the others were quite at the level required at the club. The rules on home-grown talent also force Manchester City into a corner, buying English players for the sake of filling quotas and depriving other teams of good starters or even key players.

They are also caught in a middle ground between their recent success and their own academy catching up to them. Having to pay a premium for strong English talent, like they have with Raheem Sterling, is their only real way to move forward with the home-grown status whilst they wait for their impressive academy to produce quality products.

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

That being said, it was still very tough for Delph to not only turn down the money and potential silverware but also admit to himself that at his current level, he won’t be getting the game time that he needs. It’s sometimes difficult for a player to remove themselves like that and have real foresight, especially an international and it’s incredibly refreshing.

He’s staying loyal to Villa and it’s great to see, many other young English players should follow his example. Get reassurances at your new club that you’ll be played, stay that year longer to grow in a smaller side and then allow your progression when you feel necessary.

It’s moves like this that will improve the quality of the national side in the future, rather than harshly sticking to rules that don’t end up benefiting anyone.

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Footballers are humans, too

Sterling's dismal performance against the Republic of  Ireland summed up his last three months.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling’s dismal performance against the Republic of Ireland summed up his last three months. Source: Sky Sports

It’s a strange thing to say but what sometimes seems to be lost in the modern day reporting an even discussion in football is that the names we talk about are human beings. We talk about transfers, contract situations and even a player’s form almost as if there can’t be external issues off the field of play that could be pulling them away.

This has come up recently with Raheem Sterling, who has even been vocal in his disappointment that his contract talks with Liverpool have come out. Unsurprisngly, his form declined at the end of the season and whilst some would point to fatigue, which could also be a factor, it’s clear from numerous performances that his trademark swagger has left him.It was what made him so distinctive and exciting, he showed no fear and looking at WhoScored’s ratings you can see the dip he’s gone through.

Up until his two-assist performance in the 2-1 win against Manchester City at the start of March, he’d put in a string of excellent performances and whilst his form was erratic at times, he’d regularly hit over 7.5 on their scale. After that point, he made just one more goal and assist, scoring over 7.5 twice in the final 14 games whilst finishing below 7 in all of his last seven games.

Di Maria's concern for his family's well-being hindered his form.  Source: Sky Sports

Di Maria’s concern for his family’s well-being hindered his form. Source: Sky Sports

It’s clear from that whilst the actual situation with his contract isn’t affecting his play, the ire from the wider public that he’s received and the increased attention has. It’s a process he’ll certainly learn from and will likely grow a thicker skin, it’s interesting to see how the psyche can change a player’s form on the field.

It’s not just Sterling that’s been affected, Angel Di Maria has also had a pretty poor season for his lofty expectations and it’s almost obvious that the break-in at his home had a detrimental on his on-field exploits.

He would give the ball away, try to do a little too much and his own frustration at his inability to rediscover his form led to the petulance seen during the FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal where he was sent off. Sometimes it’s just a break that a player needs to find his feet again and now the season is over, hopefully both can return to their former glories.

De Gea's happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United's money will change that.  Source: Express

De Gea’s happiness is forthright, no amount of Manchester United’s money will change that. Source: Express

However, we should also take a player’s off-the-field happiness into consideration during transfers too. Some don’t join clubs because they don’t fancy the area, because they don’t want to learn a new language or they want to leave because it’ll make their lives a little easier.

A perfect example is David De Gea, who looks almost certain to join Real Madrid not simply because it’s a huge club but because it’s a lot easier on his family. His girlfriend much prefers Spain, his family hasn’t got to travel as far (especially with his father’s fear of flying)  and that’s a really big factor in a player’s decision, sometimes even more so than money.

Sometimes we lose a little bit of thinking, analysing numbers on a screen and thinking of players much like they are within the realms of FIFA 15 of Football Manager but after all, they aren’t far removed from ourselves. It’s almost impossible to see the roadblocks in someone’s mind and we never will but it’s something that teams, players and even the media will get better with the more we learn.

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Raheem Sterling and the balance of power

Sterling will decide his future in this player-power era.  Source: Sky Sports

Sterling will decide his future in this player-power era. Source: Sky Sports

It was revealed last night that Raheem Sterling plans to leave Liverpool in the near future, rejecting their contract offer believed to be around £100k a week to move to a club with better title prospects. Reports from Sky Sports say he has felt “bullied” by the club in signing a new deal and that he’s not been protected by the club from headlines in the media.

Many Liverpool legends have come out against this, from Jamie Carragher to John Barnes to Phil Thompson, with all of them defending the strength of Liverpool Football Club and the absurdity of a 20-year-old holding the club to ransom. However, it also shows the significant shift in modern football that player power is absolutely everything.

It does seem wrong that he’s demanding such a contract, the pay is good for a 20-year-old who’s proven he’s got ability but has yet to show that he’s absolutely world class. The ambition he’s showing, however, shouldn’t be in question and the pressure he’s putting on Liverpool to improve as a whole should not be ignored.

It actually reminds me of a situation with Wayne Rooney in the past, where he’s demanded better terms and better players surrounding to maintain title challenges and the club buckled in the end. They convinced him to stay, for the better of the team and paid the amount he felt he was owed.

What kind of message does this send out to the likes of Jordon Ibe?  Source: The Guardian

What kind of message does this send out to the likes of Jordon Ibe? Source: The Guardian

The fact that Sterling isn’t looking likely to sign a deal sends a message to other youngsters in the team that they better play ball with Liverpool or they will be wanting to leave too. In this day and age, that’s a very dangerous game to play where you begin to become the selling team rather than the destination for top talent and that can see you struggle quickly.

It’s pivotal for a club like Liverpool, with a big fanbase and big expectations, that they keep their best players when they can and do it as early as possible. It was almost a formality that Luis Suarez was going and in all honesty, they didn’t have a hope in keeping him in this player power-centric era but when someone like Sterling, who looks like your future, can’t be retained then big questions must be asked.

In my personal opinion, contreversial as it is, they should give Sterling what they want. Clubs do have to operate on a budget but at the same time, they aren’t restricted by rules in any way so why not pay him whatever he wants? He could be a focal point of your club for years to come, a gem that other teams will be jealous of and that your own team can build around. That’s always lost when thinking about the attitude and the money.

It’s a difficult thing to hear but in the balance of power, players hold all the cards. They can hold clubs to ransom because having top quality talent is the only way to win and whilst clubs try to be stubborn, it tends to lead to issues like this, where there seems to be no way back. It might not be the end of Liverpool’s troubles should this kind of negotiation tactic continue and whilst they should have kept him, their only option is to sell and re-invest. And then hope that works out a lot better than it did last summer.

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