PL is full of good players now

Published: Tuesday, 22 September 2020

I really enjoyed Ian Herbert’s piece in The Mail today (Tuesday) on the number of goals being scored in the PL.  It was very well researched and quite thought provoking.

It’s raining goals at the moment. Before the Wolves/City game Herbert told us that right now we’re seeing 3.71 goals per game compared with 2.7 for the entirety of last season. Let’s enjoy it while we can, but that’s not to say the first figure won’t change dramatically during the season. It’s very early days.

The over-riding conclusion is that it’s because the ‘fear factor’ has gone. Because there aren’t any crowds players don’t feel intimidated. The article goes on to tell us that 16% of goals in the opening two weeks have come in the first 10 minutes. No crowd? No problem.  Players are far more relaxed. Well - some players.

I was having a conversation about this very thing with Nigel de Jong on BeINSPORTS. How many times down the years have you heard people say ‘you know, he looks world class in training - but he can’t do it on match days’?

Nigel’s point was that there are players making an impact in games that you might not usually expect to see. They’re now full on ‘Monday to Saturday’ players. This isn’t something that we want to see long term mind you. Top players thrive on crowds - and that’s why we need crowds back - although I fully understand that won’t be any time soon. It’s the top players we go to see. We want them inspired to perform for us. The other lads can go back to doing it ‘Monday to Friday’!

I hate the empty stadiums. I hate the canned crowd noise. I know why it’s there - in case we hear a player or a coach swear. Heaven forbid. Wouldn’t that be awful - especially on a sports channel? When it happens broadcasters go into meltdown - immediately offering apologies. Why? I’m watching a sports channel. That’s exactly where I would expect to hear colourful language.

Any UK show with Jonathan Ross on will be full of ‘f***s’. The word passes for humour in the light entertainment world it seems. It’s the same with any Keith Lemon/Leigh Francis show. And you can hear it across Dave any time of the night and day in dozens of repeats. I couldn’t believe it the other week when Lemon’s Celebrity Juice show was headlining the fact that Philip Schofield used the word c**t. Honestly. I was staggered. So it’s ok for LE - but not sport?

As usual - I digress! I thought the Chelsea game desperately needed a crowd. Liverpool were good - but a full house at The Bridge would’ve helped Chelsea.

It’s not only players relaxing in their new environment. Does anyone think Martin Atkinson would’ve awarded that penalty at Old Trafford had 76,000 been screaming down his neck? I suspect not. Not that he should’ve done - there is no way in the world it was handball.

That’s something we’ve got to sort out. I pointed out last week that Michael Oliver’s award at Anfield was ‘wrong’ in law. I was correct. Why the PGMOL don’t just admit to mistakes I don’t know. By defending Oliver they went on to have to make further errors - but Oliver wasn’t going to get caught twice - which is why he correctly turned down West Ham’s appeals for a pen. The one given to Southampton was a joke. So was Palace’s. And Chris Wood’s goal should never have been given.

On the credit side - I’m delighted to see ‘match’ officials being invited to monitors and making the final decision on subjective matters. This is all we were asking for last season. Mike Riley could easily have changed his mind about the way we were operating but he was too arrogant and VAR was a shambles as a result. It’s better now. Thank you FIFA. What we need next is for our officials to start making correct decisions.

It’s no secret that I don’t like VAR. We didn’t need it - but I’ve always understood that it isn’t going away. It was never going to deliver a game where every decision was agreed by us all. It’s just changed the things we argue about. Chris Wilder was furious after two big calls went against his team at Villa. I happened to agree with Graham Scott on the Egan sending off - but I thought Targett should’ve gone when he conceded the pen. There’s no way he tried to ‘play the ball’ so double jeopardy shouldn’t have applied. See - it’s not possible for VAR to deliver Utopia and get everything right. Thank goodness. We don’t want to watch a game sanitised by technology.

One final point. There’s nothing worse than a broadcaster forgetting he/she is in front of a mic who starts screaming about a perceived injustice to ‘his/her’ team. De Gea moved off his line before he saved Ayew’s pen. Ok - it was only a couple of inches - but if a forward strayed that far off-side he’d expect to be pulled up. I’m afraid that’s the law - and VAR did it’s job on this occasion. No amount of partisan shouting was going to change that.