Let’s stick with the clampdown

Published: Monday, 14 August 2023

I’m a big fan of the clampdown on time-wasting and cheating. It’s long overdue and if it irritates players and coaches alike then we’re doing something right. My fear is that it won’t last. In fact - despite Howard Webb’s assurances - I can guarantee that it won’t.

But we made a start this past weekend. How did we do? Well, here are the official match-time/ball in play figures.


The ‘longest’ game was at Newcastle, but we still didn’t manage to keep the ball in play more than 54 minutes. I don’t think anyone at St James’ was bothered though. The entertainment was 5-star.

At Brentford the match ran for a little over 105 mins. The ball was in play for more than 60 mins. That’s what we should be looking to achieve everywhere. I should point out that the length of the match was, in part, determined by the clash of heads between Romero and Mbeumo and a lengthy VAR check to ensure Romero was on-side when he scored Spurs’ opener. More on that in a moment.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and *City all went past the 100 minute mark. What should we read into that? Look at the ball in play times. Interesting eh?

We didn’t get near the target at Sheff Utd, Everton, Brighton or Bournemouth though. There’s a theme here isn’t there?

Back to that Spurs’ goal. Top marks to Tottenham for getting Romero off after that nasty clash of heads, but why did they wait 10 mins to do it? And why didn’t Brentford take the same precautions with Mbeumo?

Romero scored with his head. I don’t have access to the medical reports, but clearly Spurs were running a huge risk leaving him on. It’s during that time that a player is most vulnerable. A second blow to the head can be fatal. We know it was a concussion substitution because Postecoglou was bemoaning the fact that they didn’t fill in the correct paperwork - thereby not wasting one of his five possible changes. Will Spurs now follow the guidelines and not select Romero for the next game?

We’ve got to take player safety more seriously. Spurs got half way towards the correct decision. Brentford’s lack of action worried me.

I didn’t see anything to persuade me that my pre-season predictions are going to be wrong. Oh - on that subject - I was delighted that Opta’s super-computer predictions were exactly the same as mine!

I read a piece by The Mirror’s David Maddock today that I felt was having a bit of a swipe at the Evertonians that booed their team off after the defeat by Fulham. His argument was that it’s a shame that fans only react to results - and that there was a lot in the game for Evertonians to be encouraged by.

Ok. It’s an argument, but I’m with the Goodison die-hands. You can’t lose at home to Fulham on the opening day. I like Sean Dyche. I hope he gets Everton going, but his team have got to do a lot more than they did v Fulham. I said last week - the biggest problem Everton are going to have is scoring goals - and so it proved. If they can’t solve that issue they’ll struggle all season.

Newcastle were a treat to watch. No problems with goal scoring there. Isak is a player isn’t he? What a lovely finish his second was.

Arsenal were left sweating - and it might have been worse if Forest had been awarded the pen that they clearly should’ve had. That was handball by Rice. Michael Oliver couldn’t see it. VAR let him down.

No pen there, yet Lewis Dunk was penalised v Luton. Why? What a daft decision that was. That wasn’t handball under the new interpretation - nor the old one.

Liverpool were unlucky as well. That was handball by Jackson. That’s a pen all over Europe - but not in the PL. Why are our decisions always at odds with everyone else’s?

Good luck to Harry Kane. He’s a wonderful ambassador for our game. He says the right things - and generally acts impeccably (stay on your feet a bit more Harry). I wish him all the luck in the world at Munich and wouldn’t it be nice if he won the CL at Wembley in June?