What a terrific weekend…..

Published: Monday, 04 December 2023

What a wonderful day of football Sunday gave us.  Only West Ham and Palace failed to get the memo! The rest went at it with a ferver that did the best league in the world justice.  

I don’t think another dramatic Anfield finish surprised anyone. There have been many down the years, but the latest is right up there with the best - although Tsimikas did foul De Cordova-Reid just before Alexander-Arnold hit the late winner. There was no way VAR was going to rule it out though after the way the ground erupted. No way at all - and that’s not a failing with the technology - it was a lack of courage and poor decision making that so often leads to the big boys getting big decisions. Have another look if you missed it - it’s a clear foul. Fulham deserved something from the game, but we’ve said that many times about the underdogs in big arenas down the years.

I don’t want to make too much of it, but it really isn’t right. Covid games proved that it happens - scientifically.

Researchers from the Frontiers in Sports and Active Living journal did a study analysing 1286 Covid ‘ghost games’, played in empty stadia, in the top leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Austria and the Czech Republic - so pretty comprehensive - and came to the following conclusions 

Home teams had significantly more players booked because of what was described as ‘decreased social pressure’. In other words - refs weren’t bullied by home crowds. The lack of ‘social pressure’ also led to an impact on home advantage. There were no significant changes in decisions against away teams so the obvious conclusion was a ‘reduction of unconscious favouritism of referees for home teams’. Put that another way - the officials shit it at Anfield! Small teams don’t want favours, they simply want what they’re due.

Mind you - that was nothing compared to Simon Hooper’s howler at City. That’s both sides of Manchester that he’s pissed off now. Remember - he was the hapless ref that should’ve sent Onana off, and given Wolves a penalty, in the opening game of the season at Old Trafford. He was demoted for not doing so, although I’m never quite sure why that happens.

Why curse the C’ship with these guys when they’ve fucked up? Do C’ship games not mean as much as PL matches? Antony Taylor ‘the master and commander who knows everything’ (as Pep Guardiola called him in an interview with beINSPORTS Andy Kerr - brilliant Andy) was sent down to the C’ship recently after costing Wolves with another really poor call - and immediately he did it again - giving Preston a pen in their game v Coventry. It was a terrible decision and led to the PGMOL apologising to Mark Robins. Demotion doesn’t make them better. Leave them out. Rest them. Coach them Don’t inflict them on C’ship teams.

Anyway - what was Hooper thinking when he stopped Grealish in his tracks? As we all saw - initially he plays a great advantage, so what went through his mind when he pulled it back? It’ll be interesting to see what Howard Webb has to say about it. 

I read Chris Sutton in The Mail today tearing into Haaland for his reaction. Yes - the social media abuse can be ‘grotesque’ - but you played at the highest level Chris and you know very well how players react in moments like that. It’s emotion and Haaland and City knew that they’d been robbed of a chance to win the game. Referees can’t be allowed to make such match-defining errors as that. The abuse? I’m with you there, but The Mail’s campaign addresses the affects not the causes - which are a group of officials that aren’t good enough. They’ve shown that to be the case week after week. That’s where we need change. That’s the campaign to run. 

Addressing the affects is a bit like lambasting Rashford for his form - instead of asking ‘what’s the issue’? I’ll tell you. He’s bored shitless going to work every day for ten Hag. And he’s not alone. It must be mind numbing working with the Dutchman round the clock.  

So that’s the cause. Then you’ve got to ask ‘what’s the solution?’ - because we’re having these same conversations about a different Utd manager every 18 months.

I’d go and get Xavi Alonso. I’d offer him Saudi league money and guarantee him five years in charge. He’s about the only way Utd will ever re-join the elite group and he’d give them a chance of attracting big names to the club again - not ageing mis-fits and babies. 

I floated this theory on air this past weekend and had a hard time selling it. ‘He’s not ready’ I was told. Really? Let me ask this - if Klopp quit at the end of the season who would Liverpool want to appoint? Exactly. Alonso. Of course he’s ready. 

Are Villa title contenders? I’m pretty sure Emery won’t want to hear talk like that, but right now they’re in the mix. Imagine that they beat City at Villa Park on Wednesday. Why not? They’ve won their last 13 there - 14 would equal a 92-year-old club record. If they did win they’d be right in amongst the challengers. I’m not saying that they would stay the course, but I’d love to see them have a go. 

And finally….. again this weekend we saw far too many VAR delays as operators tried to turn our game black and white - which can’t happen. It never will. Football is not an exact science. But they keep trying. There was a three and a half minute delay at Anfield to check a goal and another of similar length at Bournemouth. 

As we know - unlike the CL and the recent WC - we’re not using automated off-side technology in the PL. I was told why this week. It‘s the ball. We use an adidas ball in the other two competitions and Adidas have developed the technology that allows it. We use a Nike ball in the PL. They haven’t. I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong. I’m happy to accept I am if that’s the case. But prove it please.