VAR continues to cause controversy
VAR continues to cause controversy

In cricket and rugby, the review system has slipped seamlessly into the way on field decisions are reviewed and because it was so successful in those two sports it was championed widely by all the key stakeholders in football, who felt that so many mistakes were being made by officials that it simply had to be brought in and all would be fine. After all, goal line technology allowed for the referee to make an instant decision by a quick look at his watch so what could go wrong with the introduction of a Video Assistant Referee (VAR)?


It was heralded at its introduction as a system that would be used only to correct clear and obvious errors made by the officials. As use of the system has evolved, it is now far removed from how it was originally envisaged to be used. In many instances, it is used to persuade the referee to reverse his initial decision. A multiple of lines are drawn and if a toe is beyond the opponent offside is given.


In the Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Manchester City, the referee Anthony Taylor decided from the start to let the game flow and he allowed a number of dubious challenges to go unpunished. It made for compelling viewing. He initially waved on a tussle between Fabinho and Erling Haaland but when the incident was slowed down and viewed from every angle, he was persuaded to review the incident on the touchline screen and reversed his initial decision.


During the Champions League match between Tottenham and Sporting, it took four minutes to rule out a goal for offside. If it takes that long, then the premise that it is correcting a clear and obvious error is a total nonsense. Of course, Spurs fans and management were up in arms at the decision but if the goal had been ruled out at the other end, I think we all know there would be a very different reaction.


One of the important elements of football that makes it the exciting game it is, is the enjoyment of that moment when players and fans can celebrate a goal together. But fans now have to wait to see if VAR is about to rule out the goal. Consequently, the moment is lost, and half the time fans in the stadium have no idea what VAR is reviewing as they can’t hear the discussion taking place as is the case in other sports.


Used properly, VAR can enhance the decision-making processes but if it takes four minutes to decide if a mistake has been made then something has gone badly wrong. It should not be about rigid lines and analysis of a pass five minutes before the goal. Used as it is, it is eating away at the core emotion of the game. Mistakes will be made but that is part of the game.


In the Charlton v MK Dons match earlier this month, a penalty was awarded for the first goal when the tackle was clearly outside the penalty area. A free kick was then awarded for the second goal on the edge of the penalty area when the tackle was clearly not a foul. But these things have a way of evening themselves out over the season and of course there is no VAR system in the EFL.


In my view, VAR should not be about trying to have a 100% accurate scientific exercise of drawing and re-drawing lines. It was never meant to be that and it is damaging the core of what football is all about. As fans do we celebrate the goal or just look at the screen before we react?


Technology is here to stay and used properly as with the goal line system it can help the officials immensely and in that case the decision is immediate, but football’s governing bodies need to re-think how VAR is used currently because there is nothing wrong with the technology, it is all about how it is being applied.



Ronaldo’s strop must be dealt with firmly

Every footballer in a club’s first team squad at every level wants to play. When you train all week, you want there to be the buzz of a game to look forward to.

 

Most clubs have between 20 and 30 players to select from and as only 11 can start each game the manager is unpopular to varying degrees with those he or she leaves out. The one thing no player can do is to publicly vent his/her frustration as that undermines the manager’s authority and erodes the discipline that is a vital component part of all successful teams.

 

In my time in charge of a club I was given some very tough decisions to make around player discipline. One player attacked another in the training ground corridor in full view of other players, there were failed drug tests and other issues that were kept private, but uppermost in my mind when coming to a decision in consultation with the chairman and the manager was that any outcome was seen to be fair and that the discipline which is so vital to maintaining team spirit was upheld.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player but at 37 he has to accept that his time on the pitch will be more limited. Refusing to accept the manager’s decision to substitute another player and then walking off down the tunnel cannot be accepted.


It is disrespectful to the manager but also to his fellow players particularly when those players on the pitch had played so well. It meant that instead of them getting the plaudits their performance deserved the media wanted only to talk about Ronaldo’s behaviour.


Ronaldo was left out of the Manchester United squad for last Saturday’s match at Chelsea and made to train with the U21s and fined two weeks wages, but the punishment can’t end there. All of his fellow players will now be looking closely to see what the manager does next.  If he is selected to start a match those not selected will question, why he is selected above them when their behaviour is beyond reproach and his is not. I think it is almost certain that he will move clubs as soon as the January transfer window opens.

 

There are many component parts to being a successful team, but good discipline and professionalism is right up there.

 


Steven Gerrard is under pressure at Aston Villa
Steven Gerrard is under pressure at Aston Villa

As we approach November one thing is certain and that is that a significant number of managers at all levels of professional football will lose their jobs.


In most cases, changing the manager will placate the fans of the clubs involved but it most cases it won’t change the ultimate league position of their team. It is always the manager that is the fall guy and rarely the players.


A year ago, a significant number of Arsenal fans would have been happy to see Mikel Arteta shown the exit door but now he is a hero to those same fans, and you would be hard pressed to now find an Arsenal fan who admits that he or she ever wanted Arteta sacked.


Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea delivered Champions League success but that ultimately counted for nothing. He conducted himself with great dignity and protected the club during the drama surrounding Roman Abramovich. Scott Parker masterminded Bournemouth’s return to the Premier League last season and again that counted for nothing after losing to Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, which is hardly a disaster, and Bournemouth now sit in the top half of the table. Bruno Lage was credited with making Wolves attractive to watch and last season they comfortably finished in mid table. Now they are considering bringing back the manager Lage replaced in Nuno Espirito Santo.


Social media and media speculation only serves to heighten the pressure on managers and Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, Ralph Hasenhuttl at Southampton, Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest and Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City are all under pressure currently.


The situation in the EFL is even worse. Giving Rob Edwards at Watford just 11 games in charge before sacking him is ridiculous. It takes time and patience to build success but that is in short supply in football.


Owners and chairmen appoint managers and the main thing managers seek is time and support particularly in recruitment. Owners are often guilty of promising the earth on the appointment of a manager and then moving the goalposts when the transfer windows open which leads to frustration and negativity and a lack of belief from the players in the future direction of the club.


The managerial merry go round will continue of course as in the modern era short termism rules in football but a constant change of manager for the majority of clubs achieves little.