We can finally say it… The waiting is over, the discussions have all been discussed, safety now into play, resumption resumed, it’s time to play some ball… Yes football is back (on our TV screens at least).
Those watching for the first-time last night as the Premier League once again hit our subscription packages may have noticed a few subtle differences… Those of us whetting our appetites with the German edition will all be used to it by now… Empty stadiums filled with flags, fake crowd noise courtesy of EA Sports bouncing through our speakers, Fans on big screens watching at home through Zoom whilst knitting… In Italy they even drummed up a bit of computerised ticker tape for the Coppa Italia Final (which was as exciting as it got). In England you can ‘optionally’ watch fascial expressions of Laura Woods and friends throughout the game… It’s not football as we know it.. But at least it’s football.
Some things however have not changed one blighty…
For example… When football is played in England… It always rains in Manchester… (Even in June)… David Luiz is still shit… And our ever-reliable technology is still getting it wrong!!!
Aston Villa verses Sheffield United was always going to be drab. Villa for their gliding guile offered through Jack Grealish lack goals, they have no man to finish off the chances their talisman creates (I felt for Keinan Davis who tried hard)… Sheffield United although bigger, tougher, more solid than Villa lack the guile to provide the chances to score enough goals (I felt for Ollie McBurnie who tried hard)… A betting man would have had nil-nil.
In fact if a goal had been scored for either team it would unquestionably be through brilliance, a mistake or a set play… and shortly before half-time the latter two of those presumed assumptions played a part as Sheffield United did find the back of the net. However… Technology ruled it out!
This one was an error, the biggest error of all, something that should not happen in this day and age with the Premier League having spent MILLIONS on technology to get EVERYTHING right. Not the best Oliver Norwood free kick centred from the left floating over the uncomfortable Villa keeper Orjan Nyland who awkwardly caught the ball before falling back into his net and taking every inch of the size five with him. Sheffield United Manager Chris Wilder said after the game “he was in the Holte End when he caught it”… Video footage shown him at least a good old English ‘yard’ over. A friend of mine relayed a text “we’ve had four weeks of football in Germany and not a problem…. 45 minutes of the Premier League and we have controversy”. The man in the middle Michael Oliver just stood their pointing to his watch… A ‘yard’ over I repeat…but computer said no… This is how officiating has become.
Wilder mentioned “earlier in the season I waited around ten minutes in the rain at Spurs to decide if my players big toe was offside to rule out a goal… Why couldn’t I wait ten minutes in the rain in Birmingham to decide that this time it was a goal?” VAR was not brought into play for whatever reason I don’t know. Perhaps the video officials are still furloughed? Did the Goal Line Technology people forget to switch on their device? Was there even a microchip in the randomly selected ball in use?
These questions are ones that need to be answered because at a time when not everything is black and white (and I congratulate the unity shown in all players, staff and officials taking a knee in both games last night) then why when something as simple as goal or no goal did the four pitchside officials in Birmingham (and four more on a TV screen somewhere in London) not see what everyone else saw after around ten seconds of replays?
The fact ‘controversy’ and the ‘failure’ of technology again not working has played its part after day dot… bodes well as we welcome back a good old moan about the English Premier League doesn’t it?
As for Sheffield United… I hope that decision doesn’t have a say on whether they miss out on European football or not… As for Aston Villa, it could be the decision that saves their Premier League status?
A quick word on Manchester City and Arsenal. KDB is still untouchable, City will be the team in the league that will make best out of the five subs in play system and I would be prepared to bet they don’t even drop a point from now until the end of the season… As for Arteta, Gooners and co.. It is still very much work in progress, last night hampered by injury they shown enough to suggest they have something to build on but not enough to suggest they can compete with the likes of City & Liverpool… One thing for sure though and on the lips of every Arsenal fan right now… David Luiz must go! I’ll be very surprised if he plays for Arsenal again!!
Here’s looking forward to the weekend and more of the same… VAR/Hawkye/Referee grumbles all welcome… The Premier League all be it without fans, is very much back as usual!