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FIFA aims to avoid errors with video review, not perfection

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Not perfect, but good enough to avoid game-changing referee mistakes at the World Cup.

Football’s governing body set out its aims for an experimental video review system ahead of live trials at the Confederations Cup starting on Saturday.

“To eliminate a clear scandal in football, the mistake that after many years you still remember,” FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca said Thursday of technology designed to help referees avoid and correct errors within seconds.

FIFA wants video review approved next year before the World Cup to help decide key incidents: goals scored, penalty awards, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, video-assisted decisions this month at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea and international friendly matches have been widely debated.

“I think the quality of the decisions are very high, never perfect,” FIFA technical director Marco van Basten said at a briefing in the St. Petersburg stadium that will host the Confederations Cup’s opening game and final.

FIFA will also use the eight-nation World Cup rehearsal tournament to stress themes it wants to be more widely accepted in one year’s time, including more actual playing time.

Referees must add more stoppage time for excessive goal celebrations and time-wasting by goalkeepers, because “the audience wants to see action,” Van Basten said.

Video review, however, is likely to define refereeing success at a World Cup that kicks off just 18 months after the 2016 Club World Cup was the first FIFA tournament to have live trials.

At the Under-20 World Cup, one decision causing confusion after advice from referee assistants watching replays was a red card for an Italy defender in a quarterfinals win over Zambia.

The referee awarded a penalty for an apparent foul by the goalkeeper, then was told to award a free kick and send off the defender for a challenge seconds earlier. Replays provoked doubt if the Zambia forward was fouled at all.

“We still have to improve of course,” said Busacca. “We are not afraid. We don’t have many hours to instruct but the top referees are really learning very fast.”

The nine referees on FIFA duty in Russia includes Damir Skomina, the Slovenian who handled the Champions League final, and Mark Geiger of the United States, who worked at the 2014 World Cup. FIFA appointed 25 refereeing teams to the last World Cup.

A lesson from South Korea – where 12 decisions were made on review in a 52-game tournament – is the need for faster judgments.

“In some situations we are taking too long, we know,” acknowledged Busacca, who has previously set a target of six seconds.

Busacca said FIFA also wants video review to be “an incredible tool of prevention” and singled out a red card at the Under-20 World Cup for an Argentina forward for striking an opponent with an elbow.

“Be careful, a camera is following you,” Busacca said FIFA is telling players in Russia. “We are talking with teams -don’t do it.”

Teams have also been warned that FIFA wants referees to be strict with players crowding around them to influence decision, and goalkeepers who hold the ball for more than six seconds.

“We have asked referees to remind goalkeepers that this rule still exists,” said Van Basten, who showed footage of Italy’s goalkeeper taking 21 seconds to release the ball against Zambia.

Van Basten said he believes “no one will complain” when referees add on longer periods of stoppage time, especially in the second half.

While FIFA has learned from other sports which adopted video review much earlier, it is not ready to follow the NFL or rugby in having referees announce their decisions or be wired for sound to broadcast how they reach a decision.

“We don’t have to explain immediately why we make a decision,” Van Basten said. “It is important to show it on the screens and let the people know what is the reason. That is enough.”

Could Iniesta succeed at Manchester City

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It appears more likely with each passing day that Andres Iniesta will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

The general feeling around Iniesta’s future is that he’ll either follow former teammate Xavi Hernandez to a club in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, or follow Javier Mascherano to a club in China.

But according to reports in Spain, Iniesta has received a request from a manager who is inextricably linked with his career.

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Per Diario AS, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reached out to Iniesta to try and gauge the 33-year old’s interest in coming to England. It’s a surprising move, considering Iniesta has appeared to have lost a step, and while his skill on the ball is still world class, he hasn’t played as big of a role for Barcelona this season as in years past.

But the big question for Iniesta – as hard as it is to believe we’re asking this – is where he’d fit into the side, and who he’d push out.

If Guardiola sees Iniesta as part of his best XI, and Iniesta played his usual position on the left side of a midfield trio or at left wing, that would see either David Silva or Leroy Sane losing their spot in the team. That’s hard to see, considering how big of an impact those players had.

Sane has scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists in the Premier League while Silva has a nearly-identical stat line, with nine goals and 11 assists in league play.

However, if Guardiola, who played a very small squad this season, wants to have a world-class player to bring off the bench some games or spot start in the UEFA Champions League, he couldn’t do much better than signing Iniesta.

After being given time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, there’s no reason why, even at his advanced age, Iniesta can’t make a big impact in 25-30 games for Man City in the future. You can imagine the Spanish maestro setting up 10 to 15 goals and scoring a few himself as he plays for another title-winning side.

Of course, Iniesta likely won’t earn as much money with Man City as he would in the Arab world or in China, so he has a big decision to make coming up.

Iniesta won three La Liga titles, two Copas Del Rey, two UEFA Champions League and two FIFA Club World Cup titles under Guardiola as Barcelona shined as the best club in the world during that era. Iniesta also made UEFA’s Team of the Year all four years.

Perhaps reuniting with Guardiola can bring the best out of Iniesta once again.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

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Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

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According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.