Enough is enough: The Premier League needs to expand officiating personnel

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This weekend was abysmal. This weekend was ridiculous. This weekend, quite frankly, was a circus.

When Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Mustoe, and Robbie Earle are forced to drum on about 18 different penalty decisions following exciting, top-four battles with intricate matchups and fascinating tactical clashes, the game of soccer has devolved into a farcical joke that panders to the lowest common denominator. Truth is, things have been careening towards this inevitable end all season long.

It’s clear to everyone that with a new age of technology has brought about a new age of accountability for officiating, and thus the standard of refereeing has reached the point where one person is no longer capable of doing the job. It’s just not possible. With immediate television replay, hundreds of camera angles, and countless new gadgets of analytical technology, it’s possible to perform open-heart surgery on a referee’s 90-minute performance. But the officials don’t have those tools at their disposal, and to hold them to the same standard is ridiculous.

This Premier League season has been marred by countless decisions that may appear in person to be a difficult decision, but for television viewers who benefit from endless replays and enhanced camera zoom, are clearly incorrect. And yet here we sit, completely ignoring a monstrous problem hoping that things will change so long as we ignore it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the definition of insanity. The elephant in this room has gone insane.

Jose Mourinho may be annoying, but he’s right (to an extent). There’s no “campaign” against Chelsea, they’ve just happened to catch the brunt of what has been a horrific year for refereeing. Don’t listen to Mike Riley, the PGMOL is either delusional, waging a losing PR war, or both. Every weekend it gets worse, with clear decisions proving mind-bogglingly impossible for

The use of technology in the middle of games is out of the question. Nobody wants to stop the flow of a game for officials to look at instant replay. It’s just not feasible, and it’s just not practical.

The answer to our problems is to add referees. The fact that we still ask one lone official to cover an entire soccer pitch is quite frankly ridiculous. Basketball uses three officials to cover a much smaller court. Football uses anywhere from five to eight. Yet in soccer, we’re still stuck with one, plus whatever the linesmen feel like adding, which sometimes isn’t much. Here’s where the linesman was on the potential Simon Mignolet handball today:

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He’s so far behind the play, there’s no good angle to make an accurate call. And people want to tell us extra officials wouldn’t help? How is the linesman that far back? Because he’s trying to concentrate on 800 things at one time.

Look, officiating is an impossible task. Asking humans to be inherently flawless is a losing battle, always has been a losing battle, and always will be a losing battle. So why are we setting the best in the world up to fail, and then publicly humiliating them when they do on a weekly basis? Isn’t this ludicrous? We’ll never get a perfectly officiated game. What we can do is be reasonable.

The Premier League happens to be one of, if not the most visible soccer league in the entire world. English referees are at the top of the game. Martin Atkinson is easily one of the top referees in the entire game, and yet he looked utterly lost this weekend in the process of essentially handing Burnley a point against Chelsea.

Don’t think it’s that bad? Let me help you. This was called offsides. Jan Vertonghen was called offsides on this. In his own half. And everyone on the officiating staff was cool with it.

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So let’s please help these poor souls out. Sure, there would be a feeling-out period of time which would be weird. It would be awkward. The referees would have to get used to working together rather than working on their own. The players would need to adapt to where they should expect calls to come from. But why are we so opposed to change when it clearly would serve the game better?

Here’s my best attempt at a workable system. If you feel you have a better one, by all means let’s hear it. This is an open forum, a positive discussion to better the game.

  • It would be a combination of the basketball and football refereeing systems. Your head official remains in the center of the pitch. He and only he can issue cards, and he would preside over all official discussions. His main responsibility would be the center of the pitch.
  • There would be one official assigned to each penalty area. They would be positioned next to one of the goal posts standing out of play. They would be allowed to whistle any fouls in or out of the penalty area they see, but their primary responsibility would be to watch the penalty area. For any foul they believe to be bookable offenses, they would consult the head official who would be instructed to trust his coworkers unless he is 100% certain he must overrule their judgement – same as in the NFL. Penalties are almost always game-changing calls, why are we asking referees standing on the midline to suddenly follow a long ball forward, and then make a call when 30 yards behind?
  • The linesmen would stay in their usual areas, and could make foul calls near the touchline, but their main duties would be to monitor offside calls. With the added officials in each final third, their responsibilities to call fouls would be alleviated, allowing them to focus on making the hardest call in all of sports.

Is this really too much to ask? It’s not, and it works. Does adding a pair of referees really cause so much chaos that we still have yet to even make such a proposal? The mere fact that a proposition such as this feels rebellious itself is an issue. Unfortunately, this probably would be met by heavy opposition at the higher levels at first. But why? It only took 140 characters for a smart person to sum it up:

Officiating is hard. One wrong call can not only change a game completely but also overshadows the other 99 the referee got right. One out of 100 isn’t too bad, right? Wrong, when that call means Nemanja Matic is sent off instead of Ashley Barnes. Would Martin Atkinson have been in better position to see that ghastly tackle had his responsibility in the final thirds been lifted? Would a penalty-area official have seen Joe Allen chop down Filip Djrucic? Probably. Nay, most likely.

Case in point: the Brazilian Serie A uses a system very similar to this, and it works. In a game last year down the stretch, with Palmeiras looking to avoid relegation, they earned a crucial penalty for a clear handball in the box. Despite standing right next to the incident, the referee didn’t give the decision for whatever reason, but with an additional official standing next to a goal post, the penalty was given, and Palmeiras earned a point. Watch at 2:00 in this highlight package:

We will never get a perfect system, and yet we continually expect one. So what’s wrong with getting as close as possible? Officials will always get decisions wrong, but enough is enough. Let’s stop spending week in and week out bashing those brave enough to embark on an officiating career, and instead let’s extend them an olive branch. Everyone wins. Yes, even Chelsea.

Americans Abroad: Chandler, Gooch score; Reyna, Vassilev debut

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The bar for the best weekend for Americans abroad in 2020 has been set.

After months with the under-19 side, 18-year-old Giovanni Reyna made his debut with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. In England, Indiana Vassilev, 18, did exactly the same for Aston Villa, becoming the second youngest American to play in the Premier League.

Established Americans abroad like Timothy Chandler scored Eintracht Frankfurt’s match winner, while Lynden Gooch struck from distance for Sunderland in England’s League One.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The USMNT star continues to recover from an abductor injury.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin is also recovering from an injury, and did not dress for Newcastle on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa – The 18-year-old came off the bench and played 23 minutes in his Premier League debut for Aston Villa. Villa drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes played 90 minutes in Derby’s 1-0 win over Hull City on Saturday.

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 2-1 loss to Swansea City on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old dressed but didn’t feature in Reading’s 2-0 loss to Millwall.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers’ defender started and played for Hull.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender played 90 minutes in QPR’s 1-0 victory ver Leeds United on Saturday.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah and Lille were inactive this weekend.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu and Rennes were inactive this weekend. 

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright came off the bench and played five minutes in Venlo’s 1-1 draw with PSV.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest dressed but didn’t feature for Ajax over the weekend. It’s been an on-and-off cycle for the fullback in Holland’s top-flight.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback is injured and didn’t feature for FC Emmen.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The fullback played 90 minutes and scored Frankfurt’s match-winning goal on Saturday against Hoffenheim. 

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams started and played 86 minutes in Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Union Berlin. The midfielder completed 84 percent of his passes.

Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie is still having some setbacks from his shoulder injury. The midfielder didn’t dress for Schalke due to fitness issues over the weekend.

Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is inactive with an injury.

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Morales started and played 71 minutes in Fortuna’s 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old started and played 86 minutes on Saturday. It’s refreshing to see Sargent back on the field, getting regular playing time after the injury.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson was on Mönchengladbach’s bench but didn’t play.

Honorable Mentions

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — Gooch has been superlative for Sunderland lately, and on Saturday, he was rewarded with this match-deciding goal:

Ian Harkes, Dundee United — Harkes continues to grind it out in Scotland. On Sunday, he registered an assist in Dundee United’s 2-2 draw with Hibernian. 

Mexicans Abroad: Jimenez makes Wolves history; Guardado assists in Betis win

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On what was perhaps Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s last weekend in Europe, Raul Jimenez made it clear that he is ready to carry on the mantle as Mexico’s marquee striker in the old continent.

The 28-year-old’s double made him Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Premier League all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing Steven Fletcher‘s record of 22 goals in just 61 appearances.

Meanwhile in Spain, Andres Guardado continues to add remarkable chapters to his never-ending European photo book, recording an assist in Real Betis’ 3-0 thumping of Real Sociedad.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Not only did Jimenez boost his league goalscoring tally to the double digits on Saturday, but he also became Wolves’ Premier League all-time goalscorer. The Mexican is indispensable for the Midlands side – well worth the club-record $33-million investment.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito did not make the trip with Sevilla to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. On Friday, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that Los Angeles Galaxy have signed the 31-year-old. An official announcement from the MLS side is expected in the coming days.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera started and played 43 minutes in Los Colchoneros’ rare, 2-0 loss to Eibar on Saturday. Atletico are now eight points behind leaders Barcelona and second-best Real Madrid.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado played all 90 minutes and recorded an assist in Betis’ trashing of Real Sociedad. The midfielder also earned a yellow card in the 23rd minute.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old dressed but remained on the bench for Betis. 

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. The defender recorded 11 clearances, two interceptions, and earned a yellow card.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  As Napoli’s continues to suffer under Gennaro Gattuso, so does Chucky. The frenetic winger saw just 26 minutes of playing time in Napoli’s 2-0 loss to Fiorentina on Saturday. Gattuso, however, may be on his was out as reports indicated that he’s considering resigning after just 35 days at the helm.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played all 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-1 loss to Braga on Saturday. The Dragons trail league leaders Benfica by seven points.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez dressed but remained on the bench for PSV on Saturday.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez dressed but remained on the bench for Ajax on Sunday.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea started and played 90 minutes in Zulte’s 3-0 loss to KRC Genk.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Pedro Arce, Panionios –  Panionios were inactive over the weekend.

Gerardo Ramirez Alonso, Roda JC – Ramirez Alonso and Roda JC take on Jong FC Utrecht on Monday.

Unhappy reunion for Klinsmann as Bayern beats Hertha 4-0

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BERLIN (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann endured an unhappy reunion with Bayern Munich as his former protege Thomas Muller started a 4-0 Bundesliga rout of his Hertha Berlin team.

“It was nice to see him again but of course even nicer to win,” Muller said after Sunday’s victory lifted Bayern to second place, four points behind Leipzig.

Klinsmann gave Muller the first of his so far 336 Bundesliga appearances when he brought on the then 18-year-old for the last 10 minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hamburger SV on the opening day of the 2008-09 season. Klinsmann was fired as Bayern coach in April 2009 as its title hopes faded.

But Muller has only fond memories of his mentor, who later went on to be United States coach.

“I have a special relationship with Jurgen Klinsmann. He made me a professional. I still have the mailbox message from when he called me up for the start of training with the professionals,” Muller said. “He gave me my chance to earn my spurs. He put me straight in. He was my first coach.”

Klinsmann was only cleared to face his former club on Saturday after the German soccer federation and league confirmed they received missing documents for his coaching license.

But Klinsmann, who also played for Bayern between 1995-97 and coached Germany at the 2006 World Cup, could only watch as his team was completely outplayed in the second half.

Hertha showed little initiative going forward and finally paid the price for sitting back when Muller rifled in from close range.

“The first goal opened the game,” said Klinsmann, who had been hoping to extend Hertha’s unbeaten run to five games.

The visitors thought they had another goal minutes later, but Robert Lewandowski’s goal was ruled out through VAR for heading the ball out of Rune Jarstein’s hands.

Lewandowski finally got his goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd after Lukas Klunter tugged Leon Goretzka’s arm.

“The turning point was the penalty,” said Klinsmann, who felt it was a harsh decision.

Thiago Alcantara sealed the result three minutes later with a brilliant strike in off the underside of the bar after Goretzka sent him through, and Ivan Perisic headed in Muller’s cross in the 84th.

Bayern had been missing defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez through injury, with forward Kingsley Coman also out and midfielder Joshua Kimmich suspended. Canadian teen Alphonso Davies made his 10th consecutive league start.

Santiago Ascacibar started for his Hertha debut after his winter transfer from second-division Stuttgart. The combative Argentine is Hertha’s first signing following financier Lars Windhorst’s investment of $250 million in the club.

Also Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen won 4-1 at bottom side Paderborn to move sixth.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Messi scores, wins game in Setien’s Barcelona debut (video)

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Barcelona’s vintage playing style in their 1-0 win over Granada highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 1-0 Granda

With a goal from Lionel Messi against an iron-willed Granada, Barcelona are back at the top of La Liga.

The win is the club’s first under Quique Setien, who debuted as the Catalans manager after replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona rolled back to the years of Pep Guardiola‘s tiki-taka, as they culminated the game with 83 percent possession and completed 1005 passes. That said, Granda – playing  with 10 men from the 69h minute on – were bulletproof until the 76th minute. Messi gently pushed the ball with his weak foot, finishing what had been a series of fluid, build-up passing.

Setien deployed a nuanced 3-4-3 variation – far from Valverde’s 4-3-3 formation that ended up costing him his job after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Super Copa semifinals.

Players like Sergio Busquets were asked about the distinct styles, but he was candidly opposed to comparing the managers and their philosophies.

“We were a solid team. We had control of the ball. They created little against us,” he told Movistar. “It’s true that we struggled when they dropped deep but, in general terms, the team played a good game.

“It’s not about comparing. Every coach has his style and his way of seeing football. You’ll see what Setien asks us to do. We’re not going to reveal it. We’re delighted with what Ernesto did and we’re delighted with Setien.”

With Real Madrid and Atletico right behind, the defending champions have a long way to go this season. They’ll have to build on the win and, more importantly, further deepen their chemistry under the ex-Real Betis boss. Integrating winter signings into the fold might present itself as a challenge, too.

But one thing is certain: Barcelona can still play like they did back in their glory days. If that sticks, a lot can happen.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 4-1 Valencia

Real Betis 3-0 Real Sociedad

Villarreal 1-2 Espanyol

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Celta Vigo