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Vertonghen: VAR forcing players to ‘change the way we defend’

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Jan Vertonghen believes the ongoing introduction of video review is forcing players to change the way they play the game — and in particular, the way they defend — in the wake of a nearly season-altering call that went against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Harry Kane could miss rest of season, says Pochettino ]

Tottenham defender Danny Rose was adjudged, only upon video review, to have committed a handball offense inside his own penalty are, resulting in a penalty kick being awarded to Manchester City in the two sides’ UEFA Champions League quarterfinal clash. Prior to Bjorn Kuipers’ video assistant alerting him to a possible offense, there were no protests from Man City’s players.

Hugo Lloris bailed Rose and Co., out of trouble by saving Sergio Aguero’s ensuing penalty kick, thus negating the impact the decision had on Tuesday’s game. Vertonghen’s more specific point, however, that it’s a slippery slope to review incidents like this one in slow-motion, is a worthwhile and well-reasoned one — quotes from the BBC:

“Football is always a very emotional game, and VAR is changing that a bit. I think we have to change the way we defend.”

“I think so many things look like a penalty in slow motion. We are not pulling people down but even a small touch, if you watch it 20 times in slow motion, it will give so many more penalties.

“I think in the next few years in the Premier League, you will see at least 20, 30, 40 more penalties. I think we all need to adapt. Sometimes you can’t do anything else than put your body on the line. It’s important that referees think as a football player sometimes.

“You can’t even touch anyone. Before it was quite physical, but in a fair way, now you are too scared to get close to someone.”

It’s important to note that Vertonghen isn’t saying video review is bad, or that he doesn’t like it; he’s offering his honest assessment of how it’s been applied thus far and how he sees that affecting the way the game is played. He’s being anything but critical.

[ MORE: Lloris, Son give Spurs lead over Man City (video) ]

The most interesting part of Vertonghen’s comments are the ones regarding slow-motion replays. He’s 100 percent correct in his point that our interpretation of fouls, among most other things, are drastically altered by slow-motion replays.

For instance, to see Rose slide into the path of Raheem Sterling‘s shot and block the ball with his arm in slow motion, because the replay takes so long to view from beginning to end, we are tricked into thinking, “He’s had plenty of time to put his arm down there, that’s his fault for leaving it up,” when in reality Rose has made the decision to slide in, actually slid in, the shot was fired and he’s blocked it with his arm all in little more than a second’s time.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Spurs’ victory over Man City ]

For this reason, slow-motion replays shouldn’t be used for anything other than to confirm a certain action happened (i.e. did the ball hit the player’s arm, or did it come off his chest/shoulder first?). As for determining intent of offenses like handball or red-card tackles — the same thought process as before applies to a player leaving his studs exposed above the ball — referees should only be shown full-speed replays to make VAR decisions.

VAR has already changed the way the game is refereed — for the better, largely — but it’s going to change the way players play it for quite some time. The powers that be need to ensure VAR doesn’t turn into a practice of micro-management and over-analysis on false pretenses.

Video review will be introduced in the Premier League beginning with the next season in August.

Sarri to miss 2 Juventus matches including against Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) New Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri will not be on the bench for the club’s first two Serie A matches, including against former team Napoli.

Sarri is recovering from pneumonia and underwent further tests on Thursday.

Juventus says they “showed a good clinical improvement” but the 60-year-old Sarri needs to be absent “to completely recover.”

Sarri has still been going to Juve’s training ground and watching the sessions on video link and coordinating with his staff.

Juventus kicks off its bid for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title at Parma on Saturday, before hosting Napoli the following week.

Sarri spent three seasons at Napoli before moving to Chelsea in 2018.

UEL Recap: Wolves earn huge road victory, and more

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Wolverhampton Wanderers has one proverbial foot back in a European competition, potentially breaking a 40-year drought for the club.

Wolves defeated Torino on the road, 3-2, in the first leg match between the two sides on Thursday at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino. Mexican international Raul Jimenez continued his red-hot form with another goal, while Diogo Jota scored as well for Wolves.

The Premier League side took the lead late in the first half thanks to an own goal, as Gleison Bremer headed in a Wolves free kick expertly into the side netting. Jota then added the second for Wolves in the 59th minute after an individual moment of brilliance from Adama Traore down the right side of the box, completely bamboozling his defender.

Torino’s Lorenzo di Silvestre answered just two minutes later off a late run into the box and a powerful header, but Jimenez then gave Wolves another two-goal advantage, as well as another crucial away goal. Jimenez ran with the ball from midfield and with Nicolas N’Koulou retreating, Jimenez took the space and scored.

Torino striker Andrea Belotti gave the Italians some late hope with a penalty kick goal in the 89th minute, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Anything but a defeat by more than two goals for Wolves will be enough for the club to make it to the Europa League group stage.

Here’s more results from around the Europa League on Thursday afternoon:


Celtic top AIK at home

The Scottish champions appear to have brushed off the disappointment of exiting the UEFA Champions League with a solid 2-0 win at Celtic Park against AIK Solna on Thursday evening.

James Forrest scored the opener for Celtic, taking advantage of a ricochet on the edge of the box to unleash a strike that AIK goalkeeper Oscar Linner couldn’t parry away. Odsonne Edouard then put the icing on the cake with a tremendous free kick from 30-yards out to give Celtic it’s 2-0 lead.

Neil Lennon’s side then held off AIK late to secure the shutout.

Thursday’s Europa League Playoff Round first leg qualifying matches:


Astana 3-0 BATE
Ararat Armenia 2-1 F91 Dudelange
Malmo FF 3-0 Bnei Yehudah Tel Aviv
Suduva 0-0 Ferencvaros
Feyenoord 3-0 Hapoel Be’er Sheva
Ludogorets 0-0 Maribor
FC Copenhagen 2-1 Riga
AEK Athens 1-3 Trabzonspor
Legia Warsaw 0-0 Rangers

Crossroads: What if Arsenal hadn’t gone unbeaten?

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The 2003-2004 Premier League season will forever be remembered for Arsenal’s Invincibles, the first team in history to go an entire 38-game season undefeated.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

But what if they hadn’t?

On the latest episode of NBC Sports’ new series Crossroads, host Aaron West dives into the Invincible season for Arsenal, and what would have happened if Arsenal lost along the way. Of course, we know that didn’t happen, and it wasn’t until the next season against Manchester United that Arsenal’s unbeaten run of 49 games was ended.

Watch the latest episode of Crossroads above, and check out previous episodes on Manchester City and Liverpool on NBC Sports‘ Youtube Page.

 

Oxlade-Chamberlain signs contract extension at Liverpool

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While Liverpool hasn’t been busy in the transfer market, it continues to be busy upgrading its first team contracts.

The club announced on Thursday that it had signed midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a new, undisclosed long-term contract. The BBC reported that the new contract tied Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool through 2023, after his last deal was set to expire in 2022.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League Picks]

“I’m really, really excited – it’s been in the pipeline for a little while, so it’s nice to finally get it done and just extend my time here, which I am really looking forward to,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Liverpool’s website in a statement. “I feel like I missed out on a year, which I obviously did, so it’s really exciting for me to be able to sign. It’s something that I feel is an opportunity to give that year back and make up for lost time – and hopefully put in some good performances to make amends for not being around last year.

“You’ve got to count your blessings every time you get an opportunity like this, you don’t get the chance to play for Liverpool Football Club every day. I am really excited to be able to extend my time here.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain is finally healthy after a long, long recovery from a horrific knee injury suffered in April 2018. The England international missed out on the World Cup as well as the Champions League final, though he was able to make the field off the bench towards the end of last season, eventually making the bench for Liverpool’s Champions League victory in June.

With some injuries and fatigue to other players, Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first Premier League start in more than a year last Saturday against his former club Southampton, playing 89 minutes in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory. He also started and played the first half in Liverpool’s UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea on penalty kicks.

This deal is ultimately a good-will gesture from both sides, making up for the year lost that Oxlade-Chamberlain endured after the knee injury in the Champions League semifinal. It could take him more time, but Liverpool is certainly hoping that he can make a full recovery and come good for the Reds as it looks to win its first Premier League title, and first top league title in England since 1990.