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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.

Arsenal players ‘low on confidence’ as slump continues

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Arsenal interim manager Freddie Ljungberg saw his brief tenure turn from meh to worse, as the Gunners followed up their weekend draw with Norwich City by losing at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday.

The Swedish legend could only point to one thing.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 1-2 Brighton ]

“The players are low on confidence,” he said on NBCSN after the game. “We had a bit of reaction in the second half after our discussion at half, but we need to start the game like that. That’s the biggest disappointment I have. The second half they gave it a crack.”

“We’re in a difficult situation. We’ve got a lot of games and the confidence has gone down. It’s my job to get them to be more aggressive and have more energy.”

Perhaps most depressing is Ljungberg’s description of his players in the first half, via Football.London.

“They looked scared to get the ball and were standing still.”

Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin wouldn’t put any of the blame on the manager.

Bellerin credited Ljungberg for bringing energy to the training pitch this week, and was lost for answers after a poor showing at home.

“I don’t know what to say. I have the feeling that whatever we do it doesn’t come out right. The team gave its best, we created chances, we defended good but it seems like we need so many chances to score and teams score every chance against us. I am lost for words a little bit.”

He said he’s 100 percent sure the results will come Arsenal’s way. The next chance comes Monday at West Ham United.

Wilder laments VAR goal: ‘I don’t know where the game is going’

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Referees these days need to get off Chris Wilder‘s lawn.

The Sheffield United manager, author of an incredible season so far, could not wrap his head around VAR allowing Newcastle United’s second goal of a 2-0 defeat of his Blades at Bramall Lane on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Blades 0-2 Newcastle ]

Jonjo Shelvey kept running onto an Andy Carroll flick despite the linesman’s flag going up, and Stuart Atwell let Shelvey play to the whistle in beating Dean Henderson 1v1.

VAR review showed Carroll onside when he headed the ball, and the goal stood. Wilder says that’s not how he was told VAR would work, and that soccer is ruined because of it.

“The game has changed. This game now is completely different to what I experienced as a 16-year-old lad as an apprentice. This game in a heartbeat has changed. I don’t know where it is going and it is sucking the life out of me and the supporters.”

You can understand his frustration, of course, but really it’s more of a listen Henderson shouldn’t forget. Play it to the whistle, then complain if it ends up in the goal.

Atwell is the referee and has the right to overrule his linesman if he thinks there’s been a mistake. In the light of day, Wilder will understand a bit more. Surely he’ll get a similar call in the future.

Above statement aside, credit Wilder for a well-reasoned approach to why he’s upset with the call (It definitely didn’t help that Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka stood on his head in denying several terrific Blades chances).

“I was told at the start of the season that the linesman would not put his flag up and let it go. He put his flag up and the referee was about to blow his whistle,” he said. “Everyone in the ground stopped. Jonjo Shelvey even nonchalantly went up and took an opportunity. His body language said to me he had seen the linesman had put the flag up and he was going to be offside.”

What do you think? Should Atwell have blown the whistle? We tend to think no, but this is a democracy.

Arsenal skid hits nine with home loss

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Arsenal’s winless run reached nine with a 2-1 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Neal Maupay headed an Aaron Mooy cross past Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno with 10 minutes to play.

Alexandre Lacazette found a second half equalizer after Adam Webster put the Seagulls ahead before the break.

Arsenal stays 10th with 19 points, below Sheffield United and above Newcastle United on goal difference. Brighton rises to 13th with 18 points.

The nine-game run is Arsenal’s worst since 1977.


Three things we learned

1. Freddie not the fix: There’s been no new manager bounce for Arsenal, and perhaps that’s as big of an indictment on player recruitment than anything else. Who knows if Freddie Ljungberg is a future genius manager, but the Gunners had little to offer in being outshot for most of the match.

2. Leno would be Best XI on a good team: Arsenal’s goalkeeper is one of the good ones, and the 27-year-old goalkeeper was credited with seven saves at home. Who knows where the Gunners would sit on the table if Leno wasn’t leading the league in saves? I mean, look at the clubs represented around him on the board. This is a bad, bad, bad defense.

https://www.sofascore.com/tournament/football/england/premier-league/17

3. Potter’s men continue to impress: The Seagulls continue on an upward trend, and were the better team on the day inside the home of one of the biggest teams in the league. Their big backs dealt well enough with Arsenal’s talented attack, with midfielder Aaron Mooy the star of their match even before he assisted Maupay’s go-ahead goal.

Man of the Match: It would’ve been Leno, who had no fault on either goal, but Mooy’s assist tips the scales in favor of the Australian.


Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin conceded a free kick on the edge of the box in the 22nd minute, but that came to nothing.

At the other end, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spun an outside-of-the-boot hit wide of the far post.

But Brighton was producing the best chances over the first half-hour, and were rightly on the board first when Webster slotted a shot from the heart of the 18.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Arsenal brought on Nicolas Pepe at halftime, but it was Lacazette who equalized with a looping header off a corner kick.

Brighton didn’t wilt, and Bernd Leno reacted well to Neal Maupay’s disappointing first touch of a loose ball in the six with just under a half hour to play.

The Gunners saw a goal pulled back by VAR after David Luiz was offside when he headed a free kick past Mat Ryan.

Pepe then slid Aubameyang behind the Brighton back line, but the Seagulls limited the damage to a corner kick.

Maupay put the Seagulls ahead when he held his nerve in front of Luiz to head Mooy’s cross home.

Newcastle takes three points at Sheffield United

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Allan Saint-Maximin and Jonjo Shelvey scored goals and VAR made its presence felt as Newcastle United toppled Sheffield United 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Thursday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Its Newcastle’s fifth result from six following a loss to Chelsea, while Sheffield United sees the end of its seven-match unbeaten run.

The Magpies pull into 11th place with 19 points, two spots below the Blades on goal differential.

Sheffield United meets Norwich City on Sunday, when Newcastle hosts Southampton.


Three things we learned

1. Blades make rookie mistake in VAR era: The linesman’s flag was raised when Andy Carroll flicked a header into the Blades final third, but Shelvey kept running onto the ball and referee Stuart Atwell allowed play to continue into the 1v1 chance between the midfielder and Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Shelvey passed around Henderson and into the goal, the backstop apparently spotting the flag and assuming the call. Big mistake, as VAR negated the linesman’s flag.

2. Bruce rewarded for lineup risk, and ASM breaks down the door: Manager Steve Bruce pulled the plug on big money striker Joelinton‘s automatic spot in the Starting XI, installing veteran center forward and hometown hero Andy Carroll in that spot. Carroll was solid with Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron on his flanks, and won the pivotal assist in the second half.

Saint-Maximin is either the league’s best dribbler or a fixture in the debate, but he’s been unable to find the back of the goal whether through fine saves or misfired shots. Raise your hand if you had 50-50 header for his first Premier League marker. Didn’t think so. If this busts down the door, look out.

3. Magnificent Martin deserves a rest: Newcastle backstop Martin Dubravka was the biggest factor in the result, as the Slovakian national team goalkeeper was at his shot-stopping best. He was stopping all of the Olivers, with fine stops on McBurnie and Norwood in the first half and a well-controlled box in the second 45.

Man of the Match: Dubravka — Respect to Carroll, but the keeper made six saves on the night for a richly-deserved clean sheet.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

A deflection off Miguel Almiron forced Martin Dubravka into a fine reaction stop in the sixth minute.

Newcastle then had the ball for a spell without real threat, as Blades’ Oli McBurnie’s curl wide in the 15th minute was the next moment of danger for either side.

The Magpies scored soon after, Saint-Maximin rising high to thump a header inside the post after Andy Carroll laid off for Javi Manquillo‘s cross.

McBurnie then forced an incredible save out of Dubravka when George Baldock sent a terrific cross into the heart of the box.

Almiron gave away a dangerous free kick in first half stoppage time, but Dubravka was again there for a two-handed parry of Oliver Norwood‘s rip.

VAR made its voice heard in the 71st minute, when it ruled that