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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.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).

De Ligt reportedly chooses Barcelona; Klopp set at CB

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Liverpool, Manchester United, and pretty much everyone but Barcelona looks set to miss out on Matthijs de Ligt.

De Ligt, 19, has paired with Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk while in the Netherlands national team set-up, but reportedly is opting to join Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona.

[ MORE: Brighton hires new boss ]

In the case of Liverpool, Sky Sports says that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp thinks he doesn’t need another center back.

Injuries hit Liverpool’s center backs this season outside of Van Dijk. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were rated highly and combined for just over 2500 minutes, while young Joe Gomez suffered a long-term injury midway through the season.

If all are healthy, Liverpool has decent depth. Yet even Gomez doesn’t have the upside to shake a stick at De Ligt if the 19-year-old was truly interested in coming to Anfield.

I mean, “Are you interested in this 19-year-old captain of a Champions League semifinalist? He’s interested in coming there” usually doesn’t yield a firm, “No.”

As for Barcelona, it will reinforce its back line a year after allowing 36 goals. That’s pretty decent, but the Blaugranas‘ third-highest total of the last decade.

Mkhitaryan assured of safety by Azerbaijan ambassador

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The Europa League Final in Azerbaijan has not been getting a lot of positive press due to fans unwillingness to travel for the event and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s fears of stepping foot in the country.

That’s because Mkhitaryan is the captain of Armenia’s national team, and that nation’s long dispute with Azerbaijan.

[ MORE: Brighton hires new boss ]

Arsenal, of course, plays Chelsea in the May 29 final, and Mkhitaryan already missed an earlier UEL match against Azerbaijan powers Qarabag. He’s played plenty for the Gunners this season apart from a broken foot, and his absence would not be welcome news for this London Derby of a European Final.

Azerbaijan’s UK ambassador Tahir Taghizadeh has guaranteed safety for Mkhitaryan, and said he’d be happy to personally offer assurances to the Armenian. On the other hand, this doesn’t sound like the most positive messaging, via Sky Sports:

“My message to Mkhitaryan would be: you’re a footballer, you want to play football? Go to Baku you are safe there, if you want to play the issue then that’s a different story. What I can guarantee is that the Azerbaijan government will do everything what needs to be done and provide safety and security for every fan, player and staff member coming to this game.”

By using the phrase “play the issue,” it does launch the discussion firmly into political waters. One thing’s for sure: The issue may be debatable, but whether a player feels safe deserves to be his call and his call alone.