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New handball, goal kick, and free kick rule changes now into effect

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Beginning yesterday (but not including the Champions League final), the new rule changes implemented by the International Football Association Board are now into effect. These rule changes, announced back in March, include tweaks to free-kicks, goal kicks, drop balls, handballs, and penalties.

There are some significant changes that could come into play quite soon. Here are some of the major rule changes notable to seasons currently in progress such as Major League Soccer and upcoming seasons such as European leagues, implemented as soon as the leagues decide to make the change.

  • During a free-kick – direct or indirect – if the defending team has three or more players in a wall, the attacking team may NOT have a player within one yard of the wall. This means no longer can attacking teams place wall-busters to break up a wall, or look to have players lose their marks by running through or around a wall. If they do, the referee can penalize the attacking team with a free-kick in the other direction.
  • Quick free-kicks can now be taken before a referee shows a yellow card, and the referee is allowed to wait before showing his yellow card until the next stoppage in play. Previously, if a free-kick resulted in a yellow card, the attacking team would have to wait until the referee shows his card before play can resume. However, the rule still stands where a referee distracted by already beginning to display a caution may halt a quick free-kick until he finishes the action.
    • As a caveat to this, if the referee was going to show a red card for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, the attacking team still may take a quick free-kick, but the punishment automatically reverts from a red card into a yellow as the attacking team is considered to have restarted its course of play.
  • Goalkeepers may now come slightly closer while defending a penalty, only required to have one foot on the goal line instead of required to stand completely on it. Most referees allow leniency on this rule anyways, but now there is a bit of written leniency to go along with the flexibility on the field.
  • Also regarding penalties, an attacker who required medical treatment may now be allowed to take a penalty once treatment is concluded. Under the previous rule, if an attacker required treatment after a penalty was given must come off the field and was not allowed to take the ensuing penalty.
  • A drop ball will now be awarded if a ball strikes a referee and falls in possession of the opposition side, or if the ball strikes the referee and ends up in the back of the net.
  • Drop balls can no longer be contested. However, along with that, drop balls can be taken by an attacking team wherever they possessed the ball when play was stopped, meaning an attacking team can continue from the point at which the attack was stopped.
    • One caveat: any play stopped in the penalty area will be returned to the goalkeeper no matter who possessed the ball at the stoppage.
  • One big change we could see possession-happy teams like Manchester City take advantage of centers around goal-kicks. A goal-kick is no longer required to leave the penalty area before a teammate touches the ball, meaning once the goalkeeper touches the ball for the kick, it is immediately considered in play. Opponents must remain outside the penalty area when a goal-kick takes place.
  • Finally, a rule change has been made to try and combat time-wasting with substitutes. Any substitute must leave the field of play at the nearest sideline point, unless the referee determines he can quickly make his way back to the team’s designated touchline area.

The handball rule has also been re-written, but instead of explaining the changes, it’s better just to display the entire new rewritten rule. According to the newly written laws, the changes are:

  • Deliberate handball remains an offense. The following ‘handball’ situations, even if accidental, will be a free kick:
    • The ball goes into the goal after touching an attacking player’s hand/arm
    • A player gains control/possession of the ball after it has touches their hand/arm and then scores, or creates a goal-scoring opportunity
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which has made their body unnaturally bigger
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm when it is above their shoulder (unless the player has deliberately played the ball which then touches their hand/arm)
  • The following will not usually be a free kick, unless they are one of the above situations:
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm directly from their own head/body/foot or the head/body/foot of another player who is close/near [this would now put Moussa Sissoko’s opening-minute penalty in serious doubt, as it hit his chest before redirecting off his arm, although one could still argue it “made his body unnaturally bigger” which would still qualify it as a foul]
    • The ball touches a player’s hand/arm which is close to their body and has not made their body unnaturally bigger
    • If a player is falling and the ball touches their hand/arm when it is between their body and the ground to support the body (but not extended to make the body bigger)
    • If the goalkeeper attempts to ‘clear’ (release into play) a throw-in or deliberate kick from a team-mate but the ‘clearance’ fails, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball

The IFAB wrote a lengthy reasoning for the change in the handball rule. This reads,

Greater clarity is needed for handball, especially on those occasions when ‘non-deliberate’ handball is an offense. The re-wording follows a number of principles:

  • Football does not accept a goal being scored by a hand/arm (even if accidental)
  • Football expects a player to be penalized for handball if they gain possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm and gain a major advantage e.g. score or create a goal-scoring opportunity
  • It is natural for a player to put their arm between their body and the ground for support when falling.
  • Having the hand/arm above shoulder height is rarely a ‘natural’ position and a player is ‘taking a risk’ by having the hand/arm in that position, including when sliding
  • If the ball comes off the player’s body, or off another player (of either team) who is close by, onto the hands/arms it is often impossible to avoid contact with the ball
  • When the GK clearly kicks or tries to kick the ball into play, this shows no intention to handle the ball so, if the ‘clearance’ attempt is unsuccessful, the goalkeeper can then handle the ball without committing an offense

These rule changes, as a whole, seem to benefit the game. The handball rules are still highly subjective and will likely still cause problems in many cases, but hopefully the rewritten laws will provide clarity on situations which have already occurred and may occur again. It’s tough for a rules committee to predict new situations which may arise, but these all seem to have been born off previous occurrences and aim to avoid uncertainty and subjectivity in repeat cases.

Everton season restart preview

Everton season restart preview
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Everton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Toffees when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Located six points back of the top seven, Everton will hope their long pause allowed Carlo Ancelotti’s system to sink deeper into the minds of his Toffees players. A three-match challenge of Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea which yielded a lone point would’ve left Everton feeling burnt and sour for a good, long time. Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s strong attacking seasons are ready for the rebound.

[ MORE: Ranking every Everton player in 2019-20 ]

The return to the training ground hasn’t come without worry; Yerry Mina suffered a quad tear and may be out for the season, while summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin has experienced another setback and won’t be able to pitch into the fight for Europe.


Tactical analysis: Whether it’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin alone up top or partnered with Richarlison, Ancelotti likes power in the final third. He’s deployed Gylfi Sigurdsson a bit further back at times, trusting that Fabian Delph or Tom Davies could handle the lion’s share of the dirty work. Everton’s full back pair is one of the best in the game, so much so that back-ups Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman would start an awful lot of places. The crosses will be whipped into the mix. The biggest questions remains in goal, as Jordan Pickford is an excellent shot-stopper who hasn’t been very good at that this season but can distribute at a very high level. That part of his game is why he’s still there, and could be a big part of the 2019-20’s conclusion.


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Pickford —–

— Sidibe— Keane — Holgate — Digne —

—– Gomes —– Delph —–

— Bernard — Sigurdsson —  Richarlison —

—– Calvert-Lewin —– 

There are still plenty of questions here, with Alex Iwobi, Tom Davies, Seamus Coleman, and Theo Walcott would love to get their places in this XI. Mina’s injury means Micheal Keane will need to find his form of last season or even the one before that (or the one before that).


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Liverpool, Leicester City, Southampton, Aston Villa, Bournemouth
Away: Norwich City, Spurs, Wolves, Sheffield United

Predicted finish: Presuming a start versus Liverpool, Everton has a chance to make a major statement to anyone who’d fathom listening. There are 12 points of the remaining 27 that really should be in the bag and another three (Leicester at Goodison) that look solid. Leave the derby out of it and the remaining three away tilts (Spurs, Wolves, Blades) are European six-pointers. Everton has one of the more interesting stories to tell when the PL resumes.

Premier League social media wrap: Antonio, Pereira urge unity

Premier League social media
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The Premier League’s social media world was again focused on activism on Wednesday.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

West Ham forward Michail Antonio’s mind is understandably still on the racial issues which have gripped the world in a particularly strong way the past nine days.

A day after all 20 Premier League clubs and a large number of players and coaches spoke out against racism, Antonio wants to make sure that people don’t think one day of speaking up is enough to change a historical struggle.

He’ll appreciate another statement from Leicester City’s squad.

The Foxes gather center circle to take a knee, with Ricardo Pereira saying “humanity coms first” and echoing Weston McKennie’s “Enough is enough” video.

A huge number of Premier League players have donated shirts for a raffle to raise funds for the National Health Services’ charities as part of their #PlayersTogether campaign.

It’s a challenge to find more Premier League stars that have not posted about #ShirtsForHeroes than those that have, so we’ll choose should-be PFA Player of the Year midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

It must’ve been chilly in Manchester.

Odion Ighalo is clearly happy to be back with United through January after it looked like the Nigerian striker was going back to Shanghai Shenhua.

But, man, both Ighalo and Luke Shaw in the wool hats/toques/skullies/whatever you want to call them.

Christian Benteke was none-too-pleased with the hassle he got from teammate Jordan Ayew at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

The Belgian striker’s words were in jest, no doubt, after Palace gave him photos of the club’s leading scorer taking advantage of being allowed full contact in practice.

Benteke hasn’t been scoring and will always be judged by his price tag(s), but he’s been better this season as a hold-up man and pest up top. Let’s see if he can lead the Eagles onto something special.

Eintracht nears safety with second-half surge past Bremen

Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt recap
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Andre Silva and Stefan Ilsanker sent Eintracht Frankfurt to Bundesliga safety and sent Werder Bremen crashing to a new reality in a 3-0 at the Weserstadion on Wednesday.

Eintracht’s 35 points put it eight points clear of the bottom three with five matches to play, while Bremen’s three-match unbeaten run ends with it standing three points back of 15th-place Mainz.

Silva has scored 12 goals on loan from AC Milan, eight coming in the Bundesliga and four in the five matches since the league returned from the coronavirus pause.

For Ilsanker, his goals mark his first ever in the Bundesliga over 87 appearances, and first in any competition since scoring for RB Leipzig in the 2015-16 2.Bundesliga season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

The first half was very cagey, with little to report aside from a penalty denied Bremen, who again looked nothing like the side that’s been in the relegation places for so much of the season.

Eintracht thought it’d gone ahead with a Dominik Kohr goal before the hour mark, but either a slight offside or handball by the passer counted against his hopes.

The visitors scored as the clock struck 60:00. Makato Hasebe starts the play and Filip Kostic crossed for Silva to head inside the near post.

Bremen boss Florian Kohfeldt responded by putting USMNT striker Josh Sargent in for Davie Selke.

Davy Klaassen wasted a 78th minute counter attack as Bremen showed some desperation and Leonardo Bittencourt hit a wayward attempt a minute later.

Ilsanker made it 2-0 within moments of subbing into the match, a Bas Dost-redirected corner kick landing in his path for a close-range finish. Fellow sub Jonathan de Guzman then spun a free kick around the fray for an emphatic Ilsanker header.

Americans Abroad: Sargent’s half-hour was non-descript. Dost flicked the corner kick before Sargent could head clear. He was eight-of-eight passing on 11 touches and completed his lone long ball. Sargent won 2-of-3 duels and drew a foul. Judging by what we saw from Davie Selke, Sargent could get another turn in the Starting XI versus Wolfsburg.

Timmy Chandler was an unused sub for Eintracht, a little over a week after playing super sub with a match-winning goal.

Crystal Palace season restart preview

Crystal Palace season restart preview
Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Crystal Palace is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Eagles when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Palace has navigated injuries and a disappointing season from superstar Wilfried Zaha to sit within striking distance, or at least hoping distance, of a place in the Europa League. The journey won’t be easy, with six of nine matches coming against top five hopefuls, but Roy Hodgson’s done a good job at Selhurst Park despite limited contributions from the center forward position.

[ MORE: Ranking every Palace player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: The club can line up in what looks to be either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 depending on what Roy Hodgson is asking of his Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew, and/or Andros Townsend. Zaha hasn’t lived up to his standards this season but remains the club’s best threat, with Ayew enjoying his most productive season since leaving Ligue 1 in 2015 (or Swansea two seasons ago if you’re being generous).

A lot of of what Palace has done well this year revolves around center midfielder James McArthur and the two men who join him (some combination of Cheikhou Kouyate, Luka Milivojevic and James McCarthy).


Possible XI (4-1-4-1) 

—– Guaita —–

— Ward — Dann — Cahill — Van Aanholt —

—– McCarthy —–

— Ayew — McArthur — Kouyate — Zaha—

—– Benteke—–

McCarthy had played quite well in the three-match streak leading into the pause, and was much, much better in 2020 than he’d been while struggling for starts in the first half of the season. Gary Cahill and Scott Dann have been steady if unspectacular in front of Vincente Guaita, while Van Aanholt’s best days are still elite, if fewer and farther between. Pretty solid side and good work from Hodgson with plenty of injuries to handle over the first 29 matches.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Burnley, Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs
Away: Bournemouth, Liverpool, Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolves

Predicted finish: The only thing certain is that Palace would have to fall all over itself to finish anywhere near the bottom three, even given a tricky schedule. Really, it depends upon the intensity of the competitors, because Palace is safe from relegation barring something traumatic but needs a number of signature wins to be involved in the top seven fight. And how will the Eagles react if Arsenal and Sheffield United get points from their June 17 matches-in-hand and the Europa League looks more and more an unlikely dream? Tenth seems the place, but anything can happen when eighth may be a Europa League place.