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Double Column: Why the VAR was right and wrong, and who’s to blame

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The controversy surrounding the use of VAR at the Women’s World Cup took a new turn on Monday, as two decisions helped give France a 1-0 win over Nigeria, ensuring the European nation finished atop Group A.

For those who haven’t seen it, referee Melissa Borjas went to the video monitor to take a second look twice during the match. First, when Ngozi Ebere fouled Viviane Asseyi in the penalty box, leading to a penalty kick, and the second time when Nigeria’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie hopped off her line by a foot, VAR alerted Borjas to award a retake.

PST writers Dan Karell and Kyle Bonn both have opinions, and we figured this was a good forum to get their ideas off their mind.


Dan Karell

In my opinion, VAR did its job correctly. The problem wasn’t with VAR, or even the rules. It was with the referee, and how she interpreted those rules.

The original intent for VAR was to be used to fix clear and obvious mistakes missed by the referees, especially the center referee. This includes many examples, such as an obvious hand-ball in the box, the ball crossing the goalline, violent conduct away from the ball, or cases of mistaken identity with cards to players.

I don’t believe that either situation, the original penalty kick and the retake, were “clear and obvious” mistakes that were missed by the ref. Yes, was Asseyi probably fouled in the box by Eberi? Probably. But Asseyi also got to the ball first and could have taken a first-time strike. While that may have been a foul if it had happened at midfield, and therefore was in theory correctly called, you’ve got the referee and at least one assistant looking right at the play. If the referee decides to play on, then play on.

For the second, it was even more egregious. The new rules from the International Football Association Board states that goalkeepers now only need to have one foot on the line on penalty kicks, as most goalkeepers like to creep up and step off the line to shorten the distance to making a save. Of course, in the men’s game, this rule came to pass because almost no goalkeepers kept both feet on the line like they were supposed to. Like speed limit laws, it’s a law on paper but it’s almost never enforced unless there’s an serious issue, like someone driving 20 or more miles per hour over the speed limit. Most referees let them get away with it.

In this case, the referee, and two assistants, should have seen Nnadozie encroaching off her line. They also should have seen the France players encroaching into the box before Wendie Renard took the PK, as former U.S. Men’s National Team striker Herculez Gomez pointed out.

It even happened on the retake! Yet only Nnadozie was punished. Again, while Nnadozie was at fault, it shouldn’t have been a “clear and obvious” mistake by the referee. Nnadozie didn’t make contact with the ball as Renard’s first strike caromed off the post, and if Nnadozie somehow got into the head of Renard by stepping one foot off the line, then honestly, that’s on Renard.

In my opinion, while VAR was used correctly, it wasn’t in the spirit of the rule, why the system was put in in the first place. Both situations could have been judged by the referee in the middle. and if referees are now delaying all judgement to the VAR, they lose all authority from players for regular foul calls, throw-ins, or any basic decision.


Kyle Bonn

Here’s the thing about VAR: when used correctly – which it has been on plenty of occasions – it has made the game better 100% of the time. It was never going to be perfect the first time around, as no sport has implemented a replay system with pinpoint accuracy in its first go. The replay system in soccer works and works well, now it’s time for the sport to adjust to the issues which have been presented.

There have been three issues most frequently coming to light, two of which were predictable. The problems many people could see coming were the abrupt and awkward stoppages of play leading to long periods of waiting, and the unclear definition of “clear and obvious error” leading to occasional poor application of the system. Those two issues deserve their own column and can be addressed by analyzing early usage of the system and tweaking its logistical flow to streamline the process.

Thirdly, the system has brought to light certain rules that to the naked eye were never a problem as referees had discretion on how and when to issue punishment, but under replay scrutiny, everything must now be black and white. Do not blame the replay system for this deficiency – the rules were always the problem, the game just didn’t care to make the adjustments, leaving the referees to do that on the field instead. Now, with the rules out of the referees hands, the rules must change.

Obviously the handball rule needs serious correction, and that could take years to parse out. One rule that could be effortlessly edited to fit the new VAR universe is the goalkeeper’s positioning when defending a penalty, one that has become a clear hole in the rule book, no more evident than in the U-20 World Cup and now the Women’s World Cup. New Zealand was booted from the U-20 tournament in a penalty shootout that saw one of their saves ruled a retake after Michael Woud was judged harshly for coming off his line. Now, as Daniel eloquently outlined earlier, the Women’s World Cup suffers.

The laws of the game admitted fault, editing the rule slightly to allow goalkeepers to have one foot on the line rather than two, but this change has done little to fix the problem. Hopefully, a subsequent change will come soon to allow goalkeepers the ability to move in a natural manner while not gaining an advantage on the effort.

Do not blame VAR for the issues built into the game of soccer that human referees were in the past able to mask with common sense no longer afforded to them in a replay world. With the ability to scrutinize millimeters of play using video replay, it’s impossible for a referee to allow minor infractions for the betterment of the game. The game itself must adjust, and should that happen, VAR will be a fabulous addition to the game, but until then, fans, players, and coaches will be forced to swallow more cruel moments like we’ve seen of late, and the growing pains will continue to be noticeable.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 16 of the Premier League season is here, as the busy festive season has well and truly arrived.

Get in there.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Everton v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Man City v. Man United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Newcastle United v. Southampton  – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Wolves – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Norwich City v. Sheffield United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: West Ham v. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]

The 2 Robbies podcast: Analyzing chaos at Everton, Arsenal

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In the latest The 2 Robbies podcast, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss Everton’s decision to sack Marco Silva after their 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby (0:50), Arsenal’s shocking defeat at home to Brighton (14:00) and Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford thanks to a brace from Marcus Rashford (22:25).

Plus, thoughts on Gabriel Jesus‘ long-term role at Manchester City (29:00), Jamie Vardy and Leicester City can’t stop winning (35:10), back to winning ways for Chelsea (39:00) and the Underappreciated Performances of the week (43:40).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Projected lineups: Man City v. Man United

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A feisty Manchester Derby takes center stage at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as Man City and Man United need the points for their respective title and top four bids.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With key players missing or injury doubts for both teams, there is plenty of debate about who will line up for Man City and Man United.

Below we look at how Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should set up their teams and give our own analysis of the situation.


Man City

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — FernandinhoAngelino

—- Rodri —- Silva —-

—- Bernardo —- De Bruyne —- Sterling —-

—– Jesus —–


Man United

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Young —

—- McTominay —- Fred —-

— James — Lingard — Rashford —

—– Martial —–


Analysis: Man City have a few big decisions to make in defense, with either John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi expected to partner Fernandinho at center back, with Otamendi likely to get the nod after playing against Burnley in midweek. At full back Pep has been rotating his options with Angelino maybe edging ahead of Mendy, while Walker seems to be winning the battle with Cancelo. For now. Midfield picks itself with Rodri the holder and Kevin De Bruyne playing ahead of him, but the big decisions is who out of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan starts alongside Rodri. Up top Riyad Mahrez is pushing Bernardo Silva for a start with Raheem Sterling on the other flank and Gabriel Jesus continuing up top with Aguero out injured.

Given their injury issues, which have eased a little, Man United’s lineup choices are a little simpler. De Gea will have Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and probably Young ahead of him, while McTominay’s return in midfield is a big boost and he will likely line up with Fred. Up top they are sweating on the fitness of Anthony Martial who missed the midweek win against Tottenham and is questionable to start, but Rashford, Lingard and James are expected to start behind either Martial or Mason Greenwood.

Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester

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Brendan Rodgers has been rewarded for his incredible start to the 2019-20 season with Leicester City, with the club extending his stay in charge by three-and-a-half years to 2025.

The Northern Irishman has signed a new five-and-a-half year contract with the Foxes, as he’s led them to second place in the table through the opening 15 games of the Premier League season as they’ve won seven in a row.

Rodgers had been linked with the vacant position at Arsenal in recent days and seemed to confirm that there was a release fee of $18 million in his old Leicester contract. It is believed that clause has either been removed or the amount has been increased substantially.

Rodgers spoke to the media about his decision to sign a new deal with the Foxes and believes there is plenty more to come as they aim to secure a return to the UEFA Champions League.

“It’s something we’ve been speaking about for a few weeks. I’m delighted to commit the next five-and-a-half years to here,” Rodgers said. “I was honored that the club was happy with our work since we came in. I’ve got a great team here at the stadium and the training ground. My commitment is to the players and the team. The key thing for me was the potential here at Leicester City. Since we came in we’ve identified a way of playing that improves the players and gets results.”

After joining Leicester from Celtic in February in a midseason move which was lambasted by many, Rodgers has 17 wins from 26 Premier League matches in charge with Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Caglar Soyuncu, Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans in particular playing superbly since he arrived at the King Power Stadium.

Rodgers has the Foxes playing with an increased swagger on the ball but they have also kept their ruthless streak as Vardy has scored in each of his last seven goals (netting nine times in that run) and leads the PL with 14 goals this season.

It may be too much for Leicester to push Liverpool all the way for the Premier League title this season — they are currently eight points behind the league leaders — but with Rodgers locked down to a new deal and so many young players in incredible form, the future is very bright for the Foxes.

Leicester seem set to become genuine top four contenders for the next few seasons, at least, and locking Rodgers into this deal sets everything up.