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Premier League to restart ‘when safe,’ will financially assist lower league clubs

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The Premier League issued a statement Friday morning confirming the league has suspended play indefinitely, returning to action “only…when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

The statement comes in the wake of a meeting between Premier League leadership and all 20 clubs to discuss various points of interest during the coronavirus shutdown. A date for return has not yet been set, with the league saying amid a fluid situation, “the restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.”

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“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution. With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition. However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows.”

The league also confirmed it will financially assist lower league clubs during the shutdown, committing $153 million towards that will “immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.”

“The League unanimously voted to advance funds…to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time,” the statement read.

The Premier League also announced $24.5 million of aid would be sent to the National Health Service that would go “to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances,” the statement read.

Finally, the Premier League announced it will enter into discussions with players about the possibility of “conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.” The league announced it will meet tomorrow to discuss the matter further.

Burning Question: What one rule would you change?

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be asking some burning questions we have when it comes to the beautiful game. Today’s topic is rule changes.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

With VAR instituted this season, the rulebook has never been under more scrutiny. Some people have criticized the offside rule, claiming the rules must adapt to the changing times and the improved technology. Others have attacked the penalty kicks tiebreaker, saying it doesn’t fairly determine the outcome of a match.

So, with that in mind, let’s break down some of the rules we could change.

The obvious one: The handball rule

While the offside rule has been the most scrutinized over the past year with the implementation of VAR in the Premier League and beyond, the handball rule is almost certainly the most unanimously despised rule of the current times. More specifically, a handball in regards to the buildup to a goal.

The current rule in the FIFA rulebook states: 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

While this sounded nice in theory, in practice it was horrible. Goals were chalked off because the ball brushed an attacker’s arm, even if the attacker gained no advantage and it did not help the attacker in his creation of the goalscoring opportunity. Goals were even chalked off in the buildup to a score, and while that is being changed this coming season, with IFAB

Man City was held to a point by Spurs early in the season thanks in large part to the late winner being chalked off for a clip off Aymeric Laporte’s arm, and it only got worse from there. Leicester City saw a key goal chalked off in a 1-0 loss to Norwich City just days before the suspension of Premier League play, with Kelechi Iheanacho barely grazing the ball with his hand before scoring what would have been the go-ahead goal.

There’s been near-unanimous outrage over this rule, and it has to go.

The controversial one: The offside rule

With VAR firmly entrenched in the world of soccer, the offside rule has come under increased scrutiny over the past calendar year, with fans believing the technology has ruined the spirit of the rule.

Thanks to video review, offside decisions are being scrutinized down to the millimeter, and goals are being cancelled for inch-tight calls. Offside decisions have always been black & white, but unlike the goal-line technology, the fluidity of offsides in the past and the difficulty of making a call has always given fans more leeway to accepting tight decisions even if they were incorrect. Now, with technology making the calls truly black & white, many fans feel the calls have hampered attacking play.

The problem is there are no good solutions to fix the problems presented. Some have suggested a six-inch allowance for attackers in offside decisions, but all that will do is push the black & white line six inches further, meaning there will still be inch-tight decisions further out. Other ideas floated include a margin of error, likely visualized by a thicker line for the defender than the attacker on replay. This idea is similar to the “umpire’s call” in cricket where the rules write into law an admission that technology cannot always be pinpoint accurate. The issue that arises here is that while in cricket the technology is attempting to predict the flight of a ball, VAR is simply placing lines on a field with far less assumptions or predictive room for error needed.

At the end of the day, there is no good solution, and fans are probably going to have to simply get used to the new way of doing things. Some good goals will be ruled out, and VAR can certainly improve its methods to allow for more transparency, but as far as the laws of the game are concerned, this one is here to stay.

The long-debated one: Penalties

Penalty shootouts have been debated for years as a match-decider.

Let’s just put this to bed right here: Are penalties a fair sporting way to determine a match? No. Is there a better, more fun option to decide a game without running the players to death? No. This one’s also here to stay, thanks in part because there’s few better options and also in part because they’re downright tense and fun. Leave penalties alone.

The other long-debated one: Away goals

The away goals rule is another tiebreaker often disparaged for its non-sporting qualities. While detractors of the away goals rule have more to stand on than those who dislike penalties, and it probably could be done away with altogether with very few people even taking note, it’s not the problem those who call for change make it out to be.

The dark horse: Goalkeeper protection

While the rules protecting goalkeepers are talked about on rare occasions, they have mostly become an accepted part of today’s game. Which is ridiculous. The amount of play goalkeepers are afforded while entirely uncontested is flat out ridiculous. Every time a goalkeeper goes up to claim a ball in the air and is left unchallenged is a crime.

While yes, there were far too many goalkeeper injuries in the past, the rules in today’s game are an overreaction. There has to be a middle ground for players to challenge a goalkeeper’s authority while still keeping the netminders safe.

Latest PL update following meeting with EFL, PFA

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The Premier League, English Football League and Professional Footballers’s Association released a joint-statement following a meeting between the three sides held on Friday.

[ MORE: Friday’s transfer rumor roundup | Thursday | Wednesday ]

Notably, it was revealed that the four leagues in question — the PL and three Football League competitions — will not resume until April 30 at the earliest. The goal of the meeting was to “mitigate the economic impact of the current suspension of professional football in England” and set in place a plan for how the leagues, which feed clubs to one another through promotion and relegation, can remain in lockstep as they transition from one season to the next.

The full statement can be read below:

The Premier League, EFL and PFA met today and discussed the growing seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was stressed that the thoughts of all three organizations continue to be with everyone affected by the virus.

The Premier League, EFL and PFA agreed that difficult decisions will have to be taken in order to mitigate the economic impact of the current suspension of professional football in England and agreed to work together to arrive at shared solutions.

The leagues will not recommence until April 30 at the earliest. They will only do so when it is safe and conditions allow.

Further meetings will take place next week with a view to formulating a joint plan to deal with the difficult circumstances facing the leagues, their clubs, players, staff and fans.

What we love about Leicester City

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up it is Leicester City.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to focus on the Foxes.

That 2015-16 Premier League title win: How could we not start with this? The 5000-1 shots and favorites for relegation stunned the entire world with possibly the greatest upset in the history of sports. Claudio Ranieri‘s unfancied side won the Premier League by staying tight defensively and allowing N’Golo Kante to run the show in midfield and the duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to rip teams apart on the counter attack. With plenty of heavyweights having a down year, Leicester timed their push for the title to perfection and the glorious scenes on the final home game against Everton saw Andrea Bocelli sing on the pitch as Ranieri and his unlikely heroes hoisted the trophy into the air. Leicester’s title win from 2015-16 will be talked about 100 years from now, and probably longer than that. The entire city of Leicester and the soccer world will never, ever forget it.

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Jamie Vardy: His part in Leicester’s incredible 2015-16 season will see him go down in folklore and his incredible rise to stardom is one of the great rags to riches stories in recent years. Playing in local leagues in England in his early 20s, Vardy made his way up through the leagues and arrived at Leicester from the non-league game in 2012. A few years later he was leading them to the Premier League title, scoring important goals for England and starring in the UEFA Champions League as the Foxes reached the quarterfinals in 2016-17. This season, at the age of 33, Vardy has regained his form and is the leading goalscorer in the Premier League after retiring from the international game. His pace, grit and finishing ability is incredible and Vardy is the kind of player you love to have on your team, even if opponents hate his attitude of never giving up.

Jamie Vardy
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Their current crop of extremely talented youngsters: With the Foxes currently in third place in the Premier League table after an early-season title push, there is a lot to be excited about this young team assembled by Brendan Rodgers and thanks to some very smart planning by those in charge behind-the-scenes at Leicester. Thanks to the building blocks put in place by their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and carried on by his son Aiyawatt, affectionately known as Top, Leicester are one of the best run clubs in the Premier League and continue to buy talented youngsters from across Europe and plan for departures and a seamless transition within their squads. After selling Harry Maguire to Man United last summer for $100 million, they already had Caglar Soyuncu waiting in the wings and he’s been one of the stars of 2019-20 at center back. Many would argue this Leicester side are better to watch than the team which won the title in 2015-16 with James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez buzzing around underneath Vardy, Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans holding down midfield and full backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell bombing on from full back. The future is bright.

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Brendan Rodgers’ playing philosophy: Given the points above about Leicester’s youngsters starring, there is plenty more to come from them under Rodgers in the coming years. Despite his critics, you can never doubt that Rodgers’ teams play flowing, attractive soccer and we’ve seen that at Swansea, Liverpool, Celtic and now Leicester over the years. Rodgers is a leader who has a clear playing philosophy and that has been taken on very quickly by these Leicester players. The Northern Irishman will no doubt be linked with plenty more Premier League giants and some of Europe’s biggest teams but right now he’s in a great spot at Leicester as he looks certain to lead them to the Champions League. He’s doing all that on top of making Leicester an exciting team to watch.

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Juventus in for Torres, Upamecano to Arsenal

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The coronavirus shutdown across Europe and the world has given teams time to focus on improving their squads for the future. There’s no certainty about when the transfer window will take place as the 2019/20 season continues to be pushed back possibly bleeding into the summer or even the fall. But clubs will have no excuse not to be ready once the time comes for players to make moves.

Liverpool has been linked with Valencia winger Ferran Torres for some time now, with the 20-year-old seeing his contract with the Spanish side expiring in the summer of 2021. However, according to Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, the Reds will have competition for his signature.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Juventus is reportedly interested in pursuing the Spaniard, which makes sense given the makeup of the Juve squad. On the flanks in Turin are 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, 31-year-old Juan Cuadrado, and the oft-injured Douglas Costa. Only Federico Bernardeschi can be counted on long-term at Juventus, leading to rumors such as these.

[ MORE: What we love about each Premier League club ]

Elsewhere, Arsenal has been linked by tabloids in England to RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, with the 21-year-old French youth international said to have asked to leave this summer – or whenever the upcoming transfer window takes place. Upamecano has started every single league match for RB Leipzig this season after missing the first four due to injury. He also played the full 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Tottenham in the Champions League that sent RB Leipzig through to the quarterfinals.

Upamecano’s contract with the German club expires in the summer of 2021, so like Torres’ situation at Valencia, it would be in the club’s best interest to sell the youngster this coming transfer window to maximize his transfer value.

Finally, Chelsea is reportedly interested in bringing aboard a second Ajax player after already securing Hakim Ziyech. According to Italian publication Calciomercato, the Blues are looking into left-back Nicolas Tagliafico after their chase of Ben Chilwell was turned down by Leicester City. Tagliafico, a 27-year-old Argentinian international, has been a fixture in the Ajax side since joining in January of 2018 from Argentine club Independiente. His Ajax contract runs out in the summer of 2022, so while there isn’t as much urgency to sort out his situation as with Torres or Upamecano, it is still within range.

The Blues currently have both Emerson and Marcos Alonso at left-back, so they are also not necessarily looking to urgently bring someone aboard in his position, but Tagliafico is versatility, able to play in the middle as well, making him a potentially useful player in a three-center-back system.