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VAR works well, but is it what we want?

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Video Assistant Referees (VAR) are coming to the Premier League for the 2019-20 campaign as the system is finally being adopted by England’s top-flight.

But is VAR what we really want? The jury remains out. Big time.

VAR has been used in Major League Soccer for years, rolled out across Europe’s other top leagues over the past few seasons and was a revelation at the 2018 World Cup.

But, and there is always a but with VAR, its arrival is getting us all to ask a huge internal question about the beautiful game: is this what we really want? Should every minute detail be scrutinized a la the NFL? Is this the direction we want to head in?

Whether we like it or not, that is the direction we are heading in. The system is being used in the FA Cup and League Cup in England this season, and in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League for the first time. It is something we are going to hear a lot more about in the coming weeks and months.

Like any change in system there are positives and negatives.

Positive: I attended the Southampton versus Derby County FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday. Derby had one goal which looked perfectly fine ruled out via VAR, and one goal stood which looked offside. Both calls were correct when the replays were shown and there was tension in the stadium as the referee waited to announce the decision. It was all rather smooth and, most importantly, the correct decisions were made.

Negative: The fact that Derby were denied a wonderful team goal due to the heel of their striker being offside seems totally against the spirit of the game, and so to does Jack Stephens‘ right heel playing four players onside for Derby’s first goal. When you zoom in and slow down the footage, you can see that the decisions are technically correct. But there is an argument to be made that VAR is taking things too far.

Chants of “VAR, VAR” were heard by both sets of fans as youngsters made the square hand gesture as they called for VAR to be used time and time again. It is fun now, because it is new, but in a few years time we may all look down in the pub as we swill the remnants of a pint and say something along the lines of: “I miss the old days before VAR.”

Referees and linesman will probably miss it too, because their role in the game will still be important but their responsibility is diminished.

The debates will continue about certain decisions with or without VAR. Take the Harry Kane penalty kick against Chelsea in the League Cup for example. Was that incident a “clear and obvious” error? That is what VAR is supposed to be used for and that is where the gray area still exists.

When VAR was used at St Mary’s a message was displayed on the big screens saying a goal was being checked, or a possible penalty decision was being looked at. It all worked quite well and certainly added drama to proceedings. Could replays be shown live on the big screens at stadiums in Premier League grounds to offer greater transparency to fans and players? Or would that cause riots if the VAR images were still inconclusive? It is a tricky tightrope to walk.

VAR will get the vast majority of decisions correct, but how often it is used and how heavily referees rely on it will determine if the system is going to be successful long-term.

We are about to find out if VAR is here to stay and if it is what we really want.

Right now, there is no going back.

Asian Cup Wrap: South Korea clinches top spot in group, and more

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Heung-Min Son started, recorded an assist and went 89 minutes three days after arriving in the United Arab Emirates as South Korea finished off the group stage with a resounding, 2-0 win over China.

With the win, South Korea’s third straight, the Taegeuk Warriors advance to the knockout stages as one of the top seeds, where they’ll face a third-place team in their next match. Ui-Jo Huang scored on a penalty kick in the 14th minute to give South Korea the lead, and six minutes into the second half, Min-Jae Kim powered home a header off a Son corner kick to put the game away.

[READ: Goal-scoring Martinez re-signs with Atlanta United]

China won’t be too upset about the defeat. They finished in second place in Group C, and will open the knockout round against Thailand.

Elsewhere in Asian Cup action, Vitalij Lux scored a hat-trick as Kyrgyzstan beat the Philippines, possibly earning a spot in the knockout stages. It’s Kyrgyzstan‘s first appearance at the Asian Cup.

In Group D action, leaders Iraq and Iran, both enemies politically, perhaps finished with an appropriate scoreline. The two sides settled for a scoreless draw, seeing both advance to the next round. Vietnam, meanwhile, picked up its first win in a 2-0 victory over Yemen, potentially keeping its Asian Cup hopes alive for a few more days.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 22

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The individual spots on the PL club power rankings feel like they are teetering, prepared for some big moves.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

The table says that Arsenal and Spurs are comfortable in their top spots, but the power rankings see a loss to West Ham and injury to Harry Kane as reason for concern.

We are just a result or two from some serious tumult, but here’s where we sit today.


20. Huddersfield Town — Putting aside the idea of a new manager bounce against Manchester City or some other surprising results, the Terriers would need an unbelievable finish to the season to survive the drop; Huddersfield only faces three relegation candidates in the final 16 match days. Climbing out of the Bottom Three would be one of the greatest escapes of all-time.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — Losing to Burnley was a killer. But, hey, at least your strikers aren’t fighting during a yoga class. Wait, what’s that? They are?!? Oh.
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Newcastle United — Owner Mike Ashley doesn’t look prepared to invest anything ever in January, and Rafa Benitez is heading into a crucial home game against Cardiff City down a number of starters. So this is going well, especially considering Newcastle is hardly even being linked with transfer targets. Even the rumor mongers know better than to expect people to latch onto clickbait when it says Newcastle might buy big. And FWIW: We had Newcastle in our Bottom Three before last week’s results dropped them there on the table.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

17. Cardiff City — The good news for Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds is the three teams below them look quite poor. A win at Newcastle on Saturday would be a huge step to safety.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Crystal Palace — Not quite as maddening as Wolves and Watford, but the team that beat Man City has now drawn Cardiff City 0-0 and lost at home to the Hornets.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

16. Southampton — The Leicester City win is another fine moment for Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men, who have been aided just as much by the Bottom Three as their own results.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Burnley — A third-straight league win has Sean Dyche‘s unit on the rise. The fixture list has helped, but the hardened English boss has done a fine job focusing his men on the task at hand.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

13. Bournemouth — Only being stopped by a new season low by the clubs underneath it. Next up for the Cherries: West Ham and Chelsea at the Vitality Stadium.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

12. Everton — Will be relieved to have handled Bournemouth, and will be eyeing a table run with fixtures ahead with Southampton, Huddersfield Town, Wolves, and Watford.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

11. Leicester City — Here’s what I wrote last week, before the Foxes went and lost to Southampton, They’re doing it again, luring me into the belief that the Foxes are the clear favorite to finish seventh. This all but guarantees a weekend loss to Southampton at the King Power Stadium.”
Last week: 10
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Flustered Liverpool, and it wouldn’t have been a crime had the Seagulls lifted a point from the leaders.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Wolves — Losing to Man City is all but certain when you go down a man at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

8. Watford — How many years do you think have been taken off Javi Gracia‘s life by this team’s unpredictable form? Do you think he’s going to have a presidential downtown in looks by the time this is through? After dramatically drawing Newcastle and Bournemouth, the Hornets are back into seventh via a win at Palace.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

7. West Ham United — We cannot overlook recent form and 10 points on the table, but the Irons are looking decent money against any club that dares to overlook them. Just ask Arsenal.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

6. Arsenal — It’s not wild to call Saturday’s match against Chelsea a season-defining one, especially with the Top Four door opened by an injury to Harry Kane at Spurs.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

5. Chelsea — Ten points from 12 has rarely looked so meh.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

4. Manchester United — Took three points off Spurs as a team, then perhaps even more thanks to Phil Jones‘ tackle on Harry Kane.
Last week: 5
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

3. Spurs — Seven is the number. That’s Spurs’ advantage on Chelsea and Arsenal heading into this prolonged Harry Kane absence.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Man City — Could sleepwalk through next four fixtures to get to Chelsea and Arsenal on consecutive match days. And both of those are at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

1. Liverpool — Sadio Mane has joined Dejan Lovren in publicly claiming they’ll win their first top flight title of the Premier League era.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Who excelled and who struggled in the Premier League over the weekend? Our latest batch of player Power Rankings are out as we focus on the top performers in Week 22.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Stars from Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, West Ham and Southampton all feature, as stars from the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are misfiring.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. David De Gea (Man United) – New entry
  2. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – New entry
  3. Declan Rice (West Ham) – New entry
  4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Up 6
  5. Paul Pogba (Man United) – Even
  6. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Up 5
  7. Fernandinho (Man City) – Down 4
  8. Jan Bednarek (Southampton) – New entry
  9. Fabinho (Liverpool) – Up 8
  10. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Down 3
  11. Leroy Sane (Man City) – Down 3
  12. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Down 11
  13. Raheem Sterling (Man City) –  Down 4
  14. Aymeric Laporte (Man City) – New entry
  15. Jesse Lingard (Man United) – Doen 2
  16. Felipe Anderson (West Ham) – Doen 3
  17. Shane Long (Southampton) – New entry
  18. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 12
  19. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) – Even
  20. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) – New entry

Tottenham confirm Harry Kane out with ankle injury

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Harry Kane is out for Tottenham Hotspur at the worst possible time.

Kane, 25, went down after being caught by Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof late in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday at Wembley, and Mauricio Pochettino feared his ankle injury was serious.

His worst fears have been confirmed.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Tottenham have revealed that Kane will be out until March, and he is going to miss some huge games in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and their League Cup semifinal second leg at Chelsea.

Here is the official statement from Spurs.

“Following preliminary assessments, we can confirm that Harry Kane has damaged ligaments in his left ankle, sustained during Sunday’s match. He will continue to be monitored by our medical staff as he commences rehabilitation and is expected to return to training in early March.”

With Kane missing a hugely important period of Tottenham’s season, plus Heung-Min Son away throughout January with South Korea at the 2019 Asian Cup, Spurs are now putting all their eggs in one basket.

Over to you, Fernando Llorente…

Here are the games Kane is expected to miss while he spends time on the sidelines.

  • Fulham (A) – Premier League – January 20
  • Chelsea (A) – EFL Cup – January 24
  • Crystal Palace (A) – FA Cup – January 27
  • Watford (H) – Premier League – January 30
  • Newcastle (H) – Premier League – February 2
  • Leicester (H) – Premier League – February 10
  • Borussia Dortmund (H) – Champions League – February 13
  • Burnley – Premier League (A) – February 23
  • League Cup Final – February 25* if Spurs reach the final
  • Chelsea – Premier League (A) – February 27

This is a massive blow for Spurs which compounds their defeat against United (they somehow lost due to a combination of David De Gea‘s heroics and poor finishing) as they’re now nine points off first-place Liverpool and will have to play the next few months without their top goalscorer.

Kane is the joint-top leading scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals so far, but this is a familiar injury for him. The forward injured his ankle twice in the 2016-17 campaign, as Spurs fans were left to wonder what could have been if Kane had stayed fit all season long.

With Son missing, Pochettino must now turn to Llorente, who has only played in a handful of League Cup and FA Cup games as well as a few minutes in the PL, to try and spearhead their attack in the next few months. The veteran Spaniard has scored four goals in 11 appearances this season, but has yet to find the back of the net in his five PL outings.

The only other option Spurs have is Vincent Janssen, who has been out injured and scored for their U23 side at the weekend, but Pochettino revealed the Dutch striker is “not in his plans” at Tottenham.

This is far from ideal for Spurs, as this injury to Kane will have huge implications on their progress in the PL, Europe and both domestic cup competitions.