Thursday, August 26, 2010

EPL Fun Bag - Week 4

Funny thing about following English Premier League Soccer is that they have many of the same debates we have here in the States. Including my favorite: They debate non-stop about the use of instant replay! Boy, Norm doesn't know what he is missing, does he?

The picture you are looking at was the Frank Lampard goal that wasn't allowed in the World Cup match between Germany and England. This is one of the craziest missed goals in history, and surely one of those historic moments that inspires change and reformation in how FIFA does business, right?

Wrong. FIFA has dug in. THey will not adapt replay technology. Part of the ruling seems to make sense based on the fact that FIFA does not govern the EPL rules; they govern WORLD football rules. So, any rule change they make has to be honored by the entire world of soccer. And their rationale is partly based on all of the corners of the earth where replay technology is simply not affordable and practical.

So, they do nothing. And then situations happen like they did on Saturday, when Stoke was pushing for an equalizer, and appeared to have had it when they thought they scored their 2nd against Tottenham in a game I was locked in for:

Stoke City and their boisterous home support thought they had equalized when in the 90th minute Matthew Etherington found Danny Collins from a corner. Collins headed towards goal only for Spurs keeper Gomes to punch away. In the ensuing insanity, Jonathan Walters looked to have sent the ball over the line with a diving header towards a falling Peter Crouch who was on the line for Spurs.

After multiple views using slow motion on a DVR, the ball looks to have crossed the line directly into Crouch’s chest only to bounce back out while the ref allowed play to continue. Michael Dawson eventually cleared for Spurs who were then out of danger with three points to take back to London.

Here is yet another glaring example of why FIFA needs to implement goal-line technology into football in some form or another. Stoke City look to be robbed a point while fans, bloggers, players, refs and the suits at FIFA headquarters raise their curious arms in the air, shrug their shoulders and look dumbly at each other wondering when, if ever something will be done about an obvious problem that remains in football.

Sound familiar? If we have the technology, and the guy on the couch at home knows it was a goal (or in the case of this one - thinks that it was a goal) shouldn't we take the time and the technology and get the call right????

Asked another way, haven't we established that goals are REALLY hard to come by and we should make sure we honor those that actually do happen? My head may explode. This "no replay" bit in soccer has gone on for years and years. Imagine the NFL without it now. Norm and Dale wish it were true. Silly Old people.
Other Notables from Weekend #2 in the Premiership:

- Dropped points from Manchester United at Craven Cottage. I have tried to explain in the past few weeks that to fully process the EPL title race, you need to resist the urge to simply look for losses. The EPL title race is not won or lost based on losses. What separates the top few teams in the EPL title race every year is the number of draws. Seriously. A win is worth 3 points and a draw is only 1. Too many ties and you will drop 2 points each time. Chelsea won the crown last year by 1 point. So, when United drop 2 points at Fulham like they did, you can understand that some followers of theirs are already freaking out this early in the season.

In 2009, Liverpool finished 4 points behind Manchester United for the EPL crown. But, in the 38 matches that constitute a full season, Liverpool lost only 2 matches and United lost 4. So, what was the difference that won ManU the crown? United drew 6 times, Liverpool settled for just 1 point on 11 different occasions. It wasn't the losses, it was the ties.

Anyway, in the match itself, we learned a bit about a man named, Brede Hangeland, the Fulham Norwegian central defender. Late in the match, he scored the terrible own-goal on a deflection that surely crushed his spirit and looked like it gave United the result they so desired. Moments later, already up a goal, United was awarded a penalty kick from a hand ball in the box. But, they missed the PK, and Fulham was still alive. In stoppage time, it was only poetic justice that a corner kick found the head of Hangeland who redeemed himself and earned Fulham a tie with his goal that squeezed into the corner of the United net. A glorious end to a fine 2-2 match.

Here is video of the finish that I recommend you enjoy:

- Chelsea and Arsenal destroy their undermanned opponents. Blackpool found out what the Premiership can really be like as they were lit up at Arsenal. Chelsea continued to make a mockery of their opponents with another 6 goal demolition.

- Manchester City made easy work of Liverpool that both demonstrated the quality on the blue side of Manchester and the chaos that currently strangles the red side of Merseyside. Tom Hicks, please sell this team!

This Weekend's TV Schedule - ALL TIMES EASTERN

Saturday, August 28:
7:45am: Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, ESPN2
10am: Spurs v Wigan, Fox Soccer Channel
10am: Chelsea v Stoke, Fox Soccer Plus and
10am: Blackpool v Fulham, (also shown on delay on Fox Soccer Channel at 9am on Sunday, August 29)
10am: Wolves v Newcastle, (also shown delayed on Fox Soccer Plus at 6pm)
12:30pm: Manchester United v West Ham United, Fox Soccer Channel

Sunday, August 29:
8:30am: Bolton Wanderers v Birmingham City, Fox Soccer Plus and
10am: Sunderland v Manchester City, (also shown delayed on Fox Soccer Plus at 5pm)
10am: Liverpool v West Brom, (also shown delayed on Fox Soccer Plus at 7pm)
11am: Aston Villa v Everton, Fox Soccer Channel

Honestly, not the greatest lineup of matches. I think Arsenal up in the north of England at Blackburn is generally a place where the Gunners could drop points, so that is worth watching. Blackpool at home could be wonderful against Fulham. And Everton at Villa Park is worth your time, too. But, let's be honest, pretty weak lineup and then next week we have nothing because of another international break.


And now, to the email:

Hey Bob,

Maybe a stupid question here, but I was wondering why Spain's La Liga is the most successful league in the UEFA Champions League, when the EPL is considered the best talent in the world? Is it mostly because Real Madrid is so good? Love to hear your thoughts for this soccer newbie.



Ah, the Spain versus England debate. This is a popular discussion in the sport where people try to identify the best league. In Spain, they have arguably the 2 deepest, richest, most talented clubs in the world in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Trouble is, nobody else in Spain is nearly as loaded, and the rest of the country never makes an impact on the world stage or even in the domestic battle for the crown of La Liga. England is thought of having 4 huge clubs, and at least 4 more with some level of deep quality. Perhaps it is a matter of personal preference, but I think England is much more compelling. But, the landscape changes every year, Italy should also be considered, and maybe the tie-breaker is simply the amount of English media that makes following the English league so much easier.

Hey Bob,

Love the show and your blog. I just watched Man U vs Fulham and really enjoyed it. My daughters (12 & 14) are playing select soccer (Solar '98 & Sting '96), but I'm still learning the sport - which is a good thing because I don't act like I know everything, thus I don't "coach" my kid from the sideline or yell at the refs like other soccer parents...but, I digress.

I need to pick my EPL team now! I'd be interested in any input you have on Fulham? One of my children's soccer coach is from London, and he's an Arsenal, I think I am down to these two. Thoughts?


Fulham and Arsenal are both in London. And the similarities stop there. Fulham is a middle of the road club that has virtually no present chance at competing at the highest level. Arsenal is from time to time in the running for the best club in the world. In fact, I was just looking through my ticket stubs the other day and was reminded of the day in February of 2004 when I had a chance to see Arsenal in person (with Spike Lee and the picture I took below)

Arsenal in 2004 was known as the Invincibles as wikipedia wrote: The 2003–04 season was Arsenal Football Club's 12th season in the Premier League, and their 74th consecutive season in the top division of English football. In remarkable fashion, the team from North London managed to go through an entire league campaign undefeated and regain their status as Premiership champions; thus becoming only the second team to do so since Preston North End in 1889. Interestingly, manager Arsène Wenger had predicted in 2002 that his squad was good enough to go unbeaten for an entire season, an accomplishment which he cited as a personal goal of his.

So, long answer, but Fulham is interesting, has a great stadium, and has Clint Dempsey. Whereas Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the World. So, consider those points in making this most important decision.


I don't know if you have ever covered this in a blog, but I am really unfamiliar with the contract and loaning of players. For example, with Man City, King is a great young keeper. Well the papers are talking about now backup Given could go to another team for loan? I don't get it. And like Bellamy to another team, they say he is on his way to Cardiff, s Is this a trade or loan or just outright sell? Then you take the story of Milner from Aston Viilla coming to City but someone is saying there is tampering with all of it....???!!!!

I am trying my best to get into this, but this contract stuff is tough to figure out.... Can you please help with this.. With maybe a blog about it or response.. Cause as of now I ain't gotta clue.

Dano's iPhone

This will require either a long answer or a shorter one. Let me opt for the shorter one here. International soccer has almost no trades. It has no draft. It has almost no free agency. Everything (or 98%) involving the acquiring of players and distribution of talent is a simple and massive game of monopoly. If you have money, you can buy the best players in the world. You do not need to have a good draft spot - there is no draft. There is no benefit to having a lousy season - there is no draft.

So, money buys assets (players) and you get money from selling assets (players). It is really that simple. And if a team wants a player, they can continue to increase your bid until you are compelled to accept it. Sometimes, the money gets stupid. Like when Real Madrid wanted Cristiano Ronaldo. They money-whipped Manchester United until United had to accept it ($132million dollars). This is not his contract. This is his fee that they had to pay to Manchester. Then, they had to come to terms with him on a salary (which is believed to be over $16m per season). As you can tell, this gets expensive.

Loans are another way to keep your investments up like a stock. If you have a goalie that you own, but don't want to play him, nor do you want to sell him - in case you need him down the road - then you loan him out. He plays for a lesser team and maintains his value for future sale with the money coming to you. The team you loan him to must pay his salary and if you want, you can even put conditions on his loan where he cannot play against you.

It is all difficult to process for the American sports fan, but it is actually a system that makes sense once you get used to it.


And now, this week's EPL question of the week from Craig "Junior" Miller:

Craig: I like that Arsenal game. It reminded me of watching OU beat Iowa State 63-3 in the Switzer days. Good times. I don’t understand the offside rule. I think it has something to do with that big box outside the goal box, or where the linesman is standing, but it’s unclear to me.

Bob: Offsides: I could write a really long answer, but watch this and see if it makes sense first

Craig: Doesn’t that rule seem a little silly? It’s like “wait—we can’t have TOO much excitement and scoring, so let’s say if a guy gets past the defense, he’s offside!” How much would that suck in basketball? We would never have a breakaway dunk.

Bob: In some ways, but I guess hockey, football, and soccer all have somewhat similar rules to make sure cherry picking doesn't exist. They don't want guys just hanging out around the goal/endzone. Once the play starts (or ball is kicked) then you can go wherever you want. You must just start the play honestly.

Craig: Ok—the cherry picking thing makes sense, I guess.


Finally, in case you missed it, I leave you with this that I posted a few days back. It is the greatest goal I ever witnessed in person. David Beckham on a glorious pass from Paul Scholes that he chips (without controlling) into the smallest and furthest corner of the net. Amazing skill from both players. Enjoy.


Brandon said...

Instant replay seems strange for this sport though, no? A game with no official timeouts, no water breaks or real rests unless you count the time they get when someone flops and and writhes for the next few minutes until he can get up and then run like nothing ever happened.
Really it should come down to a goal line judge who does nothing but watch plays in the box. Don't they have this? Things can get hairy down near the goal line but nothing like a American football dog pile. Just watch the line from 2 sides. Ball goes over. Hands go up.
Stoke City definitely appeared to have a goal there--but really from the angle you get on the TV it's not irrefutable evidence that theres not just a tiny bit of that ball that doesnt cross the goal line.

long comment with no direction

Mike said...

God I pray they don't enable instant replay like the NFL did. Show me one example of how video replay has improved the NFL experience.
Replay wasn't a big deal until the WC when American's happened to watch a match.
If you think replay is going to magically make folks here in the US like soccer anymore then I'll bet otherwise. Replay isn't the problem, short attention spans and the need for instant gratification is.
You can't fix that.

Sturminator said...

Mike, I would suggest you would be hard pressed to take a comment more out of context. The point is that the history of soccer has many, many examples of near goals called goals and goals called no-goals. In 1-0 matches, you don't find that a significant wrong that can be righted with simple technology? I don't see the American angle to this as much as a simple fix that progress has offered. And if you don't think the NFL has been improved by getting calls right then I don't know how to debate you since reason doesn't appear to have an effect.

Clay said...

Sorry, but I just can't buy the "let's get this one thing on replay" argument. What's next, offsides calls? Reviewing penalties?

The game has no breaks (other than the half) and it should stay that way.

I like the idea of having someone actually watching for it on the line though.

Jon M said...

Mike - The debate about instant replay has been going on LONG before this past World Cup. There are always several controversies every year in club competitions that stoke the debate.

Personally, I think instant replay should be implemented in goal line challenges only. No offside reviews or penalty reviews. It has to be manager initiated and you only get one per game. 90 second cap on review time, like the NFL is supposed to have, which is to added to extra time. Cameras on the goal line.

Either that, or tennis-style review. Lightning quick, booth review, technologically based.

There you go, FIFA. Two easy choices.

Vladimir said...

I am a life long fan and don't have an "American" angle on it outside of knowing how the replay works in the NFL and other leagues, but I am absolutely in favor of some kind of replay or technology help.

Goal line technology, chip in the ball, or whatever it is, is a no brainer to me, especially since this technology exists and has even been tested in some U-XX tournaments if I'm not mistaken, and takes a split second to let the ref know if there was a goal.

Offside calls are the only other area that technology could help with, but those are a lot more tricky. You could potentially disallow a goal scored from an offside after a replay (Argentina goal vs Mexico in the WC), but you could never count a goal scored from a wrongly called offside (Clint Dempsey against Algeria, I think).

I also don't get the FIFA argument that poor countries can't afford it. Can't they just use it in the tournaments that CAN afford it?

Mark said...

Hey Bob,
As a long time soccer fan (I remember the 90's and Fox Sports World/ppv etc) I just wanted to chime in. I def think FIFA should take hawkeye up on their offer for goalline technology but I'm in two minds for instant replay for offsides and actual play, it has to be implimented with out disturbing flow of play and I think that will be real hard to accomplish. The only viable way I can see is if there is a ref in a booth with full powers to signal the ref and whatever he says goes, and I can't see Howard Webb and the like happy with that. Also what do you think of the argument that controversy is good? The hand of god and Englands 66 wc final goal are still talked about and debated. I feel the whole point is to get it right but I do see a little validity in the idea that it creates more discussion, interest etc.
Also, I love you, but will you please stop saying supporting Liverpool isn't front running. You well know your the most successful team in English history, just ask any of your fans. Ever damn song is we won it 5 times, or about 18 titles, although that's been talked about less now that united drew level. But supporting Liverpool is like supporting Boston Celtics in the early 2000's (or even the yankees in the late 80's early 90's), yes you haven't won a title since the 80's but its disingenuous to suggest you aren't one of the big dogs with literally the best history in England, well until Hicks and Gillete ran you into the ground. They are a great club and one to be proud to support (although their fans annoy the hell out of me with their constant paranoia and claims of bias against them) but don't tell those that don't know better that rooting for them is any different than front running. Besides in the 70s and 80s you were Chelsea and United and all fans who grew up in that time period are all Liverpool fans even if the couldn't find the kop with a map. So please stop the claim of innocence.

Sturminator said...


I understand your case, but I am not sure becoming a UCLA basketball fan in 2010 is front running. Sure they have a great history, but when the history is ancient, it is not the same as adopting the Lakers in 2010. Current performance must be considered. The Packers have won 12 NFL Titles, but only 1 since 1967. Is that front running to become a Packers fan in 2010?


Mark said...

Hey Bob,
Fair point, I confused the issue a bit and ruined my own argument. It isn't front running, once all the Chelsea fans become City fans then we will see true front running. And I agree with your old tweets mocking all the Chelsea fans who couldn't name jimmy Floyd H or jesper grojnkaer or giofranco Zola or United fans who don't know even recent guys like Cantona or Jasp Staam or Robson but really my whole point is Liverpool are in the exact same category. You often mock United and Chelsea but Liverpool are in that exact same category of big clubs with fake fans who like the idea of supporting the team more than actually being a fan. You know as well as I do as soon as a billionaire comes in and starts pumping money in Liverpool fans will start coming out of the woodwork. I really do respect the club but their fans are every bit as guilty as any Chelsea, United, and to a lesser extent arsenal. It's the price of success, douchers want to attach themselves to it.
Now more importantly, how are you feeling about Roy in charge? Im skeptical of the Konchesky signing but think Raul M is good signing but I can't help but think a new winger and striker to help Torres is needed but probably not coming. I'm interested in that young Spainard pachecco who scored in the u 20 euros this summer. Love to hear your thoughts

Barrett said...

RE: Fulham v Man U

The Hangeland own goal was one of the better ones I've seen recently. Too bad he was wearing the wrong shirt. Good on him though for getting the equalizer.

The better poetic justice was Nani missing the PK. Damien Duff was a victim of the dumb handball rule when the ball accidentally hit his hand off his knee. It was an obvious handball but no intent was there. A PK is too harsh in that situation.

Chelsea and QPR follower