Let’s get this out of the way first of all. VAR, idolised the night before, found itself as welcome as dog turd you stepped on without realising. Interrupting a last-ditch Manchester United corner, VAR invited the man on the pitch to review the incident.
Said man probably thought this is a waste of time until VAR reminded him of the UEFA briefing he attended. We know he was there because the BT commentator said he was there and saw the ref. The relevance of this is that one of the points made was that jumping to block a shot with your arms away from the body would be treated as deliberately making your body bigger and thus treated as deliberate handball.
So, VAR got it right under that guidance. The referee got it right under that guidance. All is good in the world again.
Whether the guidance is right in the first place is another matter. It’s tremendously difficult to jump without your arms getting flailing; they are effectively in a natural position, offering balance while in the air. However, you can see why UEFA consider it making the body bigger; it does and offers an unfair advantage to the defender. Would I interpret the rules as they have? I haven’t thought about it but there’s a strong case for accepting that.
I’ll add a caveat: so long as it is interpreted consistently…
Rennes Preview: Striking A Balance
Onto more important matters. Arsenal are in Rennes, clearing out their rooms at their four-star hotel rooms having eaten their full English breakfast or their breakfast full of English ingredients. All the comforts of home with every expense spared. Enos’ memorandum is already winging its way to Football Operations: nothing wrong with the players staying in an IBIS hotel – make it happen.
Alexandre Lacazette’s suspension solves one selection headache: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads the line and according to the Spaniard, is still the #1 penalty taker. The next one will be rifled into the net unless he has plenty of ‘chutzpah’ and rocks up with a Panenka.
Emery’s biggest task is balancing the need to progress in this competition with Sunday. Lacazette’s ban solves one problem in that respect. Lucas Torreira’s domestic suspension works similarly; he plays tonight. Given Matteo Guendouzi accompanied the head coach to the press conference, he starts.
Therein is Emery’s choice: balance. In an ideal world, Xhaka is rested along with Koscielny and Monreal. One half-decent player in key areas of the pitch. The trade-off is Mustafi back in the centre of defence but I can live with that for one night only.
Balance is the key for this evening. A host of changes means a dysfunctional team with the key avoiding the disjointed performance that often brought in the past. Essentially, anything to win.
It’s The Time of the Season
Rennes are well-rested thanks to the FFF postponing their fixture. Unlike the “über-winner” in charge at Tottenham, Unai Emery essentially said it is what it is and we get on with it. When I heard Pochettino’s whine that Dortmund had an advantage having played on Friday night, I wondered what message that sent to the players. 3 – 0 up from the first leg, he didn’t have confidence in them to defend that kind of lead.
That’s before you question the mentality of a coach who whines about the situation when his side is 3 – 0 ahead. No wonder none of the big clubs
Tonight ought to see Denis Suarez play 90 minutes. I understand the lack of match fitness when he arrived from Barcelona but given he trained every day, it that sharpness he must rediscover and the Europa League is the ideal place to do that. If he doesn’t start this evening, the prospects of his joining in the summer suddenly look very dim.
On the opposite flank, I’d expect youth to be given a chance ordinarily but tonight is the ideal moment for Mesut Özil to prove consistency in his form and put himself in contention for a starting place on Sunday. Not that I think he will. That
Cech; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Elneny, Torreira; Suarez, Aubameyang,Özil
Solid enough to not lose, I think, but also capable of a 2 – 0 win.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.