On Matteo & the Midfield, Champions League & Corruption

That ray of sunshine in your life called Arsenal FC? There’s a black cloud headed in its’ direction and it’s called Ray Parlour.

They call him a ‘bubbly character’ but when it comes to discussing Arsenal’s title hopes, he was absolutely realistic: we aren’t going to win it.

Of course we’re not; I don’t think anyone seriously believes we will. But after recent years, the last decade, let us have a little joy in the sun. We’ll come crashing down to earth soon enough; that’s the Arsenal Way, offering a glimmer of hope and then smashing it into little pieces.

Honestly, I don’t think we’d have it any other way. Tweaked a little, maybe…

The Heil reports we’re after renewing Matteo Guendouzi’s contract and offering him a new deal worth £70k per week. That seems fairly standard for a first-team regular. Can’t wait for the op-ed in tomorrow’s Heil which claims he’s doing an English player out of a job and Brexit will sort him out. Probably be written by Mrs Michael Gove.

For once, Steve Stammers is wonderfully understated. Or the sub-ed is; Guendouzi is a “useful asset” we’re told. He is part of the midfield conundrum Unai Emery faces: who to pick?

Of the midfielders picked so far this, only Granit Xhaka hasn’t performed well. I know people think I pick on him and yes, I know some think he’s brilliant. He isn’t.

Socrates was a brilliant central midfielder. So too Roberto Baggio, Danielle De Rossi, and Andrea Pirlo. Closer to home, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Cesc as well, provided you ignore the rodent qualities he developed. These are players who were brilliant.

Xhaka is some way off that, even on a good day.

There is a but coming: it isn’t all down to him…

That’s a Fairly Big But

It isn’t. Granit Xhaka isn’t a defensive midfielder but that’s frequently the role he is tasked with. He’s not fast enough and unlike Bobby Moore, doesn’t read the game well enough to make up for that.

Lucas Torreira is much more of what we need in that role. Scurrying, tackling, breaking the game up; it’s not Xhaka’s natural game and I don’t think these are skills easily learned.

Which puts him in direct competition for a place in the side with Ceballos, Guendouzi and Ozil. Willock, AMN and Smith Rowe can be added to that list for next season. That’s a lot of competition and I’ve yet to see Xhaka consistently put himself down as the first name on the midfield teamsheet.

All of them have their faults. The youngsters are still learning while Ozil hasn’t tackled anything since he was a youngster. Even then the wet paper bag got away unscathed; it isn’t his game.

Guendouzi still hits the turf too easily, for example. If Dinosaur Dyche were upset at one man, it might be him although I doubt Sean the Stegosaurus could pinpoint one incident; sling enough mud and it sticks. Eventually.

That’s just an example. None are perfect but the energy of the youngsters is something we need more of in my view and it isn’t something Xhaka brings.

He does have the experience to counter that although like everyone in a red and white shirt, he suffers from brain farts. No-one is perfect. I just think there are better fits.

Which is a long way of saying Guendouzi is doing well, deserves a new deal although structuring it into bonuses might be something worth considering? The new Arsenal and all that.

Backdoor Super League? Of Course It’s Sneaky: UEFA Is Involved

Sitting as we are joint-top of the table, changes to the Champions League are of interest. Until we slide into Europa League obscurity for while.

One of the options UEFA is considering for the new Champions League is four groups of eight, with the bottom two then replaced in the knockout phase by the Europa League semi-finalists. The remaining four places will be decided by a “pre-tournament knockout phase will take place between teams who performed well in their domestic league.”

So the Indescribablyboring claims.

The readers of this blog are intelligent people and note that 4 + 4 = 8 which leaves 24 teams unaccounted for. That’s because they are already decided; the 24 are those who deserve to be in the competition, not on merit but on how well they performed in previous Champions League.

I doubt the benchmark will be their ‘on the pitch’ achievements; this has their contribution to marketing revenues written all over it. Will Arsenal benefit? Assuming the four-clubs per nation rule continues, there’s more merit in us being one of the 24 than Spurs on that basis, for example.

I’ll stop there; it’s all I need to think about if the Champions League goes down that route.

If it sounds like a fiendish plan concocted in the laboratory of a mad professor, you’re not far off; this is UEFA, experts in creating a monster which destroys the notion of sporting competition while wearing a St. Pauli t-shirt because it’s achingly hip. More hip than the hipster wearing a Dortmund 1975 retro top.

As per usual, it’s a terrible idea. Beyond crap. The ideal structure for European competitions was a pure knockout tournament; three of them, in fact. One for the champions only; one for domestic cup winners and one for everyone else.

Achingly Beautiful But Destroyed By Vile Hands

There is room in that set-up for the fourth tournament which is coming soon. A UEFA Cup for the smaller nations. European football for everyone.

It’s what they had until a marketing shill decided that the champions needed more football in an already crowded calendar. Did they insist on cutting the top flights of each league to eighteen or fewer clubs? Did they heck as like.

This is driven by money and every decision is made for money’s sake. Sporting competition died in football when seeding was introduced. That simply stopped the big clubs exiting the competitions in round one. Television paid the money and became the piper. Football’s administrators simply morphed into rodents who preferred eating each other on the way to power.

No administrator at national or international level is a guardian of the game. They are leeches, sucking the lifeblood from football in the same dreadful manner as club owners. Football, always as a status symbol, is just a rich man’s toy.

And when the rich man gets bored or proves to be a pauper in disguise, the club, the fans, staff and players suffer. Just ask those at Bolton Wanderers and Bury. David Conn’s tweet yesterday summed it up:

This isn’t all about the Premier League leeching money or not sharing enough but that’s where it began. The real issues at Bolton and Bury are rogue owners. Someone always bails out a football club, don’t they?

Is this the time they don’t?

’til Tomorrow.

58 thoughts on “On Matteo & the Midfield, Champions League & Corruption

  1. Damon says:

    That’s scary quick JG

    YW post is ten mins ago and you’re showing at winning the daily race at 12 mins

    Do you own a Dellorian by chance?

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  2. jonnygunner says:

    Damon:
    That’s scary quick JG

    YW post is ten mins ago and you’re showing at winning the daily race at 12 mins

    Do you own a Dellorian by chance?

    Actually Damon-my can is a Renault Trafic…its 5 metres long and I can still turn it round quicker than Mustafi..

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  3. Michael says:

    JG
    Your emoji looks like a cowboy, and you are a builder…hmmm.

    They can ponce around with the CL all they like, I haven’t watched it in years, and unless we are playing that will continue.
    As you suggest it’s a money over any other consideration. It’s a competition which has lost any appeal to me for the lack of competition.

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  4. jonnygunner says:

    YW,

    Truth is YW…..I checked my phone for messages as I’ve been using an angle grinder(I live in the fast lane…..)and as I was reading my texts your email popped up….at that very second.
    Luck…as they say…way more than judgement!

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  5. jonnygunner says:

    Michael:
    JG
    Your emoji looks like a cowboy, and you are a builder…hmmm.

    They can ponce around with the CL all they like, I haven’t watched it in years, and unless we are playing that will continue.
    As you suggest it’s a money over any other consideration. It’s a competition which has lost any appeal to me for the lack of competition.

    It is a cowboy-it makes me chuckle.
    I’m no builder…I’m a kitchen and bathroom fitter(multi trade).
    There is a difference….2mm (in my favour)!….that always upsets builders!

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  6. Bill says:

    Great post yogi

    Happy to see us extend Guendouzi’s contract. He is probably not going to win many matches but he plays with energy and every team needs a few good role players. He also has great hair.

    I have seen some complaining about the VAR decision in the Man City/Spurs games but they got the call right. How in the world can anyone complain about getting the right decision? If it had been Arsenal who lost a game because of a decision that was later proved wrong by the replays then we would have been screaming bloody murder and everyone would have been complaining about ref incompetence and making ridiculous claims about anti-Arsenal bias or ref conspiracies.

    We can’t have it both ways. Either we want the calls to be correct and VAR is the only realistic option or we have to accept that without VAR there are going to be major mistakes that decide games and stop complaining about refs and making crazy claims about bias because its inevitable that sometimes we are going to be on the wrong end of those mistakes.

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  7. Damon says:

    Bill,

    In cricket, we have a system of reviewing LBW that incorporates a system that, in a close situation, gives the decision as “Umpires Call”.

    This means that the system says it’s going with the on field decision

    This allows for the system to be marginally wrong, and keeps the pitch officials on their toes. I’d like to see something similar in football. It would mean we wouldn’t have to roll the footage back and forth 19,000 times from 18 different angles to see if someone’s toenail was on or off side.

    Run it through, it’s really close, we’re going with the onfield boys call. 10 seconds, max. Move on

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  8. C says:

    Bill,

    If your going to take that logic than Citeh should have had a stone cold penalty on 2 seperate corners when their players were tackled to the ground.

    Also, its nit VAR, its the rule. You can’t have a law rhat states if the ball touches an attackers arm/hand (do you really think the Citeh player knew anything about that ball hitting his hand?) to make a goal or set up a goal but the same law ALSO states that if the ball hits the defenders arm/hand and sets up a goal or makes a goal then its fine. Furthermore, in 2 other PL matches this season therw hasn’t been cinsistency with that call.

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  9. Adam Singh says:

    I was googling xhaka’s stats and apparently our win rate with him last season was 75% and 33% without. No idea if that’s accurate but if I had to pick my midfield theee it would be xhaka, Torreira and Cellabos.

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  10. Mark Mywords says:

    Guendouzi is 20 years old. That’s right he is a kid.
    Bearing in mind the impact and progress he has made and is making, I think that’s quite remarkable. When I have to read the nonsense coming from pundits and some fans, who expect him to perform like a seasoned international, I have to wonder what people use for brains.

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  11. Bill says:

    Damon

    I don’t know about the review system in cricket but there is no doubt that VAR is going to have some growing pains and hopefully the system will be smoothed out with time.

    To me you can’t let calls that are mistakes for complete game changing moments stand when the whole world knows they were mistakes and we have a way to fix the mistake. 20 years ago we had no idea how many mistakes were being made. Letting mistakes stand gives the conspiracy theorists all the ammunition they need and ultimately it calls the integrity of game and everyone involved into question. How many thousands of times have we as Arsenal fans complained about how we got screwed by a bad call and look at all the crap that untold Arsenal has been spouting for years about refs cheating us. 90% of our fans actually believe that we consistently get are on the wrong end of a lot more missed calls then we benefit from and every year it costs us points. I think that is utter rubbish but VAR with all of its warts is the only realistic option we have to get most of game changing calls correct.

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  12. jw1 says:

    Hardly blame Matteo for his ease-to-ground on Saturday. He was kicked hard and often last season (as was Torriera). Rather look at it as him learning a hard lesson.

    Honestly think that UE played Guendousi with Willock (instead of Lucas)– as MG could better take the beating Burnley would be doling-out. Details seem to bear me out on that one.

    Wasn’t too pleased with some of the MG / JW chaos in MF. But the stature in MF of Torriera/Willock/Ceballos was a bit too small to brawl.

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  13. Bill says:

    C

    Your idea of what is a stone cold penalty and someone else’s idea are very different. You and a lot of fans have strong tendency to see what you want to see with penalty decisions and that is just part of human nature.

    We having been talking about this for years but the rules of the game are nebulous and nothing can change that. With almost every penalty or potential penalty there is disagreement even after watching dozens of ultra slow motion multiangle replays. Nothing can ever change that which means there will always be some level of inconsistency. However, VAR can at least bring consistency and fix the error in cases of clear cut no doubt mistakes.

    You can’t review every play and if we reviewed every single play that someone thinks might be a penalty then we would have 10X as many game stoppages for review so you have to draw the line somewhere. However, to me it makes sense that you have to review every goal.

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  14. Pete the Thirst says:

    The British Press do have some great names:

    David Conn – Specialises in (football) finances and corruption
    Steve Stammers – Better at writing than he is at talking
    John Cross – Moody when reminded of duff predictions (Arteta)
    Steve Curry – Full of hot tips (well he used to be)

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  15. Bill says:

    I think they should review every goal and every penalty awarded and then give the managers 2 challenges per game so if he thinks a penalty should have been awarded then he can ask for a review.

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  16. Damon says:

    Bill,

    Trouble is mate, that a lot of this is open to how you interpret the rules, or see things in the replay. As you say here…

    Your idea of what is a stone cold penalty and someone else’s idea are very different. You and a lot of fans have strong tendency to see what you want to see with penalty decisions and that is just part of human nature.

    I don’t think VAR makes any decision an open and closed case. Anything but

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  17. Bill says:

    Damon

    You are absolutely correct and there is no technology that can change that. The nebulous rules are part of the game we have to live with and nothing can change that. However, there are a lot of mistakes which are clear cut mistakes such as offsides or some hand ball decisions or the case where if you have the correct camera angle its a completely obvious dive and those mistakes can be fixed. Even in some of debatable cases seeing the multiangle replays will give the refs a 75% chance of getting the right answer instead of having a 50/50 coin flip chance they have now and that is valuable. No?

    VAR is not perfect but that does not mean we should throw it out.

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  18. Bill says:

    Look on U tube for the play that Eboue won the free kick against Barca in the 06 CL final that lead to our goal. In real time it looked like a foul but with the proper camera angle it was one of the more blatant dives I have ever seen. That sort of thing happens a lot because a play often looks completely different if you have the wrong viewing angle. If there is a penalty awarded against us on play that is a blatant dive would you really want it to stand when we have a way to correct the mistake?

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  19. Bill says:

    Go to u tube and type Eboue dive into the search function and it will bring up the play I am talking about. A lot of people would call that ref incompetence which I think is complete rubbish because it looked for all the world like a foul from the angle the ref and the TV viewers saw it in real time. Mistakes like that are unavoidable and they happen all the time. I understand the VAR is not perfect but I honestly have trouble understanding why anyone would be against using the technology to correct those sort of mistakes.

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  20. C says:

    Bill,

    Question for you: if VAR and the subsequent rules are making things so black and white, then why does there seem to be actually more debate about not only the decision against Citeh but all of the decisions?

    A Citeh player was tackled and Dixon’s response was penalty yet VAR did nothing then again, during the Men’s and Women’s World Cup we are all told its a penalty…..explain.

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  21. C says:

    Bill,

    Your also missing the fact that the rules and laws of the game are actually being changed and adapted for VAR.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  22. Bill says:

    Football should standardize its rules and the use of VAR and the interpretation of the rules in all competitions and until that happens there will always be difference in the way plays are called between different leagues and in international vs league games. That has nothing to do with VAR.

    No technology can make every call 100% black and white because the rules of the game are nebulous and again that is not VAR’s fault nor is it something VAR can fix. No system will ever be perfect but that does not mean you “throw out the baby with the bath water”. There are certainly plenty of incorrect calls calls that come very close to black and white. The Eboue dive is the perfect example. Mistaken offsides calls are other examples. Those sort of non-controversial mistaken calls can be easily fixed with VAR.

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  23. Bill says:

    If its still a 50/50 call even after reviewing the VAR then the call of the field stands. However, if there is clear cut evidence that the call was a mistake then you overturn it. That seems very straightforward and again I have difficulty understanding why anyone would want a call that is clearly a mistake to stand.

    IMO. If VAR is the reason the rules are being changed to make them less nebulous and decrease the number of controversial calls then that is good for the game. I can’t believe any of us really wants a game decided because of a call that is a 50/50 coin flip. Why not alter the rules to make them less nebulous and decrease the number of uncertain and controversial calls?

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  24. Bill says:

    C

    I would guess that a majority of the regulars on Yogi’s blog think the ref’s are incompetent and a similar number firmly believe that Arsenal consistently get hurt a lot often then they are helped by bad calls. I am 100% certain that a majority of the fans of every football team believe their team gets hurt more often then the rest of the league by bad decisions. It truly baffles me that anyone who really believes their team is getting hurt by refs and bad calls would be against VAR.

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  25. YW says:

    bill

    Name a good referee? Let’s put it into context. Not one PGMO official was considered competent enough to referee at the 2018 World Cup.

    So, that’s Fifa telling the English game that their referees are not good enough.

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  26. YW says:

    The handball law was definitely changed for VAR. The fundamental problem with this one in particular is the accidental nature of what is now an offence. Also, it’s a one-sided law. Attackers are punished but there’s no corresponding defensive foul.

    I’d expect that law to be either amended to meet ‘natural justice’ requirements or more likely, be binned next summer.

    Which other laws were changed to suit VAR?

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  27. Bill says:

    Yogi

    To me the idea that the entire ref fraternity is incompetent seems very hard to accept. No way to prove it either way but I think the more likely explanation is that the refs have not changed but now we know just how many calls that have been missed over the years.

    I don’t know what the final law will look like but the handball rule had to be changed. Any rule that requires the ref to be a mind reader and determine a players intent is utterly ridiculous. If our criteria for a ref is we expect him to consistently make the correct call when he probably does not have the best angle and is only given a split and then even worse he is expected to know a players intent then there is not a ref in the history of world football who we consider competent because IMO no ref could ever do that.

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  28. Bill says:

    Yogi

    If you really believe that all of the PL refs are incompetent then it seems illogical to be against VAR. VAR is certainly not perfect but its one of the only tools we have which can at least partially insulate us from their incompetence.

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  29. C says:

    Bill,

    Mate, another question for you: if VAR is supposed to come in and help make decisions for clear and obvious reasons, then why does it take several mins for situations to be reviewrd and decisions to be made?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  30. Bill says:

    I think it was Ellen White who had a goal disallowed on VAR review in the womens World Cup because of a handball. I don’t know for sure but I doubt the handball was intentional, however, the ball hitting her arm is the reason she was able to control the ball and score. That goes against the whole spirit of the game and just because she did not try to use her arm and it happened so fast and the ref did not see does not mean the goal should stand. IMO. Whenever you have a rule that leaves it up to a judgement call by a ref then you will have consistent inconsistency and chaos no matter who is the ref. Look at what happens with pass interference in American football.

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  31. Bill says:

    C

    I have no idea why it takes so long. Hopefully they will improve with time. To expect it to run perfectly smoothly in the first couple of season is unrealistic.

    If we really believe all refs are incompetent then the best possible way to decrease the chance of an incompetent ref making a bad call is to eliminate subjectivity in how the call should be made. If you simplify the way the handball rule is interpreted then its much less likely the ref will screw up the call.

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  32. YW says:

    I never said I was against VAR 🙂

    TBH, I have no issue with it. There are bound to be teething problems but over the course of this season, we’ll see it get quicker in usage. I think Leicester vs Wolves was the exception and lessons were learned.

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  33. YW says:

    Bill

    Incompetent is such a dramatic term. They make mistakes at every level of the game, from parks to Premier League.

    However, the current crop is not good enough. The point I made about FIFA is entirely relevant. Did the PGMOL make changes to personnel as a reaction? No. Did they improve training or procedures? Not visibly.

    There’s too much secrecy surrounding the officials and how their bosses work for anyone to believe it is the best it can be. So, how can anyone defend them when even the governing body doesn’t rate them?

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  34. YW says:

    Pass interference? Wasn’t there an almighty fuck up in one of the divisional finals last year? And NFL is experienced with video refs.

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  35. Ferkov says:

    YW:
    bill

    Name a good referee? Let’s put it into context. Not one PGMO official was considered competent enough to referee at the 2018 World Cup.

    So, that’s Fifa telling the English game that their referees are not good enough.

    Mikey boy. He is always certain. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him be the first ref to ignore VAR.

    Taking my tongue out of my cheek, I would hope that ricochets like the citeh goal should be allowed sensible interpretation by a qualified professional… well that’s that screwed

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  36. Bill says:

    Yogi

    You’re right, you never did say you were against VAR. The fact that none of the English refs being chosen for the World Cup certainly argues in favor of your contention that they are not very good. I

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  37. Bill says:

    YW:
    Pass interference? Wasn’t there an almighty fuck up in one of the divisional finals last year? And NFL is experienced with video refs.

    Before last season pass interference was not a call that could be reviewed but because of that screw up they have changed the rule and now pass interference is reviewable.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  38. Bill says:

    Yogi

    The thing I don’t understand is why someone would complain about the refs and still be against VAR. To me that does not make much sense.

    C:

    It looks like Eddie is at the right level to help him develop. He is off to a great start but as we have seen that can be misleading. If he does well this year then may be a loan to another PL club next season and then if he passes that test it might be the right time for him to take over for Auba however, its way to early to be thinking about that.

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  39. freddo says:

    Surely, the real choice is between Luis and Xhaka. No point having both in the team. They both rely upon being able to find a pocket of space at the back and stroking a long ball (which Luis does better, anyway). You don’t need two quarterbacks. Xhaka brings nothing else to the table.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  40. C says:

    Bill,

    Developing at Leeds under Bielsa is as good as developing under most PL managers mate. Loaning him out this year and then having him as CF3 next season is the ideal situation because there will be plenty of matches plus, hopefully, Mhkitaryan will be sold and he can play on both the wing and at CF. This would actually keep Aubameyand and Lacazette freshier.

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  41. Ferkov says:

    Zapacosta signed for Roma.
    So unless they are desperate for EPL rejects, i hope the team have more irons in the fire to offload Chuckles

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  42. Bojangles says:

    VAR is used after a goal is scored. If the ball touches a defenders hand the goal stands. If there is no goal there is no VAR, so unless the ref sees the ball hit the defenders hand and calls a penalty how can VAR come into it.
    If you called on VAR for every goalmouth incident that the attacking team appealed for the game really would slow down.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  43. jonnygunner says:

    Bill: Excellent idea. From a great mind like yours comes great wisdom.

    Is there a bloody post today YW?….or is your single kidney playing you up ?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  44. Dukey says:

    Elneny and Mustafi being shown the door by Emery. Let’s hope they can find their way out of it eh .

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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