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Monday, 12 March 2012


In a week where technology giants Apple unveiled a new iPad to shake the world's conventional use of a hand again, Football began another battle with technology and it's uses, it would be almost ironic that in this week of all weeks, that the use of Technology in Football is asked once again.

This Summer, will mark two years since England and Frank Lampard can count themselves unlucky not to score an equaliser in the 4-1 disaster in the 2010 World Cup Second Round against Germany. Although the second half display showed nothing to suggest England deserved to progress, with Football you never know whether had the certain equaliser stood whether England may have completed the comeback. It was from that day that the English media finally started to ask the extremely hard questions on whether technology had to be implemented into football. FIFA continued to deny that they would use it, for several claims. However, they have been lenient in their stance within the last couple of months, suggesting that the next World Cup and upcoming Premier League seasons may have technology tested. However, is it too late?

Technology in Football is a debate that is nothing recent, in fact, when watching Sky Sports', Sky Sports' Years last Spring, hourly programs highlighting Sky's major sporting events within their respective years, I was surprised to see the now defunct Footballer's Football Show in 1991 ask the question whether technology needed to be implemented into football. I'm assured it was no coincidence that editors chose to include this specific clip in the hour, which asks the question, why has it taken so long and so many errors to finally talk Football's chiefs round to even testing such equipment?

Last Saturday, Bolton Wanderers beat Queens Park Rangers in a major clash at the foot of the Barclays Premier League. Should Queens Park Rangers be subsequently relegated, they could lose multi-million pound sums in Television Revenue, Attendance Gates etc. In a club which Mat Hodgson's QPR: Four Year Plan which broadcast last Sunday on BBC2 showed is financially unstable and not arguably set-up for a rapid return to the Premier League should they be relegated, the relegation could be a huge disaster. Every decision a human gets wrong has a seismic effect later on down the road, it is almost equivalent to the cliché “If you kill a butterfly in the past, you could create a nuclear apocalypse in the present.” Whilst some will be quick to crucify referee's and assistants, I, like some others would rather see them aided by available technologies.

There are many elements as to why some people oppose such drastic changes, the usual ones are: “Mistakes are part of the game”, “It would kill the game”, “It would only be used in the high leagues.” Perhaps, mistakes are a major part of the game, however, I'd rather be waking up on a Sunday Morning to my paper's reading headlines of how a great piece of skill won someone the game than another avoidable refereeing decision has cost a team valuable points. Perhaps it would kill the game for time, but rules can be changed, I would not at this present moment advocate technology everywhere, because I think that can destroy a games' fluidity, and you could argue some managers may use it to their tactical advantage. However, it took Sky nearly no time at all to point out that QPR's goal should have stood, surely a referee could deem the ball dead when a contentious decision occurs? When the decision is made, you either start at the centre-circle if it's a goal or as a goal-kick if otherwise. Finally, the money is in the bigger leagues, if Manchester United score a goal against Manchester City, that is more important than if one Blue Square North side scores against the other. I would much rather the top two divisions of at least every major European league and all top level international games have technology than none at all. I'd go as far as every league that can qualify for the UEFA Champions League should have goal-line technology, with funding available to ensure this. It has raged on too long now, it has been a debate that needs to be stopped sooner rather than never.

Those who are not opposed to technology, shall be glad to hear FIFA President Sepp Blatter has changed his stance on the subject after seeing Lampard's 'goal' first hand in 2010 and should testing this month for technology be given a passing mark, we could see technology on the goal-line implemented by the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Whether that's any hope for fans and players of QPR, we don't know and probably wont know the actual affects of the incident on Saturday until May.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Night That Could Have Been

It looked like it would be a night of mass celebration, I was expecting street drinking and mass parties in the Islington area, much like the end scene in 'Fever Pitch', instead, most of us will probably go to bed watching 'Fever Pitch' and thinking of what could have been.
After seven minutes an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain corner was scored by Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal were away. AC Milan looked very unsettled and whilst every commentator and 'expert' in the land were telling me how this is still rather “impossible” I was dancing round my room celebrating and scaring the neighbours.
The referee, it has to be said, had a stinker. Mass Yellow Cards shown to both sides within the first half for first-offences meant that the game's pace slowed. Surprisingly he did not dismiss anyone within the ninety minutes, not even looking at his pocket in the second except for two yellow cards for Milan players: Nocerino and Ibrahimovic.
Arsenal made it look even more possible when a poor clearance from Milan's shaky back four gifted Tomas Rosicky a chance he took perfectly. It was 2-0 Arsenal and less than a third of the game had passed. It looked like it was actually going to be our night.
Milan quickly reverted to keep ball, try and waste the clock but their left back Mesbah had different ideas. An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain run was halted by a foul within the eighteen yard box and a rightful penalty was given after much consideration.
As ever Robin Van Persie converted to make it 3-0, all Arsenal needed was another and no reply and we would get extra time, a fifth and no reply and they were through.
Milan then began to play and young El Shaarawy should have made it 3-1 before Half Time but blazed his one on one wide by some margin. It was a miss that seemed to indicate it was Arsenal's night, it would be Arsenal's night but not their pathway to overall progression.
Arsenal failed to score again second half, their closest chance fell to Robin Van Persie who like fellow Dutchman Dirk Kuyt on Saturday effectively handed it back to the goalkeeper. It was from then on Milan took charge.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to over-stretch early first half leaving him near ineffectual for the rest of his time on the pitch and Theo Walcott also took a knock meaning he would have to go off too. Arsenal brought on both Park and Chamakh to try and nick an equaliser late on, it wasn't to be.
Milan dominated most of the second half but continued to waste chances leaving Szczesny with a clean sheet. Despite their great efforts, Arsenal couldn't find that fourth. It must still go down as a great night in at least Emirates Stadium history despite the overall loss. If Arsenal can continue their great form of late, they must surely be near contenders for third, not only fourth.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Arsenal leave it late, but it remains Great!

In a week where I was too forgetful to put up a post about our fantastic win against Tottenham last Sunday, Arsenal travelled to Anfield to try and continue their near faultless LEAGUE form from the previous month, a run which saw manager Arsene Wenger crowned Manager of the Month by Barclays Premier League judges.
Liverpool themselves had an enjoyable Sunday, winning the League Cup after penalties at Wembley, a stadium some commentators dared call “Anfield South” despite opponents Cardiff making more appearances at the 'New Wembley' themselves. Despite all of Cardiff's might, Liverpool ended their six year trophy drought before Arsenal ended their now seven year drought last Sunday, it would be a test of nerve in a clash where fourth place was still firmly (to steal a phrase from a specific clash at Anfield in 1989) “Up For Grabs”.
Liverpool by far had a better first half, their midfield completely bossed Arsenal's and despite Wenger naming an unchanged team from last week's 5-2 thriller against Tottenham it didn't seem to have much effect on many players ahead of the back five.
Despite my theory that Liverpool would not choose to attack Arsenal and would rather sit-back and score late on as they have done in the last few meetings, they did in fact press Arsenal high up the pitch and if it wasn't for the goalkeeper, the post and their own poor finishing could have been leading by several goals by Half-Time.
The most controversial moment of the game was yet again dominated by Uruguayan Luis Suarez. Not one to shy away from controversy this season, Suarez flung himself to the floor just outside the six yard box to win Liverpool a first half penalty. No punishment was given to Woijciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal and justice seemed to be done when he pulled off a miraculous double-save to deny Dirk Kuyt twice, first the penalty and then the rebound.
Despite his wondrous efforts and some good defending from surely our first choice back four, it could not stop Laurent Koscielny blasting the ball into his own net and scoring Liverpool's first goal for them. It was a bit of good fortune for Liverpool whose midfield had indefinitely outclassed Arsenal's in the first half but some misfortune for Arsenal's defenders who had performed well up to that point.
Arsenal still equalised before half-time much like in the game last weekend, a great cross from right-back landed square on the head of Robin Van Persie who shrugged off Jamie Carragher to get Arsenal on terms. It was arguably the only shining light in a first half which could have ended worse for Arsenal if it wasn't for Szczesny and the goalpost.
The second half was a lot more brighter for Arsenal, Abou Diaby made his long-awaited return for Mikel Arteta who inadvertently clattered into Jordan Henderson and was badly concussed. Diaby himself limped off with an alleged hamstring injury before the end of the game. Diaby changed Arsenal's midfield fortune and Liverpool weren't quite as dominating in the second forty-five of the game although they still dominated the overall attempts by the conclusion of the game, especially corners in which Arsenal lost a staggering 14-0.
However, corners do not win a game as Arsenal proved. The Arteta stoppage allowed a record eight minutes of injury time and whilst some sceptics remembered last season's debacle at the Emirates where Arsenal scored a penalty in the last minute only to be denied a win in the last embers by Lucas' claim after being tripped by now departed full-back Emmanuel Eboue. Alex Song and Robin Van Persie came up with the goods scoring two minutes into the eight minute injury time.
Liverpool failed to take any advantage of the lengthy stoppage giving them chance to equalise and despite bringing on Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll late on didn't threaten the Arsenal goal again whilst Arsenal kept the ball mainly in Liverpool's half.
It was no doubt a plucky victory for Arsenal, a very defensive display, a display if anything I'd have expected Liverpool to give. Although not a great attacking display, it was a very successful defensive one in which Liverpool relied on Arsenal to score for them.
The game was marred by the end by Sky's 'punditry' in which instead of discussing the game they went onto discuss Robin Van Persie's contract. I'm all for a bit of talk about Van Persie's contract situation, but can we save it for the forums and papers? Especially after we've won a game. It would be very cliché and controversial to suggest Sky bypassed discussing the game to keep Jamie Redknapp from crying his eyes out as the team he spent eleven seasons at completely capitulated within the stoppage time. I'll just leave that for the Twitter gossip.