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The Importance of Sport (NEW CONCEPTS)
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Mick Harper
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Rottenham 2 Man City 0
I don't care what the pundits say, if you're on the wrong end of a 22-4 shot count at home, you're not going to win anything. What a beautiful linesman on the far side.

Newcastle 0 Chelsea 2
"Did his shove cause the own goal?" What kind of a question is that? If he shoved him, it's a foul. End of.

Villa 1 Brighton 2
If Trezeguet wasn't kicked at the end how would he know to go down? You can't work it out instantaneously. The rolling-round and the is-this-death-I-see-before-me expression were worth a card though. An Equity card.

Man Utd 1 West Brom 0
Every week I say, "I didn't know West Brom got promoted."
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Wile E. Coyote


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Jose doesn't give a fig about stats. His understanding is based on critical moments.
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Mick Harper
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That was the pundits' view and has a certain plausibility in a defend-like-tigers, breakaway-like-cheetahs sort of way. Atletico Madrid have used this model for years. But Atletico would never permit their opponents twenty-two shots. All right if they're desperation efforts from outside the box but there's no way Jose can rely on a game plan that involves the other side waltzing around in the penalty area and scoring five on another day.
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Grant



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Thought it funny that the expected goals was about 1.6 City and 0.6 Spurs but no commentator mentioned it. In fact I’ve never heard anyone mention XG even though it’s shown after every single match in Match of the Day. It’s almost like Shearer and Lineker realise that as soon as they actually mention it someone will replace them with a much cheaper stats geek.
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Mick Harper
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I have often wondered why they persist with this too. And I suppose these two. Even when it was introduced there was no attempt to explain how it is arrived at though, if legitimate, it is clearly a better stat than the actual score. We could then have an alternative league table based on truth rather than happenstance.

More generally there is clearly an 'editorial line' bashed out ahead of time on MoTD. And usually based on the score-line, with the snippets edited to support it. It would not do for the pundits to disagree as happened with Belgium vs England when the panel was full of 'England played well, especially that second half showing' only to be corrected by the glowering Roy Keane, "Yeah, when Belgium were two up and coasting."

More more generally, if only the Brits had a quarter of the indefatigability of the Yanks when it comes to sport on TV. And elections. And hand guns.

Late result: Wyatt Earp All Stars 2.7 Clancy Bros 0.9
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Mick Harper
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Fulham 2 Everton 3
A new entry in our "it's a pen all day long because the defender was defending" catalogue. It's a give and go in the area and the 'defender runs across Loftus-Cheek's path', they collide, down he goes, 'there's not much doubt it's a penalty' [all quotes courtesy of Martin Keogh]. But the defender was running towards the ball, that's his job, isn't it, Martin? Didn't you used to do that? He wasn't running across anybody's path, there is only one path between him and the ball.

If forwards want to play intricate wall passes in a crowded box it is their job to avoid peripatetic defenders. But, no, once more defenders have to look around, compute everybody's intersecting vectors, make sure one of them is not going to occupy the same space as himself at any time during the procedure because if one of them might, it's his cardinal duty to stand stock still and let the forward through on goal. Mind you, Fulham missed the pen so it was the right thing to do. You have to factor in muddy penalty spots in your decision-making.

Leeds 0 Arsenal 0
I can now declare the Arteta era over, even if it takes the hierarchy another year to actually do the deed. This game illustrated the difference between a good manager and a bad manager. Leeds are a gimcrack patchwork but they played the Fancy Dans off the park. Arteta has had a year and a window to get his house in order and he hasn't. Not even by the standards of 'it's a work in progress'. The Great Fire of London was a work in progress and look how that turned out. Luvverly. But under new management. ... er the old management. Enough with the strained historical analogies, Arteta must go.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Grant wrote:
Thought it funny that the expected goals was about 1.6 City and 0.6 Spurs but no commentator mentioned it. In fact I’ve never heard anyone mention XG even though it’s shown after every single match in Match of the Day. It’s almost like Shearer and Lineker realise that as soon as they actually mention it someone will replace them with a much cheaper stats geek.


Both Son and Kane score more goals than expected goals. Jose therefore is not too bothered with possession, or number of shots. Man City strikers score at the rate of XG. The problem for Jose is fitness of these two players. Jose lost both last year, as he insists on overplaying players who outperform their stats.
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Mick Harper
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Great minds think alike. I was going to write a piece about Man City strikers yesterday, so now I will. They all get raved about but this is entirely because the vastly expensive City machine sets up chance after chance. My mum would be in the fifteen-a-season range if she'd ever been considered for a starting spot. As soon as the likes of Sterling have to play in an ordinary team e.g. England, they are exposed as very run-of-the-mill.

But this seems to bamboozle City managers as well because while in every transfer window they spend billions on even more full backs, even more anonymous hardworking midfielders, they never go out and buy a real biggie goal-scorer. It's always a doofer. Such is the way football is structured, i.e. one goal is often decisive, they continue to be there or thereabouts rather than win-everything-every-year.

They'll get Messi at the end of the season only to find he's a Bale.
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Mick Harper
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Rennes 1 Chelsea 2

One for Justice Cocklecarrot. It's one-all, ninetieth minute, Giroud powers it past the goalie. A defender standing on the line punches the ball upwards but unavailingly, it still goes in, two-one Chelsea. How is that not a red card?
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Mick Harper
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Can you envisage a sport where it is better not to score than to score? That's the position in American football when, because of the exigencies of 'stopping the clock', and you are in the lead towards the end of a game, somebody can approach the try-line but will stop inches short, and go down in a heap rather than score a touchdown. That way the clock will run out while your side play out the next sequence of downs. If you score, the clock will be stopped, the ball will go to the other side who might go on and win. The other week somebody forgot to do this in a moment of exuberance despite his team-mates hollering at him, and his team ended up losing.

Etymological note: American football has borrowed the concept of the touchdown from British rugby but they don't touch it down, they just have to cross the line while carrying the ball. The British call it a try but have to touch it down.
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Mick Harper
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Brighton 1 Liverpool 1

That pen. Discuss. For a foul to be committed there must be either intent or negligence. If an opponent has the ball, you commit an offence either by playing the man before the ball or (now) by playing the ball and endangering the man. But what is the situation when the opponent does not have the ball, when it is a loose ball, and Robertson and Welbeck are going for it? Yes, Robertson's foot arrives a microsecond after Welbeck's but where is the intent? Welbeck's foot was struck but he was not endangered. You might as well say Welbeck was hazarding himself by trying to kick the ball knowing Robertson would be trying to do so as well. Again we have the familiar post-VAR situation that, in order to do his job, a defender has to work out imponderables unknowable to mortal man and do it in an instant.

Still justice was achieved. That Brighton, some team. That Liverpool, midweek wonders only. Jurgen is correct: if they have to play at midday on the Saturday after a Wednesday Euro-game because of television demands, they should be allowed sixteen men on the pitch.
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Grant



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It was surely a quid pro quo for the penalty up the other end, which is the sort of decision VAR should have put an end to.
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Mick Harper
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It should not be forgotten that the whole idea of 'a footballing offence' is uncontroversial because it doesn't normally lead to very much -- just a change in possession. It is only the penalty that gets scrutinised. Referees understand this and make decisions in the old way everywhere else, i.e. by gut instinct, and nobody gives a monkeys. Once in the area they penalise on the basis of "I'll have to blow up just in case." And the VARman will do it for them if they don't. In theory, they should cancel each other out leaving sanity to reign, but more often than not it doubles up. There are now two judges and no jury.

One solution is to adopt the cricket solution: no appeal from the man in the booth and the man in the booth to be properly schooled on the meaning of 'only when a clear error has been committed'. That way every time anything happens the game won't go into stasis while the whole world waits nervously for a possible VAR inquest. The VARman will know better than to say 'owt and the rest of us can forget about him for eighty-nine minutes.
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Grant



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I wonder if the VAR referee should be shown two replays only at normal speed. If you need a slow-motion close-up it can’t be clear and obvious
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Mick Harper
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Not a bad wheeze but then why not let the ref see it on the big screen in real time once (or twice) when the VARman has pressed his buzzer, to make a definitive decision? Except now you are assuming the VARman can determine anything has even happened in real time, and this would depart from the original rationale of VAR, which is to apply the strict letter (and inch) to the law. "To get it right."

From an AE point of view, we should really just observe VAR is in its infancy and assume the wrinkles will gradually get ironed out. Except there is no sign of this -- perhaps even the opposite -- which suggests a paradigm flaw might be built into VAR, e.g. football is not a game of rules but of expression; unlike cricket and gridiron, it does not have natural breaks in the action, etc.

Or: it may have detracted from football but it has added to life.
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