Antonio Rudiger left frustrated at a lack of evidence after he says he was racially abused

Chelsea player Antonio Rudiger has reacted after the FA have come back and said that they couldn’t charge anyone in the game with Tottenham as there was no evidence to suggest that Antonio Rudiger was racially abused when the clubs played each other at Tottenham’s new ground a few weeks ago.

Rudiger had said that he had heard monkey chants aimed at him and a full investigation was then launched. In other incidents within the grounds there were 6 arrests but none were directly linked to Rudiger’s claim.

Tottenham have said that they have video equipment which can follow every fans face and even lip reading techniques and there has simply been no evidence to suggest that Rudiger suffered racist abuse. Of course this doesn’t mean that he didn’t.

It’s been a very difficult season in the Premier League for racist chanting and abuse and it does look like it is on the rise sadly once more. Although clubs zero tolerance policy of handing out life time bans for fans, is a fantastic measure and really is the way to go, one would hope that other leagues would follow suit.

Rudiger was understandably feeling down at the FA’s findings and he had this to say. “I’ll always raise my voice but in relation to this, I’m alone. Racism has won. The offenders can always come back to the stadium, which shows these people have won. It’s a disaster.”

Rudiger added: ”I became a father last Thursday and you start thinking society hasn’t come far enough in fighting racism, so my kids will probably suffer as well. If nothing changes, if kids don’t get good education and parenting, we’ll lose.”

Chelsea football club added their thoughts to the situation also via a club statement. ‘As Tottenham’s statement makes clear, a lack of evidence does not mean an incident did not take place. It is vitally important we continue to encourage all players, whatever shirt they wear, to report racist abuse without fear of doubt or reprisal.’

This is an incredibly controversial moment within the league because it is very probable that Rudiger heard something, and yet with all of the technology that the clubs have at their disposal they were not able to find the evidence to get the section of fans.

Rudiger though shouldn’t feel too down about what has happened. If it has, then it is disgusting and no one can make any excuses about that. But he is fortunate to play in a league that does take racism seriously and for that the Premier League despite its faults is heading in the right direction.

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The fallout from Manchester City’s 2 year Champions League ban

There was more controversy in the Premier League with VAR, namely in the Chelsea-Manchester United game where it seemed clear as daylight Harry Maguire should have seen a red card. But nothing was even looked into, and the inconsistencies of VAR really need to be looked at.

However VAR seems to dominate the pages when it comes to controversial moments but off the pitch the story that could change English football’s greatest superpower was doing the rounds and that is Manchester City being banned by UEFA for 2 years in the Champions League.

There is no proof of course that City have done any wrong doing, and we can’t say they have because the club have appealed UEFA’s decision. But after a thorough investigation UEFA seem fairly confident that they have a case against City, and together with the ban they have fined the club £25m. City can deal with the fine, even though that is huge compared to say, the fines that UEFA dish out for racism, but that is for another day and another story. But City can’t deal with not being in the Champions League.

The FFP is one of contention too- so City may have overspent and UEFA do not like how clubs can be run. At the same time the flip side to that argument would be how were City ever going to be able to catch up to Manchester United their eternal rivals? How were they going to be a force in Europe? FFP seems to target clubs who want to make investments and challenge the bigger teams. Are UEFA trying to stifle the progress of new clubs and just keep the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s and Bayern Munich’s happy?

Of course in an ideal world the FFP rules would make sense. But ideal and football doesn’t go together, at least in the top tier’s, it really doesn’t. When TV deals are being negoitated in one country to show live football for upwards of £3 billion over a 3 year period, that is off the ball in itself and makes no sense the money being talked about so TV can show a games of football. For this UEFA look out of their depth even if their initial plans was to make football fairer, it actually is doing the opposite. Maybe that is why we are seeing the same teams win the Champions League?

But City may not have a leg to stand on if they have done wrong and it is proven. Even if you don’t agree with the FFP rules surely every club had to sign up for it? City must have and if those rules have been broken, then what would be the excuse? Still there is so much power in football and City will certainly fight their case, one thing is sure we will learn just how much power and influence UEFA have in today’s game, and if City win the appeal it would seem that they would have fairly little.

There’s quite a fall out to be had too. Have UEFA shot themselves in the foot for example? If Europe’s most powerful clubs feel stifled by their budgets and spending, could they be banned in the future? Will the clubs simply form a breakaway from UEFA or create a Super League which has been touted for years? Do the big clubs need UEFA if they don’t like their rules?

Also for City if they are banned surely that will mean the end for Pep Guardiola. He has hinted he would stay, but really would he, when he is going to leave in the summer of 2021 anyway? Some of their stars could leave too, and whilst City would still remain a quality team and powerful one, if the appeal loses one suspects it could knock the club back a few good years.

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Toulouse are down and out but did VAR make the right decision?

Picture this if you will, down in bottom place of Ligue 1 and 14 points from safety, lost 18 games this season and conceded 51 goals. Nothing is going right for Toulouse and that was underlined at the weekend when playing at home they lost to Nice 2-0.

But there would be a couple of controversial moments during the game that certainly affected it for a club who prepared for this one. They had known that Nice do not have the best away record and that they have been a club when needed to win or expected to win against a bottom three side have done a great job in the past of messing it up. Toulouse knew they would be the outsiders- although curiously the bookmakers had matched up the sides with the same price and chance of winning. There was something in the air.

Toulouse look doomed in Ligue 1, but before the weekend, they looked doomed but had a small chance, a win here would have created a buzz missing in the club, and with no wins in the last four months, it was something that they needed. But the game was over before it had really got going after Nice took a 12th minute lead through Pierre Lees Melou. The balance was still there though and Toulouse were not about to give up. But fifteen minutes later the towel was thrown in with the help of VAR.

Toulouse defender Ruben Gabrielsen was adjudged to have made a professional foul but it did look 50/50 as both him and striker grappled for position. A straight red just seemed harsh in the circumstances but that’s what happened and when you are the bottom club, 1-0 down and now have 10 men in under 30 minutes it is literally game over. The home support voiced their frustrations but there was nothing they could do about it.

In the second half Toulouse had another player sent off, and this time VAR got it right. Steven Moreira kicked out but the referee only saw that as a yellow card until VAR intervened and changed it to a red card, and it was fully deserved. The icing on the cake ended with Toulouse missing a penalty to make it 1-1 and then Nice going down the other end to get their 2nd in a game that finished 2-0 to the away side.

Toulouse will look back at what looked like a controversial sending off, and one wonders unless a player is being very violent or comes in with a ‘leg breaking’ tackle if they need to be more lenient so early in games. After all having 11 players play 10 it just seems to end the contest before it has really got started, and no one wants that.

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Immaturity still the enemy of Dele Alli as he faces possible FA charge

The most controversial moment in the Premier League over the past few days did not take place on the pitch but off it when Dele Alli joked about the recent coronavirus disease which has spread in China.

Alli was spending time off as the winter break took hold in the Premier League and Tottenham had no games planned. Predictably flying to Dubai Alli posted a video on social media app snapchat, and one really has to wonder what was going through the Tottenham players mind when he did so?

The video posted by Alli showed him wearing a face mask in an airport lounge, before moving the camera to show a man of Asian appearance, and then zooming in on a bottle of antiseptic hand wash.

Looking at both sides of the argument to try and understand why Alli did this, one can see a young man trying to have a laugh about a world story, and perhaps his one big fault is that he made a video of it. Alli isn’t a spiteful and hateful person, but a lot of people would have been offended by his video which came across as being rather stereotypical.

Alli quickly took down the video presumably after reading some of the negative comments and possibly getting contacted by his agent that he had messed up and gone too far. He then had to issue an apology. Alli said: “It wasn’t funny and I realised that immediately and took it down. I let myself down and the club. It isn’t something that should be joked about. I’m sending all my love and all my thoughts and prayers to everyone in China.”

Whilst Alli did apologise there was something in his response that just seemed very generic and it is worrying that Alli a professional football player who millions of fans around the world would look up to would make such a child like error.

Alli has shown to be immature before, on the pitch, and this is something that ex-players have also noticed and spoken out about. Paul Ince did so in 2016 saying: “He’s still got a lot to learn and it’s important that we don’t get too carried away about him. Some of the stuff Dele does is very immature. He makes some silly tackles and he can kick out at people. That’s where he’s got to learn and improve.”

That word immature has followed Alli around and when it is being spoken of you when you are 20 is one thing, but when you are making very silly jokes and posting videos 3 years later it is quite another. Of course Alli is only 23 and most 23 year old’s are making far worse mistakes in life, the difference again is that Alli doesn’t always seem to understand the important public role he is in.

Just a few months ago TV pundit and ex-Liverpool legend Graeme Souness criticised Alli saying: “He needs to ask why Harry Kane has kicked on and handled all the peripheral stuff that comes with being a top player, and he hasn’t. Can he honestly say he’s been fully focused on his football or has he forgotten what made him kick a ball in the first place?”

All of these are very interesting comments by different leading pundits in the media and whilst they may seem negative there is an underlying reason why pundits in England are ready to speak about Alli in this way. That reason is because he is Alli is a superb player when he wants to be. He is the player that can make the difference and take Tottenham and England up to another level. Professionals can see this in him, and so when he lets himself down on or off the pitch it feels like watching wasted potential.

The FA have written to the player asking him to explain his actions and if he is charged he could well be suspended for at least 1 game and be fined. It is likely with the FA having a zero tolerance on social media posts that are deemed to be ‘unhealthy’ that he will face a charge.

Hopefully Alli can kick on and realise that posting jokes about serious issues in the world isn’t what professional sportsman do. And hopefully he can become a consistent enough player for Tottenham too.

In reality his harshest critics are actually his biggest fans.

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Nice and Nimes turns into a fury of bad tackles and cards

Two clubs from the south of France and eager to get points on the board for various different reasons clashed at the weekend, and although Nice and Nimes is not a derby it felt like one.

The most important stat though was that Nimes won 3-1, and this was seen a shock for the team who were in 19th place and have won just 6 games this season, indeed this was their first away win this season. It mattered and it mattered a lot and Nice, the home side, lost the chance to break into the top 7 as a result.

Whilst the game was a fantastic result for Nimes, it was pretty much overshadowed by some of the bad tackles going in, and the play acting and it made for a messy affair to watch for the neutral. The game certainly became the most controversial of the weekend with a bad feeling over it. Some would call it passion, but it seemed to go over that limit.

In total 7 cards were shown, which on reflection doesn’t seem like much but given that the first card didn’t appear until the 30th minute then we can see things in a different light. Also it means that there was a card of some description shown every 8 minutes on average.

Nimes’ Pablo Martinez got the ball rolling for roughing earning a yellow card and then just two minutes later it was the turn of Nice midfielder Stanley Nsoki for a bad foul and trip. The second half then exploded just 4 minutes in when Hichem Boudaoui made a bad challenge so bad that he was shown a straight red card and that seemed to set the mood for the game, it is important to note that the match was 1-1 at this time before the 10 men of Nice showed their disadvantage.

In the space of ten minutes there was a further 3 bookings which actually all went to Nimes, he ended up just being that much better, creating the space and finding the gaps to score a further 2 goals.

Patrick Vieira the Nice coach was none too pleased with his side who keep on losing or drawing games just when it looks like they will have a chance to compete for the top 5 places.This time they weren’t outclassed, they just lost their heads, some will argue that the referee was trigger happy showing so many cards but at the same time Nice have history of letting some games get to them when it really matters.

Nice have dropped to 11th place but next week they will face bottom club Toulouse and will be expected to win that game.

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Poor results, protests to be held and a fan banned- Are West Ham in meltdown?

In football you have two stories: one is on the pitch and one is off it. This season West Ham have had negative stories on and off it.

It was clear that after a decent first season in charge Manuel Pellegrini had lost focus and the Chilean was soon sacked. But the club owners brought in David Moyes, he who was West Ham manager before Pellegrini, he who gave a winning return of just 29% and he who was deemed no good and was sacked in favour of Pellegrini. Talk about taking steps backwards.

Results under Moyes have been poor, bar his first game when the club beat Bournemouth 4-0, they also beat Gillingham in the FA Cup. Since then they have lost numerous games, the highlight being a 4-1 beating against Leicester and they have been knocked out of the FA Cup. Under Pellegrini the side were poor but were above the relegation zone, now they are in it and 18th what does that make Moyes’ status?

Fans have not been happy and this week there was a controversial incident which saw a long standing season ticket holder banned from home and away games this season. He had volunteered to be a flag bearer on the touchline, but there seemed something else behind his reasoning. That was to show the TV cameras his t shirt which read GSB out. That stands for club owners David Sullivan and David Gold and the B is a reference to Karen Brady who has also presided over the club. The board were not happy, wrote the fan a letter and now he is banned for the season.

It was a one man protest but much of the fans it seems are with him, and they want Sullivan and Gold to sell the club. It seems understandable too as so many mistakes in the transfer and recruitment of a manager have been made. From the outside at least there does seem to be a lack of ambition. There have already been silent protests and it is getting worse and worse and will do.

There is a plan to release black balloons when the club take on Liverpool at Anfield and in their next game at home against Southampton there will be even more protests. The pressure will be on Sullivan and Gold, after all who would want to stay and own a club where the fans don’t want or like you? Mike Ashley at Newcastle could sympathise with this but the anger of the West Ham fans seems more deeper and genuine.

At the root of the anger, and perhaps this isn’t every fan, but it is the stadium move. Did any long standing fan really want to move from the Boleyn Ground. If so they would have wanted a modern stadium but without the gaps to the pitch. Many fans have said there is no atmosphere at the stadium any more and in fact no home advantage as clubs like coming to play at the Olympic Stadium. Others have said that sound does not travel well and so when Hammers fans sing and try to cheer on their team it gets taken away.

Right now it feels as if West Ham need a new beginning and that is a damning verdict given that the stadium was supposed to be that.

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Kylian Mbappe’s row with PSG coach Thomas Tuchel could highlight a move away

Even though PSG beat Montpellier 5-0 in front of their home fans controversy was never that far away. Both Neymar and Mbappe were involved in skirmishes. Neymar’s story has been covered on here but involved getting booked. But Mbappe’s was much closer to home.

The star striker had scored in the game meaning that he now has 14 goals and is in 2nd place in the goalscorers chart one behind Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder, and perhaps that is why he flared up when PSG coach Thomas Tuchel ordered him to come off.

He was substituted for Mauro Icardi and Mbappe did not go quietly. Clearly it could be seen on the touchline his confrontation with Tuchel. Mbappe was furious as Tuchel tried to cradle his hands on his head and calm the player down.

In that moment it was evident that despite his brilliance as a team player and natural goalscorer and already of course a World Cup winner with France to see the little boy in him. He will probably look back on incidents like this and laugh them off, or at least he should do. Tuchel obviously took off Mbappe as PSG were 4-0 up at the time with just over 20 minutes remaining, why not bring on Icardi?

After the game Tuchel said: ”I’m the coach someone has to decide who goes off and who comes on it’s me. He is very intelligent, he knows what he is doing. He doesn’t like going off, nobody likes going off These are not good images, but we are not the only club that has to deal with this sort of thing. It’s not good, because it opens up subjects that go against the team’s state of mind. Too bad.  I explained to him why we did this, and it will stay that way. I will always decide the technical aspects. We don’t play tennis, we play soccer and we have to respect everyone.”

Tuchel added that the argument is not over. “I will make a decision, We have training at 11am, we will talk about the match with the group. I’ll see if I talk about this or if I do it individually. It will depend on my night’s sleep too.”

Speculation has now grown that Mbappe could want out of the club. He has always been linked to Real Madrid but the club would have to find at least 250m euros to make this happen, or perhaps a few player swaps could help.

Tuchel though seems blameless in the whole debate, he acted as a coach and did nothing wrong. Mbappe is an amazing player but sadly he has shown to throw his toys out of his pram on a few occasions in the past when he hasn’t got his own way. PSG and Tuchel will hope that this story can blow over.

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Manchester United fans can protest but what they did to Ed Woodward is disgusting

Stunning is one word that feels underwhelming when talking about what some so called football ”fans” did to Manchester United’s vice chairman Ed Woodward this week. A reported 30 fans wearing balaclavas attempted to storm his house and threw flares at it. What on earth is the thoughts that any sane fan would be thinking.

The tensions between the fans and the Manchester United board has been escalating for a few seasons now and it all came to ahead in grisly scenes on Tuesday night with fans reportedly screaming ‘Woodward is going to die’. All of this over a game of football….

Perhaps it’s true that Woodward has not done a great job in his role at United. Former managers have been disgruntled by his actions. Louis van Gaal felt that Woodward was only interested in the commercial aspects of the club (i.e) how much money they could make from friendlies in Asia. And Jose Mourinho on more than one occasion had his player transfer wishes quashed by Woodward.

It has not been a great time for Woodward and that has reflected United’s performance on the pitch. At the same time fans are quick to forget that in dealing with financial matters Woodward has been a success. He has been responsible for growing United’s financial wealth by 3 times its original size when he first joined up with the club. But yes it is true he has made a few mistakes in the last few seasons. Some United fans would laugh at that and say he has been a total disaster, but his record with the club begs to differ. He has become an easy target and the scapegoat of United’s failings.

What cuts the deepest though about the attack is how some fans, and it is a minority, but some fans feel it is their self given privilege to act like maniacs. The same people that are probably very law abiding and hold down jobs completely lose it when it comes to football. It is evident that there are real fans and then there is the hardcore section who feel that football is the only thing they have in life.

How could this have been avoided? A meeting had to take place, clear the air talks should have happened, between a select number of fans and Woodward, why not? Surely then everyone could have moved forward without violence. Instead these fans that wanted to attack his house, complete with his innocent wife and children will be banned for life but the club that they supposedly love. One would think that Woodward’s home would have been fitted with adequate CCTV too, so this could be a reality.

Sometimes controversial moments tend to happen off the pitch, and this week in the Premier League has been one full of shame, let’s hope some understanding can take hold now, no one needs violence.

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Monaco coach Robert Moreno labels his team a disaster as he searches for first Ligue 1 win

It’s fair to say that Robert Moreno’s time at Monaco has not got off to a good start and at the weekend he saw his new club lose to Strasbourg and labelled the match and performance a ‘disaster’.

Moreno is right it was and Monaco just seem a little off in the past few weeks as Moreno searches for his first league win as Monaco coach. It has been rumoured though that some players in the Monaco camp do not take criticism lightly, and that may well have been the downfall of former coach Leonardo Jardim who had actually turned around the clubs fortunes, it meant little as in the end he was sacked.

So is Moreno saying that he witnessed a disaster going to be a controversial moment and could it define his career as Monaco coach? Certainly if some players are sensitive then his words would not have gone down very well.

After losing at home 3-1 to Strasbourg Moreno said: “It’s a horrible feeling. We started the game well, but after the first goal, it was a disaster, it’s difficult to attack a team that sits back and waits for you.

Moreno continued: “There wasn’t a good feeling with the ball, passing it around, to attack the space. We lacked quality in our passing, in the preparation of the game, in my choices…What happens on the pitch is my responsibility. I must explain things better to my players. We’re not the worst in the world now. It’s my team. Win or lose, I think my players are the best.”

Moreno has had earned just 1 point from the three leagues games he has been in charge of, although two of those have already been against champions PSG. The more pressing point for Moreno and something he will need to work on is in defence. That was a part of the field where outgoing coach Leonardo Jardim was so good at, the defence became so solid that it helped Monaco win the title in 2017. This version of Monaco under Moreno have conceded 10 goals in his 3 league games in charge.

There is no denying the fact though that Monaco have made some really controversial choices in the past year. Sacking a good coach in Jardim twice, having to go through their nightmare patch with Thierry Henry in charge. Is Moreno going to be another coach that cannot work with the club? When he arrived Monaco were in 7th place now they have dropped to 13th. The good news perhaps is that they are just 4 points from a European finish.

But the club have just 1 win in their last five games and that does not bode well. Their next match is away to Nimes who are in 19th place and have won just 3 games all season. However Monaco have won just 2 games from their 10 away this season. The road looks like a long one for Moreno, how will he and the club fare by May?

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Are Manchester City feeling the brunt of VAR?

With the Premier League having 2 games in the matter of a few days Manchester City, the champions could well be aggrieved about some of the decisions that have not gone their way. VAR has struck again and whilst the technology is getting decisions correct, there does seem to be fine margins and a lack of consistency.

This past weekend City made heavy weather at home once again to Crystal Palace. Palace had infamously beaten them 3-2 last season at the Etihad and with a little under 20 minutes to play on Saturday Palace were again winning this time it was 1-0 and whilst City dominated the game it looked as if they were going to have one of their frustrating days in front of the goal. And then there was a penalty….

The referee Graham Scott had no problem pointing to the spot and City looked saved. The incident occurred when Jairo Riedelwald in defence for Palace had handled the ball. Now this wasn’t an intentional hand ball and the ball had ricocheted from his own body- in other words there was nothing he could do. Common sense would have said no penalty. The referee who obviously saw it in real time said penalty. But when the decision went to VAR it was overturned and the decision was no penalty.

However rarely has VAR used common sense to when looking at decisions. It has gone straight for the rule book. So if  players knee is offside then VAR would go along with that, the same with handballs. There have been many examples of players handling the ball and goals being disallowed. West Ham’s last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. The ball came off of Declan Rice the Hammers player, he never meant it and there was no malice, but VAR ruled no goal, he had handled the ball.

And so when VAR did make the right decision in the City-Palace game it felt off. Where did the rule book go? All of a sudden City’s hopes were resting in what some one thought about said incident, and they thought no penalty. Another referee in the room could well have said penalty. So we come down now to a massive lack of consistency for all involved. City to their credit didn’t let the decision affect them and did score 2 goals through Sergio Aguero, but Palace scored again to add a sting to the tail as the match finished 2-2 and City slipped further behind league leaders Liverpool.

But the controversy did not stop there for Pep Guardiola’s team. In midweek City had to play Sheffield United. Again a must win game even if the title looks doomed for them. This time City were awarded a penalty, and no one was about to change their decision. The problem was in the actual penalty itself. Dean Henderson the Sheffield United goalkeeper was clearly off his line when Gabriel Jesus struck the ball and this looks like the only reason he saved it.

At the end of the day City won the game 1-0, had it finished 0-0 this story could well have exploded costing City another two points. The rules clearly state that the penalty would have to have been retaken. There was no intervention from VAR and the keeper was a long way off his line and prepared.

The problem is not really with VAR itself but the people who are using the technology. They are making the same old tired mistakes that officials were making without VAR, there is simply a total lack of consistency. It’s caught even the champions out and the worry is that it could play a vital role in the pressurised environment of the relegation battle.

Another batch of Premier League games, some great ones, good goals, incidents but five months into the new season and VAR is still the talking point. That’s fine as an after thought, but it is the main talking point, and surely no one who is in love with the game wants that?

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