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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Even in defeat by Manchester City, Sheffield United showed why they belong in the Premier League

In the end, Manchester City’s quality shone through. Moments before Sergio Aguero tapped home the winning goal from Kevin De Bruyne’s low delivery, Sheffield United had a similar chance of their own. Enda Stevens fired the ball across the box from the left, but Oli McBurnie was unable to add the finishing touch. This was a reminder that football is a game of fine margins.

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Is Pep Guardiola right to say that the league cup must end?

You’d have thought that if you’re club had won a certain competition two times from the last 3 years you wouldn’t be talking about ending it, but Pep Guardiola is right, the league cup must end.

Guardiola’s comments have come because of player fatigue and injuries not just to his own players but others also and he is blaming the fact that there is too much football. He was quick to point out the recent injuries to Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford which could mean both players will not be 100% fit for this summers Euro 2020 competition with England.

Guardiola said: “Eliminate competitions, take out this competition, so less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. People can live without football for a while. It’s too much. Start the season later after the summer. We have one game a week for a long time and then, after, we start having two or three in one week. In February it is one week, two weeks off. We have two games in two weeks then, after, we have 72 games in one week. It’s a little bit strange.”

The Manchester City manager made a great point about there being too much football. Football doesn’t really end anymore. With the season going on until the end of May, there are various ‘friendly’ competitions littered throughout the summer when major tournaments are not taking place. The introduction of the UEFA Nations League may be welcomed instead of friendly games but then again players become much more competitive in the hope of winning yet another trophy available to them.

The league cup started in 1960, so this year will be the 60th one and Manchester City ironically are the favourites to win again. They beat Manchester United 3-1 in the semi-final first leg and will face either Leicester or Aston Villa if they reach the final.

What is interesting is that in France the Coupe de la Ligue will be played for the final time this season. This is the equivalent cup to the league cup, which of course is now called the Carabao Cup because of sponsorship.

Guardiola’s comments may fall on deaf ears because the majority of clubs actually opt to play their second string sides in the league cup. This gives fringe players a chance to get game time and more experience. Guardiola has been known to play strong sides in the competition, some managers are simply wired that way to win all in front of them.

But the Spaniard does have a good point about there being too much football in the modern game overall. For now it seems that the league cup is very much here to stay.

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Best 11 Players in the Premier League: Matchday 23

Liverpool gained again at the weekend when they won and 2nd placed Manchester City could only draw. 3rd place Leicester lost and 4th placed Chelsea also lost. It was simply total gain for Liverpool who have now moved 16 points clear at the top with a game in hand. We take a look below at the best performing players in the league this past weekend. Did you have any of them?

Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Alisson- Liverpool

The best goalkeeper in the Premier League picked up a massive 9 points and that is huge for his position. Liverpool beat rivals Manchester United 2-0 as Alisson kept his 7th clean sheet of the season. To put the icing on the cake the Brazilian assisted for Mohamed Salah’s goal. He has 49 points now and is 9 points clear of 2nd placed keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Alisson would cost 10m

Defender: Virgil van Dijk- Liverpool

Nine points were earned for Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool kept a clean sheet and the Dutchman also opened the scoring. He now has 59 points and is ranked in third place i the fantasy rankings for Premier League defenders.

Defender: Trent Alexander-Arnold -Liverpool

Keeping a clean sheet against Manchester United is no mean feat and Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of everything Liverpool did back there. It is his 9th clean sheet of the season and he is ranked No.1. for defenders in the Premier League. He is valued at 7m.

Defender: Isaac Hayden- Newcastle

The hero for Newcastle! The Magpies beat Chelsea 1-0 due to a last minute strike from Isaac Hayden. That topped off an amazing day for Hayden who also helped his team keep a clean sheet. Hayden is valued at just 2m and has 11 points so far.

Defender: Andrew Robertson- Liverpool

In defence Liverpool almost had a clean sweep. In getting a 2-0 win over old rivals Manchester United, the Reds had achieved a huge result which underlined just how good they have been this season. Robertson earned 5 points at the weekend and is valued at 7m which seems like a great bargain.

Midfielder: Mohamed Salah- Liverpool

The attacking midfielder Salah scored Liverpool’s second goal which confirmed the win over Manchester United, and more important for him ended a baron spell. The Egypt international now has 11 goals and 5 assists.

Midfielder: Jack Grealish- Aston Villa

Jack Grealish now has 38 points and his value of just 3.5m to buy looks like a steal. He scored a goal at the weekend too as his side drew 1-1 away to Brighton. Grealish has now scored 7 goals this season.

Midfielder: Jordan Henderson- Liverpool

Jordan Henderson is just getting better by each passing season and is the engine room in this fantastic Liverpool side. He only earned 2 points at the weekend but with many midfielders not performing so well, that was enough to make this team.

Midfielder: Ismaila Sarr- Watford

Ismaila Sarr has really stood out as one of the best players Watford have as they continue their fantastic recovery from what looked like certain relegation a month ago. Watford drew 0-0 against Tottenham. Sarr is valued at 7.5m and has 27 points so far.

Striker: Sergio Aguero- Manchester City

For the second week in a row Sergio Aguero tops the charts as one of the best strikers in the Premier League. He scored two goals and almost won the game for his club who were 1-0 down with 8 minutes to go against Crystal Palace. Aguero earned 8 points and he has now scored 15 goals this season.

Striker: Raul Jimenez- Wolves

Raul Jimenez is a real gem of a player at Wolves, and the club produced the best stunning comeback of the weekend. They were losing 2-0 to Southampton and won 3-2 and Jimenez grabbed two of those goals earning a nice 8 points. He has 50 altogether and can be added to your team for just 5.5m.

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Manchester City not replacing Vincent Kompany has cost them the Premier League

Pep Guardiola practically conceded defeat in Manchester City’s quest to retain their Premier League crown following a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace at the Etihad on Saturday.

“We did everything to win the game and unfortunately in the end we lost two points because we could not stop the counter-attack. But we have to continue. There are still a lot of games to play. We have to try to secure the place for the Champions League next season,” said Guardiola post-match. Continue reading

Premier League: Player of the Week: Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero would have won a lot of player of the week’s so here is his umpteenth one and this one was arguably the most deserving.

Aguero who has been one of the very best strikers to have graced the game in England collected 16 points in the week as his side Manchester City made light work of Aston Villa and won the game at Villa Park 6-1.

The Argentinian has made the news headlines because his 3 goals were so significant. Firstly he broke Alan Shearer’s record of the most Premier League hat tricks, which had stood at 11, now Aguero has 12. Then and more importantly he scored his 175th, 176th and 177th league goals for City. That took Aguero up to joint 4th in the all time top goalscorers in Premier League history.

In doing so Aguero passed Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and became the most successful foreign striker in Premier League history. With 177 goals he now has the same as Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. Just one more goal will put Aguero into 3rd place which is simply inevitable.

As a side note one wonders just how far Aguero could go on the all time table? In 3rd place is Andrew Cole who has 187 goals, and that could well  be a target for Aguero to break this season, he has a very good chance needing 11 more goals to do it. Could Aguero go even further though? He is 31 and there was talk at the beginning of the season that he could leave Manchester City at the end of this one.

If he was to stay, with the mentality of the club needing to have younger, fitter strikers, even if Aguero stayed fit one would suspect that he would have at best 2 good seasons in England left in him. On average if he scored 45 goals in those seasons and another 10 in this he could well reach 55 goals. This is all hearsay of course but around that figure would take Aguero to around 230 goals. Easy that would be good enough to be the 2nd best striker. But Alan Shearer’s record look like it is going nowhere as he scored 260 goals. It is worth noting that Aguero’s strike rate is far superior to Shearer’s.

So it has been a fantastic week for Aguero and a record breaking one too. In the fantasy rankings he is in 2nd place with 60 pts and has scored 13 goals and assisted in a further 3. He has no yellow cards so far this season and he would cost you to include him in your team 14m. That’s a lot of budget, but you would be getting one of the very best potent strikers in Europe for the last decade.

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Premier League Weekend Picks for Matchday 23

Based on form and the fixtures for the new weekend in the Premier League we take a look at the players you should be adding for this weekend and the upcoming fixtures.

Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno- Arsenal

A goalkeeping job is all about clean sheets and Bernd Leno is hardly on top of his game with only 4 clean sheets this season. But the last time Arsenal were at home he kept a clean sheet against Manchester United. The Gunners prefer to play at home and under Mikel Arteta will be focused. They are playing Sheffield United and would be tipped to win and keep the score and defence tight. Leno can be brought in for 8.5m.

Defender; Jetro Willems- Newcastle

Jetro Williems has started the most games in defence for Newcastle and has the most points with 16. Newcastle will play Chelsea at home where the Blues usually have a hard time. It’s their longest trip of the season for example. In all Newcastle have only lost 3 games at home this season, and perhaps they can keep a clean sheet this weekend.

Defender: Lucas Digne- Everton

Lucas Digne has had a solid season for Everton and a really good week. He has been involved in 6 clean sheets this season, two under Carlo Ancelotti already. The club face a test as they are playing West Ham away, but this could be a low scoring game, and Everton could get their tactics right over the Hammers. Digne is only 5.5m to bring into your team and has 20 pts so far.

Defender: Yerry Mina- Everton

It’s as clear as daylight that Yerry Mina has improved as a player since Carlo Ancelotti became manager. His confidence has grown and with it his displays. He could well partner Digne well in their match against West Ham and help the club to a clean sheet.  He is valued at 6m.

Defender: Lewis Dunk- Brighton

Brighton will be at home to Aston Villa two teams in need of a win, and a possible game that could even end 0-0. Lewis Dunk has been Brighton’s best defender so far with 21 pts and has been involved in 5 clean sheet games. Villa have real problems in defence, and not much confidence up front and this being an away game means Dunk and Brighton could well win or draw and keep that important clean sheet. He is valued at 7m.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott- Everton

Theo Walcott’s Everton will play West Ham and Walcott still feels like that London boy when he terrorised West Ham’s defence when playing for Arsenal. He will fancy his chances to provide goals and get forward and could be worth being in your team for this weekend. He hasn’t scored this season yet though but is 7m to bring in.

Midfielder: Bernardo Silva- Manchester City

Bernardo Silva has played a very pivotal role in City’s midfield especially recently and the club are playing excellent football. We have also picked him out as he still looks like a bargain price at 8.5m. City are at home to Crystal Palace at the weekend.

Midfielder: Abdoulaye Doucoure- Watford

Abdoulaye Doucoure has been brilliant in recent weeks for Watford as they have climbed out of the relegation zone. He has become one of the most important players for the club and is scoring goals too. He now has 3 and has assisted in one goal. The Hornets are full of confidence and will take on Tottenham who haven’t always performed so well and Watford will take the comfort they are at home. Doucoure can be brought in for 8m.

Midfielder: James Ward-Prowse- Southampton

James Ward-Prowse is always a handful and currently he has the most points with 21 so far in the Saints midfield. His price looks good value at 7m  and he has been involved in 6 goals so far this season and Southampton are in great form , the club are at home to Wolves.

Striker: Gabriel Jesus- Manchester City

All of the talk at Manchester City is about Sergio Aguero and his goals and that is fair enough. But for value Gabriel Jesus is a good player to bring into your team. He scores goals like last weekend, has 9 so far and assisted in a further 3. And he is 8m.

Striker: Richarlison- Everton

Richarlison is valued at 7.5m and his performances have really picked up in recent times. Everton will be away to a leaky West Ham defence so he could get on the score sheet once again. He has 8 goals so far this season and is no stranger to assisting in goals having done so 3 times this season.

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Premier League Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City

Two teams at two different halves of the league with two different objectives played on Sunday afternoon. For Aston Villa they were always going to be the underdog, but they knew they needed to fight for points. The emergence of Watford who looked to be taking up one place for relegation this season means that Villa have become a relegation contender. They fight it.

For Manchester City, the league looks over but they won’t give it up. The champions are 14 points behind Liverpool with this win and the Reds have a game in hand. It could be 17 by the end of the month. City’s true objective in the league was never to be in 3rd place, a position they courted for a few weeks as Leicester showed flashes of the team that won them the league title in 2016. Another objective in winning this game then, was to go 2nd and leapfrog Leicester who had already lost to Southampton the day before.

City met their objective as Villa’s one collapsed in on itself like a black hole. And it is a black hole where most of the Villa team would have wished for when they were on the receiving end of a vintage Manchester City performance.

When City attack this good, not many teams can match them.  A 6-1 victory is a massive score line and one that you feel manager Pep Guardiola needed (lest we forget the team in bottom place, Norwich City, who actually beat Guardiola’s team earlier this season) and these kind of games before a whistle is blown can be potential banana skins. But the only players slipping on them were Villa’s back four who were opened up time and again from the devastating attacks born from defence, made in the midfield and executed so well by a forward line, stand up Sergio Aguero.

It was Aguero who scored his 175th, 176th and 177th goals on Sunday. It was Aguero who passed Thierry Henry’s decade long record of scoring the most goals in the Premier League for a foreign player, and it was Aguero who scored his 12th hat trick, a record in the league surpassing Alan Shearer’s 11.

Aguero earned a whopping 16 pts in the Euro Fantasy League rankings too. He has 60 pts in total and is the current 2nd best potent striker in the rankings. From 12 starts Aguero has scored 13 goals and assisted in another three.

Rightly so Aguero should be championed but let’s not forget Riyad Mahrez who also had a spectacular game scoring two goals himself and at one point both him and Aguero were on 2 goals a piece and we were just wondering who of the two was going to complete a hat trick? Mahrez may have lost out on that battle, but it didn’t matter one bit. Mahrez is now ranked 5th in the fantasy rankings for Premier League strikers with 52 points. He has scored 7 goals and assisted in another 7 and that is an impressive stat.

Talking of stats City had a stunning 22 goal attempts, with 12 on target against Villa, just more than 50% of shots were hitting their target and 50% of goals flew in as a result. Gabriel Jesus’ 9th goal of the season was largely forgotten then giving the exploits of Aguero’s record and Mahrez’s goals.

This was a statement win for City and they would have loved to have kept a clean sheet too but Villa were awarded a last minute penalty, to give what fans remained crumbs from the richness of a six banquet meal.

What this means for the league may seem like little. Guardiola will hope that if Liverpool cannot lose games this season they will start drawing them and dropping points. It would mean that City would have to do what they did last season and go on a truly unique run which saw them win every game in the new year. The league title seems unlikely but at least City are interested in giving a challenge, and, that is the least one could ask for.

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Record breaker Sergio Aguero deserves more recognition

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, making him the all-time top-scoring foreign player in the Premier League. Above Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. The Argentine’s hat-trick took his tally to 177 goals in 255 Premier League games whilst his Manchester City tally sits at 249. Just staggering for a player who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Continue reading

Can Leicester City finish above Manchester City this season?

Just last month, all the focus seemed to be on whether Leicester and Manchester City could hang onto the coattails of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the title race.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems much has changed. Thanks to a Boxing Day defeat at home to Liverpool – and the manner of how The Reds dominated in that 4-0 thrashing – The Foxes’ focus now must be on keeping their place in the Premier League’s top four.

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