Author Archives: Tim

About Tim

I'm the gaffer, I gaff things. I also make a lot of gaffs. Follow me on twitter @7amkickoff.

van judas

If he scores, Lampard should offer to shake Mourinho’s hand

The players aren’t even in their kits, the game hasn’t kicked off, the net hasn’t even rippled and yet the ‘will he or won’t he’ question has already been answered: Frank Lampard will… NOT celebrate. Lampard plays against former club Chelsea this weekend and has announced that he will not celebrate if he scores a goal for Man City. There is no word on whether Frank Lampard will celebrate if he scores against former former club West Ham but we know for certain that he won’t celebrate against Chelsea. Personally, I wish he would celebrate. I wish he would run over and offer to shake Mourinho’s hand.

Goals should be celebrated. Goals are rare. Goals are fun. Football is 90 minutes of tension and two minutes of release. We, the fans, need you, the player, to celebrate the goals with us, as fans. That’s why the most honest goal celebration of all time was when Thierry Henry scored for Arsenal against Leeds.

Henry had returned to Arsenal after several years playing in Spain and the USA and scored for the club which gave him his career. His celebration is pure, there is no ego, he had just scored for the club he not only played for but the one he supports. It is the celebration of a fan, not a player:

“I am enjoying the club as a fan where I wasn’t before: now I know how people feel when they score for the club they support.” — Thierry Henry

On the other end of the spectrum are the players who set up elaborate choreographed celebrations for when they score. These take the form of everything from Bebeto simply rocking the baby to sleep to the Icelandic team who turned three players into a bicycle.

And then there are the players who dance, sometimes with a teammate. It is always funny to me to watch these professional athletes, who should be fabulous dancers, bust a move that looks like Humpty Dumpty on crack.

Any time I see one of these dance-related goal celebrations I feel exactly like Andrei Arshavin in the 20th second of the video above. Did I just walk in on something? Should I get the door? Do you need a towel?

But at least they are celebrating the goal. The most disingenuous and sentimental of all the goal celebrations is the so called “non-celebration”.

First, the non-celebration is a goal celebration. There is no way around it. They often even tacitly acknowledge this fact by admitting that the reason they are not celebrating is because they want to honor their old team. But honoring your old team is celebrating them and your legacy with them. It’s a celebration of your history together by not celebrating.

Second, the non-celebration is always choreographed. The player has a move in mind and executes that move exactly how they planned it. It’s pre-planned, that’s why Frank Lampard’s dad is telling us his son won’t celebrate.

And third, it’s fake. Robin van Persie refused to celebrate his first goal for Man U against Arsenal, holding his hands up. But when the two teams met again and Man U beat Arsenal 1-0 at Old Trafford? He scored and celebrated like Walt Whitman watching the young men swim in the river. He ran over to Wayne Rooney and he and his teammates all got into a pile of men that would have made Uncle Walt want to engirth them.

Van Persie and Rooney sing the body electric

That’s because these so-called non-goal celebrations are fugacious. Not one person would expect Lampard to refuse to celebrate against his former former club West Ham or for van Persie to refuse to celebrate against Feyenoord. Those moments have passed and once the player gets their obligatory one “non-celebration” out of the way, they are free to sing the body electric.

Worse, why would they refuse to celebrate and yet not refuse to score the goal? They are ok with doing their job, taking the money from their new fans, and beating their old team but in no way want to celebrate the goal? That seems odd. There is no suggestion that Lampard would refuse to take a penalty against this team he supposedly loves so much. There is no suggestion that he would refuse to score if presented the opportunity. This is because Frank Lampard is a professional footballer. Lampard is paid well to do a job and that job is to kick the ball into the net and he will do that whether he celebrates after or not.

But in the end, goals are fun. Goal celebrations should be fun. If Frank Lampard should score against Chelsea this weekend I hope he finds a way to incorporate both his need for gloppy sentimentalism and the fun of the celebration into one act: I hope he does a lap of appreciation for the Chelsea fans and the City fans (both of whom deserve a celebration) and ends the lap by offering to shake Jose Mourinho’s hand.

Qq

stamp

Diego Costa charged for stamping on Can but not Skrtel

I was reading Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass last night and I was reminded that behind every mirror is a world of fantasy, a world where the white king writes poems backwards about how slithy toves gimble in the wabe. The king could go on in his backward script about how all this gimbling is quite the bother to the borogoves, who were quite mimsy having no veal on which to sup. And perhaps the king would end this passage with a clarion call to  beware the Diegocosta, my son. The feet that stamp, the head that buts. And perhaps in Looking-Glass House there might be a dusty corner where the reverse Football Association would charge Diego Costa with both stamps he committed instead of just the one: the one I might add, that is the least egregious of the two.

Let me staep back a minute. Here on this side of the looking glass I can show you incontrovertible proof that Diego Costa not only stamped on a Liverpool player, he stamped on two Liverpool players: one stamp was a little bit sneaky and one was a full-on leg breaking, mid-gallop, stomp. Here’s the video:

Stamp number one is on Emre Can. It’s a sneaky little stamp, Costa doesn’t even really look to see where his foot lands. He just turns and goes for the ball. Stamp number two is on Martin Skrtel. This one looks to me like Costa is intentionally trying to break Skrtel’s ankle. Skrtel tackles the ball away and Costa has no chance of getting the ball back. Costa jumps over Skrtel’s tackle and then in moment of madness, has a look down, and looks like he intentionally plants his foot on Skrtel’s ankle.

Neither stamp seemed to be caught by the match official and I think it is fair to say that both teams’ supporters would agree that Michael Oliver had a nightmare match and failed to control the violence that was bubbling throughout. There are also several pictures of Diego Costa headbutting players which is a little trick he likes to do. I’ll show you that video in a minute. Suffice it to say that the referee’s performance on the day should be a case for that official being dropped for a long time. But since we aren’t in Looking-Glass House, here in the real world, he’ll probably get a promotion.

The outcry from football fans of all color was so loud that the Football Association had to act. So, they holed up in aa burrow, fired up their TV, and watched the tapes of the incidents. Their conclusion was specific: the Can stamp was bad, the Skrtel stamp was ok. And with that they charged Diego Costa with violent conduct.

Here’s the problem, I think Chelsea could make a case that the Can stamp is accidental but with the Skrtel stamp, if you’ve ever played football then you know, that was intentional. For the first stamp, it happened early in the game. There is at least some doubt in my mind whether Costa intended to stamp or was just being kind of clumsy in going after the ball. But with the Skrtel stamp it comes after tempers have flared and happens in open play with Costa having no chance to retrieve the ball. Not only that, but Costa looks directly at the spot where he plants his foot. And because the FA for some reason chose to only charge Costa with the first stamp and not the second, there is a chance that Diego Costa could get off the hook. In Looking-Glass House, Costa would be charged with both crimes along with possibly several of the headbutts he is pictured getting away with.

I get it, though. My favorite player at Arsenal was Patrick Vieira. Similar to Costa, Vieira was a spiky figure. He didn’t take anything from the opponents and gave back exactly what he got. Most players want to play with a guy like this on their team. Hazard was asked about Costa and replied with this:

“When you play with this guy, you have to give everything,” Hazard said. “You can see that in every action and for every ball, he gives his life. Even though he didn’t score against Liverpool, he gave his life. For us, for the players, when you play with him, it’s very good.

“He is not like this in training, he is a little bit different. But in the games he is very good. He never stops.”

Arsene Wenger even praised notorious bad boy Luis Suarez saying that Suarez was an angel in training (meaning he worked very hard) and a demon on the pitch. Arsenal even have their own sort of hard working, no non-sense, won’t shake hands with you, get your arm off of me puta, player in Alexis Sanchez.

Fans love these players, I love Alexis, I loved Patrick Vieira. Fans also hate these players. Opposition fans hated Vieira. I hated Luis Suarez. And many fans hate Diego Costa.

But for me Costa crosses the line from simple “bad boy” or in your face kind of player, the kind of guy who gets under your skin, to something a little more nefarious. Diego Costa is the kind of player who throws his snot on an opponent. He’s the kind of player who uses his head as a weapon. He’s the kind of player who loves nothing more than to get under the skin of the opposition defenders and if they touch him in return, flop on the ground like he’s been shot. Diego Costa crosses the line from guy who fights hard for his team, to guy who just cheats. And he has a long history of doing that:

And now he seems to be adding “guy who tries to break ankles” to his resume. It’s a real shame that Looking-Glass House FA aren’t in charge of charging Costa. They might have used their vorpal blade, snicker-snack, and slain the dreaded Costawocky before he was able to claim someone’s ankles as his prize.

Qq

Arsenal trumpets welcome Gabriel: plus a simple idea to fix refereeing

After several years of being told “you don’t know what you’re doing” by the naysayers, Arsenal have shown that they do, in fact, know what they are doing and they aren’t half bad at it.

Earlier this winter I made the bold (not very bold) statement that Arsene only buys big in January for one of three reasons: calamity, luck, or prospecting. I predicted we would see a kid brought in (prospecting) and possibly a semi-expensive player if, and only if, there was an injury. Sure enough, Matty Debuchy had his arm dislocated after a horrible challenge by Stoke’s Arnautovic and that seemingly sent Arsenal straight to work getting in another defender.

That defender was none other than Gabriel Paulista, who shall be known as Gabriel, or Gabby, on this blog. Gabriel, as you may know, is one of God’s archangels and I particularly like this passage from the Christian bible which I found on his Wikipedia page:

And the Lord said to Gabriel: “‘Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men[and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in battle: for length of days shall they not have.”

Sounds like the bible predicted that Arsenal would sign Gabriel and play him against Chelsea.

As soon as Wenger let the cat out of the bag about Gabby people started questioning if Arsenal had lost their minds.¹ This time not only was the player’s talent under question but also whether he could get a work permit.

Wenger was oddly confident. Only odd to those of us who didn’t know that the FA was in charge of work permits and that there was a rules change coming down the pike. According to the Guardian:

The Home Office scheme is administered by the Football Association and there had been some concern last week at how the panel of football experts would view Arsenal’s appeal for Gabriel as he did not meet the current stipulation of having played 75 per cent of matches over the past two years for his national team. But Arsenal successfully argued that he was a player of the “highest calibre” who could “contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in England”. The rules are likely to be tightened in the summer, after which there would be no appeals process.

Gabriel, though, would have met even the new stricter criteria as his fee is above the proposed £10 million exemption threshold.

As it turns out, Wenger was right to be confident. The FA approved the work permit because their new rule this summer is that anyone who costs more than £10m will be approved.

Gabriel, thus, becomes another in a long line of Arsenal transfer firsts. And his transfer to Arsenal opens the doors to a flood of young Latin American talent into the Premier League. As long as they cost more than £10m, they can work in England.

I don’t see Arsene buying any more players, unless by some stroke of luck someone like Paul Pogba becomes available. I’m not saying it’s impossible to see another purchase. I’m saying “highly unlikely.” Wenger has Coquelin to play DM, has a host of players like Özil and Walcott coming back up front, and has some depth in the back.

With the transfer business sorted I can turn my attention to another problem Arsenal face in the Premier League, the referees.

The level of refereeing in England has taken a severe dip in recent seasons. And this season, that dip has hit a nadir.

It has gotten so bad the former head of PGMOL is calling for a huge culling of the ranks, including the resignation of the head of referees Mike Riley. Mike Riley has fired back with some stats which he says prove that refereeing is the best it has ever been. Citing 99% accuracy of calls and the like.

What’s clear in watching any Premier League game these days is that 99% accuracy is completely false. The referees didn’t even call a foul when Arnautovic shoved Debuchy off the pitch and dislocated his shoulder and that is the problem. It’s not that they make calls (which I still think they get wrong a lot), it’s that they are often NOT making calls when they probably should.

The other problem is that there is a lack of transparency and agreement when it comes to the rules. If you get 40 people in a room and ask them to watch a play, you will likely get 40 different interpretations of the rule. This same problem plagues the officials. I saw Phil Dowd referee a match this weekend. He was given two carbon copy fouls where the defender pulled the shirt of a player on a breakaway. On one play he gave the defender a yellow. On the other a warning.

As an American I find this seemingly random application of the rules infuriating. It reminds me of the NBA, where officials would sometimes call travelling and sometimes not. Sometimes call over the back, sometimes not. This happens because there is a rulebook and then there is an accepted interpretation of the rulebook.

How many times have you heard “that would be a foul if it happened anywhere else on the pitch” while watching a player get fouled in the box? Or how about “not sure why Mike Dean didn’t give a yellow there, he just gave a yellow to the Arsenal player for the exact same foul.”

I would like to see Mike Riley on television at half time and after the games explaining referee decisions to the people. He could also host a forum or be part of the Match of the Day crew or other types of appearances where he would be asked to explain the laws of the game. And yes, I do think the Laws of the Game and their interpretations need to be publicly discussed.

The interpretation of the rules and the lack of transparency around this interpretation is exactly why many people feel that refereeing is dirty in the Premier League. I quit watching the NBA for this exact reason. When former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was caught throwing games to feed his gambling addiction it wasn’t a shock to me at all.

The other problem is that the game is just too fast for the referees. They are constantly playing catch up to the plays and almost never get ahead of the ball so that they can see the fouls from the same angles that we, the viewers, have. Their view is often obstructed and sometimes they are just too far away from the action to make the correct call.

I was watching a game the other day and I noticed this problem of referees not being able to be in position to see the fouls. And I started to wonder why we don’t just have two referees. One in each half of the pitch. I’m not talking about UEFA’s ridiculous 5th and 6th officials who stand around and literally do nothing. I mean a second referee on the field, with all the power of the first referee.

National Rugby League introduced two officials in 2009, citing the “pace of the game” and technical requirements of officiating. It has been brilliant for NRL and has the Super League trialing the same system at academy level.

That’s my idea.

I’m sure you’ll have objections, please, feel free to let us hear them below.

Qq

¹It’s now a reflex for Arsenal fans: anything happens, think of the negative.