Good day to you and welcome to Black & White. Football is starting to spring back into action across Europe which means there is plenty to talk about. Let’s start in Istanbul…
Super-Duper Mega Cup
I completely understand why the Super Cup exists. UEFA see it as the curtain-raiser to the European season and I think it has a place on the calendar. It is however fundamentally only a slightly posher Community Shield which at least has the sense to forego extra time. The match in Istanbul on Wednesday finished well after midnight with both teams struggling with cramp in the closing minutes.
What I don’t understand is why, especially this year, the Premier League didn’t do something to help. Liverpool won the Super Cup in the early hours of Thursday, then had to travel back for an away game in Southampton on Saturday afternoon. The game wasn’t televised in the UK and the fixture had been in the calendar since June. Surely the Premier League could have done something to help with this quick turnaround? Fortunately for Liverpool, it didn’t matter in the end but it shouldn’t be a surprise that they were hanging on in the closing minutes, presumably exhausted.
Let’s talk about referees
I suppose one of the good things about VAR is that we are hardly talking about the actual referees any more – except BT Sport. I thought Stephanie Frappart did an excellent job in the Super Cup and let’s be honest, there is no reason a female referee can’t do the job as well as any man. However, BT’s pundits were a little overboard, at one point marvelling that Frappart had done well to “keep up with a man’s game.” Then there was the penalty decision. Tammy Abraham conned the referee but VAR saw fit not to overrule. This was not “because it was Frappart’s big night” as Steve McManaman suggested. I’m sure BT were trying to leave a positive impression but they really didn’t.
The big VARnage this weekend came at the Etihad, where a 93rd-minute goal was ruled out for a handball in the buildup. The referee didn’t see this – and to be fair, I didn’t see a single appeal for it – but VAR spotted the ball had brushed Laporte’s hand. The new rule for this season is that any handball that leads to a goal is a handball, which I’m sure was made with the best intention but it’s stupid. An equivalent handball from the defender wouldn’t have been a penalty so I guess the days of the advantage going to the attacker are over. You can’t blame VAR for this, all that does is apply the laws of the game to any goal that is scored. If the rule states any handball leading to a goal is a handball then there’s no debate and this obviously makes the VAR decision easier. In that respect, the law makes sense. However, from a human trying to enjoy a football match sense, it is the biggest load of monkey crap the Rock has ever seen. In the lawmaker’s defence, could they really have imagined two goals of this type being scored in the first two weeks of the season? It is a bit unfortunate but you reap what you sow.
Switching Rafa Benitez for Steve Bruce is going about as well as anybody thought it would. It was a move that was always going to be a disaster but few will have predicted it to go this wrong this quickly. I certainly thought the current players would have enough Rafa instilled in them to at least be competitive but no, it turns out losing a Champions League-winning manager and the top two scorers is a massive loss to a team. Appointing a Championship level manager is just the icing on the cake.
Bruce is nothing but a patsy anyway, the obvious problem is Mike Ashley. But he is seemingly going nowhere so how long will he trust Bruce with the keys? If it carries on like Saturday’s defeat to Norwich I can see a quick end to this. It’s Tottenham away next weekend and I can’t see it getting better any time soon. Tony Pulis must be packing his bags.
Bruce isn’t the only manager in trouble after just two games. Roy Hodgson at Palace still thinks Benteke is the answer to his goal-scoring problems whilst Javi Gracia has got an FA Cup hangover. It can all change around rather quickly at this early stage of the season so they shouldn’t be too worried just yet.
That’s all from me this week but I’ll be back next week with more random observations. Remember, not everything is black and white. Until next time…