Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Appendectomy Blues – Part 2

Post-Chelsea v. QPR thoughts on how to ensure fairer soccer games

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I found myself in the emergency room last Sunday with my appendix nice and irritated – a condition probably instigated by the red card bonanza perpetrated against Chelsea in their 1 – 0 loss at Queen’s Park Rangers.  I couldn’t sleep Sunday night as I awaited surgery Monday morning so I spent some time thinking of simple ways the Premier League (and by extension the world) could rid soccer of 99% of controversial calls.  The following is what I came up with.  And you’re welcome, world.

Other sports could learn a thing or two from soccer’s strict card system punishments.  Usually, I like the strictness in soccer.  In theory, the threat of being booted from the game keeps players in line.  Other sports often tolerate too much misbehavior.  But when referees get the decision wrong, the strictness backfires and completely changes the match.  And if the ref hands out an unwarranted red card, the consequences reach beyond the current match since players must sit out the next three matches!  So one mistake by a referee can potentially change a team’s entire season.

The Premier League likes to tout itself as the world’s biggest and/or best league.  I mostly agree with that assessment, but if the Premier League wants to retain that tout, it needs to step up and demonstrate leadership in adopting officiating technology.  There are two basic, relatively simple technologies that would solve a myriad of bad call problems:  goal-line technology and limited instant replay.

Goal-line technology is the bare minimum of these two solutions.  Critics say officiating tech of any kind would disturb the natural flow of soccer.  Really?  We’re not talking about ten minute evaluations here.  Besides, the game’s flow has already been interrupted if a goal is scored.  The typical goal celebration lasts as long or longer than the time it would take to determine a goal’s validity.

My limited instant replay plan would limit reviewable calls to red cards and any calls made inside the penalty box (including off-sides in the box).  That way you’re only reviewing calls (like PKs) that have the greatest potential to dramatically affect the outcome of the match.  Again, to critics who say it would interrupt the flow I say, have you watched a soccer match on TV recently?  It usually takes about 30 seconds for commentators to check a few replays and render judgment – judgment that’s usually obvious and correct once you see it from a few angles.  Soccer usually doesn’t require JFK-level forensics to determine whether a guy’s diving in the box – if you have replay available.  Besides, limited reviews wouldn’t interrupt a game any more than the flop-and-writhe players that annoy soccer fans worldwide every weekend.  If you really want to help the flow of games, deal with the flop-and-writhers!

In a way I can understand soccer purists’ anti-tech stance, but they’re being stubborn and ignorant to think that the game would be severely altered by adding goal-line tech and instant replay for major calls.  If purists need proof, just look at tennis.  Talk about a game steeped in its own history/traditions!  But even tennis has shot-spotting technology.  It hasn’t hurt tennis.  It hasn’t even replaced chair umpires or linesmen.  It doesn’t take too long.  It serves players well by bringing them justice.  It’s more fair!

The rules of our most popular sports were developed in a time when people couldn’t even imagine television.  Game officials had the final word on calls because there was no alternative.  You simply had to accept their errors as part of the game.  In the modern technology-driven world however, it’s naïve of soccer’s governing bodies to sail along without instant replay and expect fans to be okay with it.  It’s like an historical event unfolding live with a TV audience that clearly sees what happened.  But historians on site say something else happened and that’s what gets printed in history books.  It’s a bizarre state of denial for leagues to be okay with getting something wrong when everyone on earth knows the truth thanks to TV technology (“Hand of Gaul” anyone?).

FIFA doesn’t have the guts to make the necessary tech changes.  Plus, they’re too busy counting their billions in recent World Cup TV rights deals.  But if the Premier League would take the lead on officiating technology, FIFA would surely sit up and take notice.  It’s ironic that the British F.A. is willing to use replay tech to determine if John Terry uttered racist no-no’s after the QPR game, but they won’t use it to challenge the ref’s calls in that game that could alter the final league standings!

Yes, you have quite a bit of time on your hands when you’re in the hospital.

What do you think of my goal-line tech and limited replay plan?  Feel free to weigh in…

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The Appendectomy Blues

I won’t soon forget Chelsea’s 1 – 0 loss at QPR last Sunday…

I didn’t feel great last Sunday morning.  I had an annoying lower abdominal pain.  Didn’t think much of it though and continued on to church with my family.  I was looking forward to watching Chelsea dismantle QPR when I got home.  The game was happening live while I was at church, but if there’s one thing you can count on as a Chelsea fan in my corner of the globe, it’s that no one will ever ruin the score for you at church.  If it’s the Dallas Cowboys or any number of college football teams playing, that’s a different story.  But if Chelsea’s on while I’m at church, I can arrive home after the game’s already over, fire up the ol’ DVR and enjoy the whole 90 minutes without so much as a single pass having been ruined for me by an eager-beaver fan.

Alas, Sunday’s match was a train wreck almost from the start.  More on that momentarily.  As if the Chelsea loss wasn’t annoying enough, that stomach pain I woke up with hadn’t dissipated at all.  In fact, it seemed to be getting worst.

One has some strange thoughts as one is lying on a rickety hospital bed in a dingy hospital room, alone, with a morphine drip that was actually doing little to squelch the abdominal pain that had increased since driving myself to the ER at 11:00 PM.  It was 2:30 AM and I couldn’t sleep.  As I waited for the CAT scan results to confirm appendicitis, I had loads of time to ponder Chelsea’s meltdown at Loftus Road.  Here are some of said thoughts:

1)  David Luiz is starting to annoy me a little bit.  Not a lot.  Just a little.  For now at least.  When he burst onto the Chelsea scene last January he became an almost instant fan favorite thanks to his enthusiasm, aggressiveness, and crazy hair.  He was a real shot in the arm at a time in the season when Chelsea truly needed one.  I still love the guy.  He could still develop into one of my absolute favorite Blues.  But the guy has got to stop the needless fouling.  Quit nipping at players’ heels!  He’s fast enough (I think) and athletic enough (again – I think) not to need to do those things.  I love the heart and desire he showed in trying to eke out a win against QPR (like using his elbows to hack some box space for himself amidst the Rangers molesting him during corners and free kicks).  But all the little fouls must stop immediately.  They’re hurting the team.  Having said that, his “foul” in the box that gave QPR the PK and ultimate victory was a softie to say the least.

2)  Didier Drogba’s tackle choice… seriously?  I’m a long-time fan of Drogba.  I’m really glad he’s been a Chelsea man for so long.  But I expect a lot more from such a veteran.  After this many years of top-tier soccer, did Didier really think his two-footed lunge would be okay?  His offense was fairly mild as red cards go, but no one can be surprised that his tackle was red-carded.  The surprise is that Drogba did it in the first place.  I’d be livid if I were Andre Villas-Boas.

3)  Bosingwa’s red card decision was a bad call.  Shaun Wright-Phillips didn’t have a “clear” goal-scoring opportunity.  He and Bosingwa were shoulder-to-shoulder going for the ball.  It may have been a yellow card, but red was unfair.

With three split-second decisions the referee altered the entire game and perhaps Chelsea’s entire season.  Chelsea can’t blame the ref entirely, after all, Luiz, Drogba, and Bosingwa could’ve and should’ve controlled their bodies to avoid maximum punishment.  But the ref shares the blame – at least on the Luiz/Bosingwa calls – and it was clear to anyone watching the game that there was considerable inconsistency in failing to card QPR in similar circumstances.  It’s very frustrating when refs impose themselves on a game in such an intrusive way that truly affects the outcome.

In a league as big and influential as the Premier League, refs need to be far more careful about doling out red cards and PKs since each one has potentially far-reaching implications.  How could the Premier League curb these injustices?  I’ll explore some ideas tomorrow in part two of my appendectomy blues session…

What do you think about the ref’s decisions in the Chelsea/QPR game?

Blues Cruise

Chelsea enjoys 3 – 1 victory over Everton

It was good to see the Blues back in action after the lengthy international break.  I’m not much of a fan of the international breaks by the way.  I understand their necessity and I don’t have a better solution to offer, but I’d rather not have them interrupting the season.

Chelsea put in an excellent performance against Everton yesterday.  It was a mostly comfortable victory – one that actually reminded me of the ‘09/10 EPL title winning Blues.  This season’s Sunderland, Bolton, and Everton wins are reminiscent of Chelsea’s more dominant phases of the past several years.  Things are looking up.  If only they hadn’t let Man U get the better of them!

Conceding a late goal to Everton slightly marred the day.  Defensively, sometimes it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with a three-goal lead, but Chelsea really needs to seal those leaks in preparation for tougher days ahead.  Petr Cech must be banging his padded noggin against his locker lamenting the lack of clean sheets this season.

One major confidence booster for Chelsea and its fans is the current lineup depth.  It sure is heartening to see the likes of Malouda and Anelka warming up as substitutes!  It’s an embarrassment of riches really.  I think Chelsea has the best depth in the league right now.  Look at the guys who weren’t playing yesterday:  Torres, Luiz, Alex, Meireles, Lukaku.  The TV cameras even gave us a glimpse of Michael Essien in the stands, still out with his knee injury.  Here’s hoping Essien can rejoin the squad for the second half of the season!

Other thoughts from the game…

Bosingwa has surprised and impressed me this year.  He has been quite a reliable right back from preseason on.  However, if I’m being picky, his crosses into the box, or pass selection at the end of positive runs down the wing, are often hasty and sloppy.

Hope Ramires’ knee injury suffered when netting Chelsea’s third goal just turns out to be a knock.  He has been Chelsea’s Energizer bunny this season and would be missed if he has to sit out long.  Ramires could turn into a long-term star for Chelsea.Juan Mata is looking like a genius signing thus far.  He is all over the field, offensively innovative, with great passing and deft ball handling.

Likewise, Daniel Sturridge continues to impress.  Chelsea needs to wrap him up with a long-term contract.

Drogba had a bit of an off day, but he’ll come around.  He was still involved through his strong physical presence and made several key passes.  I still think he should start alongside Torres once Fernando returns from his three-match red card ban.

It was a good weekend for Chelsea fans and a positive primer for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Genk!

Thoughts on Chelsea’s performance against Everton?  Feel free to share below…

Champions League Blues

Chelsea settles for a point against Valencia

I’m still smarting from Chelsea’s draw at Valencia in Wednesday’s Champions League group stage match.  Chelsea seemed in utter control of the game.  The Blues played well – not great – but their effort seemed to be more than enough to secure three points.  But they only got one point thanks to an 86th minute PK scored by Valencia after Kalou hand-balled on a Valencia corner.  Very frustrating.

Chelsea never should’ve been in danger of drawing as they had some seemingly easy scoring opportunities swatted away in the second half by Valencia’s acrobatic goalkeeper Diego Alves.  Ramires had one such opportunity.  I’m growing frustrated with Ramires because he seems to have trouble finishing.  I love his endurance, work ethic, and willingness to ram the ball ahead, but he really must come through with his finishing.

Finally, Frank Lampard got the better of Diego Alves when Malouda sent a smart diagonal pass through the box which Lamps lethally one-timed into the back of the net with one of his trademark grass-scorchers.  It was a great goal and a well-timed “shut up” to the over-eager soccer pundit boneheads who’ve lately been trying to read a lot into Lampard’s recent time on the bench for Chelsea and England.  Giles Smith had some great things to say in Lampard’s defense in his weekly Chelsea blog.  I agree with Smith that Frank still has much to contribute to the team.

Now back to that Kalou hand-ball in the game’s dying minutes… wow.  Seriously?  I’ve been impressed thus far with AVB’s handling of the squad, but it was definitely a mistake to insert Kalou.  When I saw Kalou warming up alongside Drogba, I had a feeling AVB was going to go with Kalou because Kalou hasn’t seen much playing time lately, the game seemed to be in the bag so it might be a good chance to show Kalou some love, etc., etc.  But it was the wrong game at the wrong time to show Kalou love.  Why not just let the veteran Lampard see out the game?  What on earth was Kalou, a striker, supposed to contribute in the last eight minutes?  It seemed to be one of those political moves managers feel obliged to do at this level – giving run-outs to players who have lately been out of the rotation.

Balancing playing time is surely one of the trickiest aspects of managing a club with Chelsea’s talent.  But Kalou should’ve remained on the bench.  AVB understandably didn’t toss Kalou under the bus in his post-match comments, but I will:  what was Kalou thinking?  He wasn’t match-sharp and he ran out there and blew a perfectly good win.  Sure, it’s early in Champions League play, but those squandered points could certainly come back to haunt!  I’ve always had doubts about Kalou – the necessary consistency just doesn’t seem to be there.  If I had to pick anyone to consider off-loading come January, it would be Kalou.

Anyway, it’s back to Premier League play tomorrow for Chelsea at Bolton.  The pesky Manchesters are still refusing to lose domestically, so a win over Wanderers is a must for Chelsea!

What do you think – am I being too harsh toward Kalou?