Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's about time!

At long last, FIFA has come to its senses and may introduce goal-line technology.

It is perhaps a bit of an understatement to say that the football's international governing body has been slow to embrace technology.

Football, after all, is still one of the few major sports that hasn't adopted video replay technology to assist referees.

As such, despite the immense wealth in football and the fact that no other sport is televised as much, embarrassing errors occur every weekend much to the chagrin of millions of football fans.
And while it still seems as though FIFA is still light years away from sanctioning the use of video replays in football matches, the governing body has at least signaled that its ready to introduce goal line technology.

But don't get too excited yet. Here's what Sepp Blatter had to say about it:

"In March next year, we will have a final decision on goal-line technology. If it's proved to be accurate and affordable, it's possible that the international board will adopt this technology during the 2014 World Cup," he said, ABC News reported.

March next year? What exactly needs to be discussed from now until March for something as clear cut as goal line technology?

If there's an agreement in March, reports say goal-line technology can be implemented by FAs from the 2012/13 season onwards.A key factor in making this happen, according to Blatter, is accuracy and affordability.

Still, this is positive news for football fans. For years Blatter was an integral member of the anti-technology/ anti-common sense caucus in FIFA. But Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany in World Cup 2010 changed his mind on the subject. The question of why no decision to implement goal-line technology since then is yet another mystery.
But one does wonder if the announcement of goal-line technology has come about at the right time to shed some positive light on FIFA following its recent corruption scandal.

In the meantime, here some famous incidents which could have used goal-line technology.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A midfield connundrum

Liverpool FC today denied that captain Steven Gerrard's rehabilitation may take longer than expected and keep the England midfielder out of Kenny Dalglish' squad for the beginning of the 2011/12 season.

The Reds captain has been sidelined with a groin injury since mid-March and underwent surgery towards the end of the season. Considering how this isn't the first time Gerrard's been hit with a groin injury, the medics at Anfield have kept the midfielder out of Liverpool's pre-season tour of Asia or it's recent 3-0 defeat in a friendly with Hull City.

Defeat to the Tigers in a pre-season friendly with an experimental side shouldn't concern Dalglish as much as the scoreline would suggest. Nonetheless, the friendly would have certainly highlighted the various challenges awaiting the Liverpool manager when the season kicks off in less than three weeks.

The obvious problem at the moment is the sudden abundance in midfielders at the club. Including new signings Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, there are at - at last count - 14 midfielders in the squad. And this doesn't include prospects from the youth squad.

Most pundits and 'tacticians' in the press have assumed Dalglish will employ a rotational policy to accommodate the various talent available in the squad. Well, no points for stating the obvious. The big question is who he intends to field each game and, more importantly, who he intends to drop.

A fit again Steven Gerrard would be a welcome boost to a squad that now possesses plenty of attacking options. But at the same time, the inclusion of Gerrard would amount to the omission of someone with the capabilities of Raul Mereles, Henderson or Adam as all four players operate best from the middle of the park.

Then again, both Adam and Mereles have been deployed on the wings during Liverpool's pre-season matches although it would seem highly unlikely either one of them will be used on the left following the arrival of Stewart Downing.  It would appear then there might be some room for change on the right side of midfield.

Dutch striker, Dirk Kuyt has spent over three seasons operating as a right-winger and while he certainly isn't a natural wingman, his work rate and penchant for goals almost makes him indispensable to the squad.

And speaking of indispensable players, let's not forget Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder, Lucas, who's transformation last season from a much-maligned player into one of the club's most reliable midfielders. More importantly, Lucas' defensive contributions have made him an integral player in Kenny's squad.

So, to reiterate my earlier query, who will Kenny be willing to sacrifice? Despite Lucas' popularity, the Brazilian may be dropped in games in which the Reds need more firepower than muscle in the field. Dirk Kuyt may also be another casualty as the Dutch striker may find himself being used more often from the subs bench than on the right-side of midfield.

But would Kenny risk dropping Gerrard? Dalglish often says no player is bigger than the club but Kenny also realizes that he can't afford to relegate Gerrard to the bench after all his years of service to the club. The last time Gerrard was unhappy at Anfield, he nearly signed for Chelsea and despite being much older now, many top level clubs wouldn't think twice of snapping the England international up if he were open to a transfer out of Liverpool.

Still, based on the Reds' performance against Hull, it is abundantly clear that it will take some time before the new midfielders in the Liverpool squad gel together. And Kenny may end up needing Gerrard more than ever.