What We Learned: Matchweek 10

Matchweek 10 has passed, and it will not be missed by most Reds after a disappointing result against Brighton Hove & Albion. Once again the week was filled with controversial decisions, shocking results, and plenty of drama – both on and off the pitch. One of the involved parties just makes it too easy to write these articles.

I did want to touch on the injury crisis at Liverpool. James Milner’s hamstring injury adds the midfielder to Liverpool’s already lengthy injury list. This makes nine injured first-team players, including Alisson Becker who suffered a hamstring injury prior to the Ajax match yesterday. Obviously the multitude of fixtures has become a burden, but it is as if the squad is just cursed at the moment.

VAR Beyond Ridiculous

The ludicrous VAR decisions continue to ravage the Premier League. Shirt sleeves are offside despite being non-goal scoring parts of the body. VAR can apparently only review one thing at a time. Only arbitrarily drawn lines matter. It feels as if English FA officials learn how to use VAR less and less as the season goes on.

Ollie Watkins scored a late equalizer for Aston Villa. However, a three minute VAR review ruled the goal offside. First, if it takes three minutes to see your error, it’s not “clear and obvious” and the call should stand. Second, it’s ridiculous that Watkins’ was offside due to his shirt sleeve. Apparently that slight sliver of fabric gives the player an advantage. Finally, the only reason why Watkins’ shirt sleeve was offside was due to a foul by Angelo Ogbonna. If VAR is able can see a marginal offside violation, surely they can see a foul. Am I asking for too much?

The English FA’s use of VAR is just ridiculous. Embarrassing. It derails the flow of the game entirely. For a viewer, it is a disaster to watch not only because it is tedious, but everyone knows a ridiculous decision is coming. Yes, it may have been the “correct” call. However, if we need to draw lines to determine that the front atom of Mo Salah’s foot was offside, then there needs to be discussion on enforcement, especially in the “clear and obvious” department.

Missing: Dominance

Once again, no one was able to establish themselves firmly atop the table. Early in the season it was Everton and Aston Villa, who then fell from the lead. Then, Liverpool was unable to capitalize on results to pull ahead. Now it is Tottenham who cannot pull away. This has left us with a very interesting league table ten weeks in.

There are only six points that separate the top of the table from 11th. Surprisingly, Manchester City are in the bottom half of the table, but still have a realistic shot at the title. The gap from a top-four finish the 15th is a mere five points. This league is still fairly open with plenty to play for.

This season is reminding me often of the 2015/16 season when Leicester City won. The margin on the top was not clear until late in the season as all the top teams consistently dropped points. It was not until the second half of the season that Leicester took their place on top for good. If this season is anything like 2015/16, it will be at least be exciting to watch more than two teams fight for the title.

We Need To Be Selfish

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder called the top clubs “selfish” for wanting five substitutions. He claimed it would be an advantage only for the top clubs, and unfair to small clubs like his. Mr. Wilder got his way, and his club has still yet to win a league match…

Obviously the number of substitutions is not as large of an advantage as Wilder thinks it is. Quite frankly, his miserable side could use any possible advantage. Instead, it is time that Wilder and fellow naysayers look at the issue for what it is:  a player-first measure.

Players are dropping like flies, especially over in the Red half of Merseyside. The amount of fixtures these players have is insane. With international competitions, Champions/Europa League, and domestic obligations, some players had up to seven fixtures to play in November. Yes they are professional athletes, but they are not being given enough rest time, training time, and travel time to compete safely. Wilder can think it is selfish, but Jurgen Klopp was right in nearly every aspect in his post-match rant on Saturday. It is time to be selfish and take the health of the players into consideration.