Saturday 28th August

MANCHESTER CITY V ARSENAL RESULT 5-0
Referee: Martin Atkinson. Assistants: Lee Betts, Richard West. Fourth official: Andy Madley. VAR: Darren England. Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup.

The challenge by Xhaka of Arsenal left referee Atkinson with no choice other than to dismiss the player.
I wonder when this player will learn that when he launches himself off the ground with two feet, he is reckless and his actions endanger his opponent a serious foul play challenge.

In this game, a Manchester City player was lucky to escape a sanction when responding to an Arsenal player’s push. The city player used his hand illegally by swiping it across his opponent’s face.

Arsenal have a lot of work to do to return to their past form under Arsne Wenger

ASTON VILLA V BRENTFORD RESULT 1-1
Referee: Peter Bankes. Assistants: James Mainwaring, Wade Smith. Fourth official: Oliver Langford. VAR: Lee Mason. Assistant VAR: Mark Scholes.

This was an open and enjoyable game with referee Peter Bankes delivering a performance without controversy.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION V EVERTON RESULT 0-2
Referee: Jonathan Moss. Assistants: Marc Perry, Timothy Wood. Fourth official: Tony Harrington. VAR: Simon Hooper. Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart.

One of the talking points in this game was when Referee Moss was too quick on the whistle and stopped what could have been a clear opportunity for a shot on goal.
Referees at the top level should have the courage to delay the whistle on occasions to see if an attack or shot on goal develops. The law gives them time to do this.

Generally the ‘lighter touch’ approach was applied and players responded positively.

NEWCASTLE UNITED V SOUTHAMPTON RESULT 2-2
Referee: Paul Tierney. Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis, Ian Hussin. Fourth official: John Brooks. VAR: Mike Dean. Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan.

Referee Tierney produced an excellent performance and played some excellent advantages.

The VAR did not need to come in and check on a penalty kick as Referee Tierney was in an excellent position to make an accurate judgment. The VAR intervention came in and Southampton correctly awarded a penalty kick

NORWICH CITY V LEICESTER CITY RESULT 1-2
Referee: Robert Jones. Assistants: Scott Ledger, Derek Eaton. Fourth official: Keith Stroud. VAR: David Coote. Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton.

VAR made a good intervention in this match and penalty kick was awarded to Norwich City off the back of it.

Leicester City’s second goal was the result of an excellent advantage applied by referee Robert Jones.

Norwich City ‘equaliser’ was correctly ruled out for offside, with a Norwich player directly in the line of sight of the goalkeeper.

WEST HAM UNITED V CRYSTAL PALACE RESULT 2-2
Referee: Stuart Attwell. Assistants: Dan Cook, Harry Lennard. Fourth official: Josh Smith. VAR: Graham Scott. Assistant VAR: Simon Long.

Another good performance from Referee Stuart Attwell, with the game passing without any major incident.

LIVERPOOL V CHELSEA RESULT 1-1
Referee: Anthony Taylor. Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn. Fourth official: Craig Pawson. VAR: Chris Kavanagh. Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.

We continue to witness referees in Premier League games adopt the ‘lighter touch’ approach in games. There is no doubt that it is producing games that are more enjoyable to watch given a lot less stoppages.
The danger of course to the players could be more injuries as some foul tackles are ignored by referees in favour of keeping the game flowing.

The clash between Liverpool and Chelsea saw Anthony Taylor using all his undoubted skill sets and experience to keep a lid on things.

Salah was held back in a challenge expecting the whistle to be blown. It was not so his response was to show a clear act of dissent by kicking the ball away. This is an offence for which a yellow card should have been the outcome. Liverpool’s Fabinho who had a terrific match was putting himself about with several of his foul challenges been awarded with free kicks. Once again Anthony Taylor kept his yellow card in his pocket rather than showing it to the Liverpool player for persistent offences.
If we are to continue to see this approach by referees then like we witnessed in the Euros, player behaviour is so important.

The big decision came in added time in the first half when after video review Chelsea’s number 24 James was shown the red card for handling the ball on the goal line preventing a goal.
Referee Taylor did not see the incident and was advised by VAR Chris Kavanagh to view the pitch side monitor having clearly outlined to the referee what he from his seat in Stockley Park had witnessed. Both Taylor and Kavanagh were officials at Euro 2020 and incidents of this nature will have been discussed.

Handling the ball
For the purposes of determining handball offences, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit. Not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence.
It is an offence if a player:
•       deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, for example moving the hand/arm towards the ball
•       touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger.

A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalised
•       scores in the opponents’ goal:
o       directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental, including by the goalkeeper
o       immediately after the ball has touched their hand/arm, even if accidental

Television replays showed clearly that the Chelsea player had satisfied the law by the actions of his hand/arm and an offence had been committed.
Taylor walked slowly to the pitchside monitor deep in conversation with VAR Kavanagh, also a Premier League referee and on the evidence by the time the still on the monitor was viewed the penalty kick and red card was issued.
I was surprised that Taylor was happy to only view a still image rather than the video replay, a mistake on his behalf in helping to “sell” his decision.
However, it was the correct call and I will be surprised if those Chelsea players who surrounded the referee protesting will result in the club been charged with failing to control their players.

Watch this space.

Sunday 29 August

BURNLEY V LEEDS UNITED RESULT 1-1
Referee: Michael Oliver. Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett. Fourth official: Craig Pawson. VAR: Chris Kavanagh. Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.

Michael Oliver applied a ‘light touch’ in what was a challenging game to officiate between these two teams who certainly did not pull back from their challenges,

There was a clear offside decision, but the Assistant delayed his flag and the ball bounced around the Leeds penalty area. However, before the game was halted, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes committed a reckless challenge on an opponent. He was high and made contact with his opponent who was also off the ground. Oliver issued a yellow card, on another day Barnes could easily have been sent off for Serious Foul play.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS V MANCHESTER UNITED
Referee: Mike Dean. Assistants: Darren Cann, Dan Robathan. Fourth official: Robert Jones. VAR: Stuart Attwell. Assistant VAR: Neil Davies

In the Wolves v Manchester United game, we witnessed Mike Dean normally a strict enforcer of the law with a history of an average four yellow cards a game adopts the ‘lighter touch’ approach like his colleagues.

The big talking point at Molineux centred around a challenge in the build up of play that led to United’s Mason Mount scoring the winning goal.
I supported Mike Dean who was in a great position to judge if Pogba had committed a foul. The Wolves player after the challenge moved a few paces and then went to ground. You could not see if any contact had taken place.

However, viewing another angle in slow motion Pogba went to ground and with raised studs caught his opponent.
Where was VAR, the incident should have been reviewed by the referee on the pitchside monitor.
Had Mike Dean reviewed the incident it is my belief that he would have disallowed the goal and sanctioned POGBA with at the minimum a yellow card for the reckless challenge.