Saturday, March 2, 2024

The calm before the season + VAR nonsense

My word, it is quiet out there. Enjoy it while it lasts. In just 12 days, we will be playing Manchester City at Wembley in the Community Shield. We will kick off our Premier League season just six days later.

Yet here we are, squad looking more or less complete — whether you like the summer business or not, it’s pretty clear we are mostly done — and the vast majority of players fully fit. So there is no swirling of rumours, there’s little to get too upset about, and we’re all left waiting for the actual football so we have something to discuss. It’s … nice.

For years we looked on in envy as other clubs got their business done early and we were left scrambling at the very end of the transfer window because targets were available earlier, we wouldn’t pay a premium to get deals done, we were waiting to make sales first, or any number of reasons.

Now take a look around. Manchester City have signed Mateo Kovacic but lost Ilkay Gundogan, haven’t yet added the defender they want in Josko Gvardiol, are likely to lose Riyad Mahrez without a replacement and have no idea how to get rid of Joao Cancelo. Liverpool have done a fair amount of business but are also on the verge of losing both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson — their entire midfield will have been rebuilt come September. Manchester United are still chasing a striker and being linked with midfielders. Chelsea seem no closer to signing Moises Caicedo and remain incredibly bloated. And then there’s that lot up the road, who have no captain and no replacement for their best player as he continues to push for a move and they debate keeping him against his will and costing themselves a huge amount of money in the process. Fantastic.

It’s similar further afield, too. Real Madrid have done their business nice and quickly (and could still add Kylian Mbappe, incredibly) but there is uncertainty at PSG, at Bayern Munich, at Barcelona. Borussia Dortmund were held up as a model club for years and they have delivered a scattergun approach to the summer despite knowing for months that they would lose Jude Bellingham and more or less exactly how much they’d get for him.

Doesn’t it feel great to finally be on the other side of it all? Obviously that is contributing to the lack of talk around Arsenal, at least until the Mbappe-shaped Ornbomb drops and our Twitter (or X?) feeds are chock-full of images of Edu grilling with a big grin on his face.

Until then, and with Arsenal content thin on the ground for now, I’ve enjoyed seeing plenty of Women’s World Cup coverage everywhere and chat about the games in the arses on yesterday’s blog.

I missed most of the first couple of days of action because I was travelling, just catching the odd half where I could, so Monday was the first day I could watch in full just as I’d like and it was impossible not to be impressed by Germany and by Brazil. It’s a real open field this year and — with the Philippines ahead against New Zealand as I write this — it’s refreshing to see some of the nations we’re less used to seeing on this sort of stage throw their weight around. It’s not only entertaining but it’s a great sign for the women’s game too.

One thing I am absolutely not a fan of is the VAR announcements they’re trialling. For anyone who hasn’t seen, the referee now announces to the stadium what decision has been reached. But they don’t explain why that decision has been reached or how it fits in with the laws of the game, so it’s all a bit pointless.

As Jonas Eidevall put it in the Guardian:

“I just don’t understand anything about the VAR stadium announcements for penalties. When Fifa first communicated about new VAR announcements I thought it would be like in the NFL or in rugby where referees actually deliver an explanation for a decision. That I really liked, because too often people don’t understand the rules well enough, and the referee gets misunderstood as a result.

“I think it could help everyone’s understanding if they could say, for example: ‘This is a handball and that’s the reason for the award.’ But as it stands now, with the referee just announcing they have awarded a penalty, it’s rather pointless. I know they have awarded a penalty because they are pointing to the penalty spot.”

Switzerland (Lia Walti and Noelle Maritz) meet Norway (Frida Maanum) later this morning if you’re looking for your Arsenal fix. Walti and Maanum both shone for us last season and will be in direct competition in the middle of the park, plus there’s a lot at stake after Norway lost their opener. It should be fun!

And no, I haven’t made any progress on the Lego Highbury. And yes, I am ashamed to admit it. But just you wait, I’ll have it finished by the time Blogs is back.

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