1. Draws Galore
Despite what some people might say, there’s nothing innately boring about a sports match ending in a draw. While I’ve heard many arguments for penalties to decide league matches as well as many even worse ideas, a good hard fought draw between two evenly matched sides can be a great sporting spectacle. However, it had seemed so far this season, that the draw may have been on its way out, as in the first seven ’rounds’ of this season (i.e. before this weekend) there had been only four drawn fixtures.
However, it seems that this had created some sort of draw surplus in the warehouse where all of the results are stored and this weekend they were dished out liberally – doubling the amount of draws for the season in one round of games as Bolton-Spurs, United-Sunderland, West Ham-Fulham and Everton-Stoke all drew their matches while in the Championship the top three sides all drew, as did League One high-flyers Leeds and Charlton amongst others.
It seems then that the diversity of results may be moving back towards normality (insofar as they can be called normal), but why has it taken so long for the common draw to feature heavily this season? Well I’d suggest that it could be a start of season sort of syndrome. All teams want to make a good start to the season and in the early rounds of a season, will be more likely to be going all out for the win rather than settling for a point.
Because until the table starts to settle down a bit, one point is going to achieve very little, whereas a hefty three can propel a club from the bottom three to the top half. Of course, three points are still three points later in the season, but given that we rely so heavily on the table as being representative of our club’s current standing, it’s no wonder that three points appears so much more valuable early on when it can propel you far further than in a more mature and spread out league table later in the campaign.
What’s more, the very nature of the transfer window may also play a part in the early season lack of draws. With many clubs leaving it very late to sign players and thus complete their squad, the first few weeks of the season often sees many clubs taking time to find a balanced squad and to really start to fire on all cylinders. This means that there are often clubs there for the taking whereas later in the season, despite having the same players, they’ll have become better organised, used to playing together and therefore harder to defeat and more likely to play out a draw.
Portsmouth and Bolton are perhaps good examples of this (though Portsmouth won this weekend) – at the start of the season they were struggling to adapt to the new arrivals and to find any sort of form and so were losing games left, right and centre. Now though, they’ve gradually got themselves playing as a unit and are far harder to outplay and as such they’re more of a challenge for the opposition and more likely to grind out draws, as Bolton did against Spurs and Portsmouth almost did against Everton last week, and going one better by beating Wolves this weekend.
So it seems then that the common draw is back to stay. Now that clubs are beginning to find a certain sort of rhythm and the Premier League table is slowly settling into a more familiar look, clubs will be less likely to sacrifice one point in search of three and will be better organised to play out a draw away from home. For me, that’s no bad thing, as a draw can still result from an entertaining game of football, but it looks like bad news for those who crave an ultimate victor in any sporting contest, as the draw shortage appears to be over.
2. Pompey win at last, are probably even more doomed now.
Portsmouth finally felt the glorious taste of victory after beating Wolves at the weekend, an away win that will surely boost morale around the club considerably. However, despite this, the future still looks pretty bleak for the south coast club. New owner Sulamin Al Fahim has revealed himself to be even more of a jackass than was previously expected (which is no mean feat) by suggesting that he is looking to sell the club on mere weeks after finally completing his own buy out of the troubled outfit.
Not only does that mean that the weeks or even months of waiting over the summer, watching their best players leave and forcing Paul Hart to build a squad on a very tight budget and at very short notice on transfer deadline day now seems to have been pointless in the extreme, as the subsequent financial investment that would have made it worthwhile will now not materialise, but it also throws the future of the club back into doubt and condemns them to a yet longer period of instability.
Al Fahim has failed to pay his players’ wages and admitted he doesn’t actually have any money to invest in the club, which means that his ambition of using the club to make himself money was even more ridiculous than ever, given that the old adage ‘you have to spend money to make money’ is particularly true in football. Worse for Pompey though, is that they now look set to change hands again, and though this could have been good news – it could actually make things worse.
I’m sure many Pompey fans were hoping that the hapless Fahim would sell up to a worthy investor who actually knows anything about running a football club, but it looks like Fahim will instead try and offload Pompey to an Arab associate who will then make the same mistakes he already has, i.e. using it as a business tool and ultimately having no vested interest in the club as a sporting outfit. So although Pompey finally have some points on the board, the joy that that victory brings may well be short lived indeed.
3. More Chronological Fortune for Sir Alex.
While there is absolutely no question that Anton Ferdinand’s unfortunate own goal was well within the indicated added time when United secured a point at Old Trafford on Saturday, many football fans have been quick to add this to an ever lengthening list of occasions when United have benefitted from goals scored after the 90 minutes has technically expired. Of course, added time is part and parcel of our game, but as doubtless bitter rival fans point out – with some credibility – it’s not a hugely accurate science.
After all, the referee on the pitch is in charge of time-keeping as well as keeping his eye on the game, and ‘keeping an eye on the game’ is a massive euphemism that encompasses his responsibility to lookout for foul play on and off the ball, judge whether or not the ball is out of play and who it came off, decide whether or not a goal has been scored and liaise with his assistants about offside decisions and other such things. It’s fair to say, he’s got plenty to be doing, and timekeeping is a hassle he could do without.
Then you have to remember that the guidelines that referees get for this added-time are simply guides, it’s not exact. Not every substitution takes thirty seconds while some take considerably more, and any match will have a different amount of throw-ins, goal-kicks and free-kicks etc. which may not necessarily be accounted for in referees seeming obligation to add on at least one or two minutes per match, plus any excess stoppages.
So why not take it out of the referee’s hands altogether? They’ve got plenty to be doing already (judging from their performances, probably too much) while there’s a fourth official standing on the sidelines with very little to do as things presently stand – until of course, controversy erupts over the referee’s bad time-keeping. So why not let the fourth official handle that side of things, and while we’re at it, let’s make things more exact too.
It wouldn’t be very difficult at all to introduce some sort of stop-clock system, whereby whenever the referee blows his whistle to indicate that the ball is out of play or that play stops due to some infraction the match time is stopped by the fourth official. This would not impact on the gameplay at all, and would mean that we would be able to keep track of exactly how much game-time there had been, and ensure that when the clock reached 90 minutes, the game was over, whatever happened.
This would be a fool-proof way of reducing the controversy over added time and the allegations of clubs buying or bullying referees into playing on until they score. The clock could be displayed on the scoreboard or big screen so that fans, players and managers alike could know exactly where they stood and no one could complain that more or less time than was promised had been played. It’d sure save us all arguing about time all the time would it not?
Have your say:
What were your main talking points from this weekend’s action? Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts and opinions…