Monday 21 January 2019

Van Basten could fix football's woes easily

Marco Van Basten
Marco Van Basten

Last week I read what Marco van Basten had to say about the future of the game and his many suggestions about how football could be improved.

Some, like his proposal to scrap the offside rule, were just foolish and some might merit closer inspection.

Van Basten is FIFA's Director of Technical Development but nowhere in his list of innovations, presumably put out there to stir a debate, do I see any reference to technology as an aid to football.

Technology is part of his brief and I would love to have sat with him over the weekend watching the Premier League. I lost count of the number of times a video replay would have helped.

A video official would have been able to clarify without any debate which referees decisions were right or wrong.


This is an old subject and think most football fans are tired of the endless complaining, endless dishonesty and the bare-faced cheek of some managers who deny the evidence of our eyes and but cannot argue with a video replay.

Arsene Wenger made a complete fool of himself at the weekend and he is the worst offender in this regard.

He disputes everything that goes against his team, as he did against Burnley. For me, both penalties were clear-cut, the Granit Xhaka sending off was spot on. Wenger didn't have a leg to stand on.

His behaviour was ridiculous and I think he realised that himself but it won't stop him doing it again at the next available opportunity.

I am absolutely certain that a well-managed video referee system would cut the legs out from under a very big chunk of the complaining and moaning.

Has there been a single controversy over a goal line incident this season? None that I have seen and there's a very simple reason for that. Cameras.

I'm sure Van Basten means well and I'm sure he reckons that his proposals will kick off a debate which is needed about the future direction of the game. I have no problem with that. Football must evolve.

But I see no point in game innovation if there are no video referees. FIFA must fix the problems which are clear and evident before they start worrying about anything else.

Despite everything that happened in the Burnley game, it was actually a good weekend for Arsenal and of course Chelsea.

I think we are at the stage now when the silversmith should be taking out his drill because I can't see Antonio Conte and his players dropping the ball.

That thought struck me forcibly when Conte made a couple of substitutions in the game against Hull and brought Cesc Fabregas and Willian off the bench, two players who would start in every other team with Top Four ambitions.

I'm not sure any other manager is in a position to bring quality like that off the bench in a game and while Conte might be light enough when you drop below his best fifteen or sixteen players, I think he has more quality than anyone else.

He has defenders too which are in short supply everywhere and Conte has a defensive mind which allows him to see the value of building a team from the back.

Alex Ferguson did that at Manchester United and put a huge emphasis on the quality of his defenders.

I think several managers in the Premier League now don't believe enough in defence and they are suffering because of it.

Jurgen Klopp is a great example. When they are good and on the front foot, Liverpool are irresistible but to have the confidence to play that way, there must be a consistency at the back or everything is resting on quicksand.

I don't need to repeat my thoughts on Wenger's attitude to defenders and Pep Guardiola, the man who started this fashion, is also struggling with his defence.

However, I must take my hat off to Guardiola after the 2-2 with Spurs.

There was no messing with goalkeepers and full-backs. Manchester City absolutely blew Spurs away. They should have won easily but again, poor defending cost Guardiola.

Still, I thought it was a very good response from Guardiola and his players under pressure and a good sign for the rest of his time in Manchester.

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