Fractional offsides, endless debates about the handball rule, and lots of fans now making big square gestures in the stands. VAR has firmly arrived in the Premier League and has dominated the conversation ever since.
For all the debate about its benefits or whether or not it’s being used properly, the question remains: without it, would anything be different?
According to a study from bettingexpert, the answer is yes. Although not much.
Brendan Rodgers may be winning huge plaudits for the way he’s transformed Leicester City into an unstoppable attacking force, but they’ve got VAR to thank for three points this season. Without it, they’d still be in the top four, but four points off Chelsea in third, who’d actually be one point better off without it.
Southampton and Crystal Palace have also got VAR to thank for an extra three points, keeping Palace in the top half of the table and Southampton off the bottom.
As for those who have the most to complain about, Wolves fans will be fuming upon seeing the revised table.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team were tipped at the start of the season to break into the top six, but a sluggish start coupled with their Europa League travails sees them in 12th, with just two wins from eleven games.
However, four points have been snatched away from them by VAR, and those four points would put them in the top six, a point behind Arsenal.
Even the title race would be closer if VAR was not in operation. The six point gap between Liverpool and Man City is far from insurmountable, but the extra two points City would have under normal circumstances would give Klopp’s men cause to look over their shoulder.
The accepted wisdom has always gone that bad decisions even themselves out over the course of the season, or maybe that’s just what aggrieved managers have been telling themselves to stop them stewing over disallowed goals and soft penalties. Over the first eleven games at least, VAR is undoubtedly having an impact on the runners and riders of the league – but will things be different come May?
Here’s the full Premier League table if we were living in a world without VAR (with the points difference from the real world in brackets):
1. Liverpool – 31pts (-)
2. Manchester City – 27pts (+2)
3. Chelsea – 24pts (+1)
4. Leicester City – 20pts (-3)
5. Arsenal – 18pts (+1)
6. Wolves – 17pts (+4)
7. Sheffield United – 17pts (+1)
8. Bournemouth – 15pts (-1)
9. Brighton – 15pts (-)
10. West Ham – 15pts (+2)
11. Manchester United – 14pts (+1)
12. Aston Villa – 13pts (+2)
13. Crystal Palace – 12pts (-3)
14. Tottenham Hotspur – 12pts (-1)
15. Burnley – 12pts (-)
16. Everton – 12pts (-1)
17. Newcastle – 12pts (-)
18. Norwich City – 7pts (-)
19. Watford – 5pts (-)
20. Southampton – 5pts (-3)
Serena Williams Wins Her 100th US Open Match.
It was light work on Tuesday (September 3) night under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams blitzed her quarterfinal opponent, Qiang Wang, 6-1, 6-0. The victory was Williams’ 100th at the U.S. Open, placing her one victory shy of the record (101), held by Chris Evert.
The match lasted 44 minutes.
Williams was on form from her opening service game. She never faced a breakpoint on serve, converted all of her breakpoint chances on Wang’s serve, and played a clean match: 25 winners versus only 10 unforced errors.
At this stage of her career, Williams is chasing history and records as well as battling Father Time.
The win on Tuesday night earned Williams a 13th semifinals berth at the U.S. Open in 19 tournament appearances. Her goal of securing a record-breaking (tie with Evert) seventh U.S. Open crown, and record-tying (Margaret Court) 24th grand slam title remain alive.
The second week of a grand slam tournament is where the pressure ratchets up and each point means a little more. Williams is no stranger to pressure, having said earlier this week, “pressure is a privilege,” quoting the great Billie Jean King.
But time waits for no one. Williams knows every match/tournament is an opportunity to further cement an already impeccable legacy, and while we should never doubt “the Greatest of All Time,” she won’t play forever.
Earlier this week, following her round of 16 match, she reflected on the longevity of her and Roger Federer’s careers, saying:
“I don't know. I feel like we obviously have a love for the sport. I feel like a lot of players do, too. I can't really answer for Roger. I can just say that -- I always said I would wake up one day and say, I'm done. That day hasn't come yet for me. I'm still playing pretty good tennis. I do look at Roger, like today, and the guy is incredible. His game is shockingly amazing. So there is no reason that he shouldn't be out there with his ability, and I feel the same way about mine.”
Williams’ semifinal opponent on Thursday will be Elina Svitolina, the fifth ranked player in the world, and 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist.
A spot in the U.S. Open Finals is on the line for both women. If Williams advances, it would be her 33rd grand slam finals appearance. For Svitolina, her first.
History is on the side of the legend, but the opportunity is there for both.
When discussing the possibility of playing Serena in the semifinals, Svitolina said:
“Definitely it's a big challenge to play against her...person who reach the semifinal is playing well. It's something that you have to bring your best game to beat them. But obviously Serena is amazing champion. Probably it's going to be really tough against her.”
Williams, who desperately wants to win this title, her first since becoming a mom, said:
“Well, she [Svitolina] is obviously a fighter. She gets a lot of balls back. She doesn't make a lot of mistakes. She's one of those players that does everything really well. So I have to do everything well, too.”
Premier League 2019-20: Team Of The Season So Far.
Liverpool’s full-backs, the beating hearts of Chelsea and Sheffield United and an evergreen striker make our leading XI.
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Leicester goalkeeper is that he has gone unnoticed this season. The 33-year-old has kept goal with quiet authority as Leicester’s defence has become the stingiest in the league, conceding only eight times. Ederson might have been a more obvious choice but the Brazilian has not been as assured for Manchester City this season. Schmeichel has been error-free and solid with his distribution. An honourable mention should go to Ben Foster who has made some wonderful stops while being overworked at Watford.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
He entered the Guinness Book of Records for his 12 league assists last season and has continued where he left off. He can sometimes be caught out positionally but his bravery in possession and speed of thought are what sets him apart as the most modern of right-backs. His cross-field pass with his unfavoured left foot to begin a move that led to Liverpool’s second goal against Manchester City was something you would expect from a midfield creator, not a full-back. His picture-perfect finish against Chelsea showed he now has the confidence to add goals to his game, too.
Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester)
It says something about the Turkish centre-back that the club could sell Harry Maguire to Manchester United for £80m and improve defensively. Brendan Rodgers deserves great credit for polishing a player who he said “looked like someone who would make a couple of mistakes” when he first saw the 23-year-old. Soyuncu’s panache in possession has helped give his side an added dimension and his reading of the game alongside Jonny Evans has made Leicester the hardest side in the league to break down.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Liverpool are struggling to keep clean sheets in the way they did last season, but does this mean Virgil van Dijk is any less dominant? Not a bit of it. “He’s a beast,” said Tammy Abraham after Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Chelsea. Despite having had several different partners at centre-back and Adrián behind him in goal at the start of the season, he has rarely looked ruffled as Liverpool have risen to the top. His defensive leadership is second to none and his lofty standards lift those around him.
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
The other creative spark at the back for the league leaders. Never stops running up and down the Liverpool left and his deliveries into the box are a forward’s dream. He already has four assists to his name and a goal to boot. He’s a terrier defensively and not many opponents get the better of him. Ben Chilwell’s exceptional performances run Robertson close but even the Leicester left-back describes the Scotland captain as “the best full-back in the world” whose game he tries to emulate. For good reason, too.
John Lundstram (Sheffield United)
He’s in everyone’s fantasy football teams, so why can’t he be in this one? It is no fluke that a player who struggled to get into the Blades team last season is now the beating heart of Chris Wilder’s side. A formation tweak has given John Lundstram license to get forwards from midfield and the 25-year-old has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He’s scored three goals this season, timing his runs to perfection and showing lovely composure in front of goal. He has a phenomenal engine and is as happy creating chances as finishing them off. He may not be Kevin De Bruyne, Fabinho or N’Golo Kanté, but he’s been every bit as effective for the upwardly mobile Blades as any of those illustrious midfielders have been for their teams so far.
The Chelsea holding player was derided as everything that was wrong with Sarriball last season but under Frank Lampard he has flourished. With Mateo Kovacic and Kanté offering aggression in midfield, the Italian can now focus on being the metronomic string-puller who feeds Chelsea’s freewheeling pups. We may not see a better pass all season than his gorgeous assist for Tammy Abraham at Watford.
James Maddison (Leicester)
Brendan Rodgers likened the midfielder to Philippe Coutinho after Leicester’s 2-0 win over Arsenal. It’s a fair comparison. He has a wicked shot and an eye for a clever pass which have helped him score four goals and make two assists but the playmaker’s game is about more than numbers. Maddison has an insatiable workrate and is often the first to trigger the press, winning back possession and using it intelligently. He is fast becoming one of the league’s best attacking midfielders – and best of all, he’s only 22.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
The winger is emerging as a talisman in Pep Guardiola’s side. Sergio Agüero may have scored two more goals than Sterling’s seven, but without the England international’s tormenting runs down the left and creative link-up play, the Argentinian would not have been so prolific. Once derided as being flaky in front of goal, Sterling is now one of the league’s most well-rounded finishers. If City do roar back into the title race, Sterling will be the player fuelling their resurgence.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
He’s 33 in just over a month but you wouldn’t know it from his razor-sharp displays. He tops the Premier League scoring charts with 11 goals having added intelligence to his game under Rodgers, who has instructed the combative striker to stop chasing lost causes and be a fox in the box. The result is that Vardy is drifting off defenders, finishing unerringly and looking a good bet to stay ahead of Abraham in the race for the Golden Boot. Retiring from England duty has been a wise choice.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
It’s hard to pick apart Liverpool’s front three given that they appear to perform as one but the Senegal forward has raised his game to another level. His seven goals are impressive enough but his all-round play has improved immeasurably too. He terrifies right-backs with his rare blend of skill and aggression and it is little wonder he has drawn challenges in the box that have led to accusations of diving. Mané is still an unselfish player but his public show of annoyance with Mo Salah showed that he now sees himself as being on a par with, if not better than, his more talked about teammate.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.
Ben Foster (Watford), John Egan (Sheffield United), Ricardo Pereira (Leicester), Fabinho (Liverpool), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) Bernardo Silva (Manchester City).
Ghana Down South Africa As Mali, Guinea Share Spoils.
Ghana joined Sudan on top of Group C as the Black Stars started off their campaign to qualify for the 2021 Total African Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a 2-0 victory over South Africa in Cape Coast on Thursday.
The victory took them to second spot in the standings, only separated from Sudan by goal difference. Thomas Partey and Kudus Mohammed scored a goal apiece in either half as the Black Stars stormed off on a positive note.
Partey broke the deadlock in the 36th minute with a brilliant low effort from range that caught Bafana Bafana keeper Ronwen Williams flat footed. The Ghanaians were rewarded for a bright start as they had most of the scoring chances.
In the 10th minute, a Partey low freekick was flicked goal-ward by Jordan Ayew but a hawk-eyed Williams picked it up. Dean Furman had a chance for South Africa on the quarter hour mark after Percy Tau’s freekick ping-ponged on bodies inside the box, but the curling shot went over.
In the second half, Ghana kept pushing for a second with Boateng coming close with a header that was well saved by Williams.
They finally got the nerve-calming second 11 minutes from time when substitute Mohammed won the ball close to the halfway line, dribbled into the box and struck an unstoppable right footed shot.
Meanwhile in Bamako, Guinea twice came from behind to force a 2-2 draw with Mali in a thrilling tie. Adama Traore broke the deadlock for the Malians in the 56th minute, but Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita drew Guinea level just 10 minutes later.
The home side would take just five minutes to get themselves back into the lead through Sekou Koita’s goal, but the never say die Guineans struck back level in the 75th minute through Sekou Conde.
Guinea will face Group A leaders Namibia in Conakry on Sunday while Mali will travel away to take on Chad.
Jay Z Signs Chelsea Star, Reece James.
The American management company have been quick to snap up the talented defender as well as his sister Lauren, a forward for Manchester United, and their father Nigel, who runs his own elite coaching academy.
Roc Nation will now manage the family's activities both on and off the pitch, including commercial deals, media relations and 'brand strategy'.
The James clan joins the Roc Nation Sports International football family that consists of Jerome Boateng, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Eric Bailly and Axel Witsel.
Reece is one of a number of Chelsea youngsters who have reaped the rewards of Frank Lampard's faith in academy talent.
The full back has forced his way into Lampard's first team plans and scored in the Premier League's side 4-4 thriller against Ajax in the Champions League recently.
The 19-year-old said: 'Joining the Roc Nation family alongside my own family is a very special feeling. Family means everything to me, and I could tell from day one just how highly Roc Nation values it.
'I look forward to a great partnership with Roc Nation who will manage my off-the-pitch activities as only they can.'
Lauren has been in fine form for Manchester United since joining from Arsenal last season, scoring 19 goals in 33 appearances for the Red Devils.
The 18-year-old said: 'I'm thrilled to be joining the Roc Nation family and the other impressive footballers they have on their roster.
'The Roc Nation team has been incredibly welcoming, and it's special to be joining the family alongside my own. I am looking forward to our future successes on and off the pitch alongside them.'
Reece and Lauren's father Nigel runs his own academy called Nigel James Elite Coaching Academy. He has worked in professional football for 14 years as a talent ID scout for Fulham, Reading and Tottenham.
'Our entire family is thrilled to join the Roc Nation team,' he said. 'Football has played an important role in our lives and I'm excited to see Lauren and Reece's careers continue to flourish with the support of Roc Nation and this special partnership.'
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