Betfred Sport

Blake's 7 - Referees need to step up their game

Hi, Paul Blake here again with another look at the crazy world of football.

In this week’s edition of ‘Blake’s 7’ I tackle the issue of two footed lunges, question whether referees have the bottle to apply football’s ‘serious foul play’ law changes and explain why Theo Walcott is being played out of position for Arsenal.

Hold on to your hats; it’s about to get controversial!

Referees lack bottle

Referees seem to lack the bottle to follow through with football law changes. Take the recent changes explaining serious foul play: ‘A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.’

‘Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side, or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.’

Already, Premier League referees have botched the application of this law, most notably when Glen Johnson lunged two-footed at Joleon Lescott in the Carling Cup semi-final first-leg earlier this week, receiving nothing for his indiscretion and certainly not the red card prescribed by FIFA.

For years, FIFA has made some high profile law changes, yet few of them are ever fully enforced by referees in this country.

Under the spotlight again, Premier League referees will almost certainly neglect to enforce the ‘serious foul play’ law changes and their interpretation will be watered down so much that players will forget the law was ever changed in the first place.

Stop giving Walcott a wide berth

Theo Walcott is being played out of position by Arsene Wenger and until the Gunners’ under fire boss realizes this, he will not get the best out of his player.

Walcott is at his most dangerous when he is playing through the middle, as a central striker, or on the right hand side of a midfield five. The reason for this is that Premier League full-backs have begun to work him out.

In a more advanced position, Walcott is easily marked and has little space in which to attack defenders. Furthermore, he is given little freedom to come in off his flank, in what has become a very rigid 4-3-3 system.

Against Swansea, Nathan Dyer, playing on the right for the Swans, clearly outshone Walcott. He attempted nine more passes than Walcott and completed five more of them too.

He made more attacking runs than his Arsenal counterpart and successfully attempted more tackles. Wenger should revert to a 4-4-2 system with Walcott playing alongside Van Persie, or he should employ him wide on the right in a more fluid 4-5-1.

City fans see red over Glen Johnson two-footed lunge

Glen Johnson’s tackle on Joleon Lescott should have been a red card. I agree, but…

Shouldn’t all football fans ask themselves why they feel so strongly about these tackles? Injuries are part and parcel of most sports, take ice-hockey and rugby, for example, or even something as mundane as cricket where injuries are common place. Why do we feel the need to protect footballers so much?

After all, it’s not so long ago that the likes of Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner were lauded for their tough tackling approach and their hard man images.

Forty years on though and players are hardly allowed to make contact with each other for fear of giving away a foul. Barcelona players go down like dominoes when they dread that they might lose possession and draw fouls like basketball players in order to protect the ball. It is getting ridiculous!

Perhaps it is not the tackles themselves that are causing fans to get so hot under the collar. Maybe, it is just the lack of consistency with which they are dealt with. Where is the justice for City fans when Kompany gets sent off for a tackle that is less dangerous than the one made by Glen Johnson?

A target for Swansea

One of the few things that Swansea lack is a target man to get on the end of some of Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair’s crosses. An interesting statistic from Sunday’s game was the amount of crosses that Swansea put into the box which didn’t result in even a shot on goal.

It would be interesting to find out whether the addition of a target man, in say the Peter Crouch mould, would be able to convert some of these crosses into goals, without having a detrimental influence on the passing style with which Swansea are currently having so much success.

Blackburn fans should stop whining

Saturday’s 3-1 win for Blackburn, at home to Fulham, has finally begun to lift some of the gloom surrounding Ewood Park.

To be quite frank, I have just about had enough of Rovers fans whining about the Venkys and Steve Kean anyway. They need to be reminded that, while they have been a recent force in The Premier League, they have no divine right to be there.

My message to Rovers fans is to get behind your team and your manager. Being a Rovers supporter should not be on the condition that your team plays in the Premier League.

Is it the end for The Quakers?

I am sure that every football fan would join me in wishing the players, staff and supporters of Darlington Football Club all the best in their fight to save their club.

It is a great shame to see a club go into administration and to now be so close to being wound up completely. As a supporter of a club that has been in a similar position, I can appreciate the desperation that Darlington fans must be feeling.

Mancini ‘well within his rights’ to wave his imaginary cards

Roberto Mancini is well within his rights to wave his imaginary cards on the touchline. If he feels an infringement justifies a card, then he should feel free to make his feelings clear to the fourth official, the fans and to the viewers on television.

It is, after all, his team and his job that is affected by every failure of referees to enforce the laws of the game suitably.

By making the gesture, he is not cheating or influencing the game in any way.

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