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Midweek Musings: Goal-line technology an early BPL success

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Gareth Wheeler
8/21/2013 1:12:57 AM
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TSN Soccer analyst Gareth Wheeler's Midweek Musings on the Barclays Premier League.

Welcome to the goal-line technology era in British top-flight football.  Seamless, wasn't it?  I bet you hardly noticed.  Makes you wonder what's taken so long.

One of the sights of the opening weekend in the Barclays Premier League came Sunday (as seen on TSN, heard on TSN Radio) as Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic had his header on goal cleared off the line by Hull City goalkeeper Allan McGregor. 

The play ominous, as it was the first decent shout for the use of the goal-line technology.  Instead of running over to the linesman or shouting at the match official, all Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had to do was turn to the fourth official for a verdict.  A simple look and he had his answer.

Mourinho, in his always-colourful fashion, arms flailing, turned to fourth official Andre Marriner.  Holding his wrist, Marriner showed Mourinho his red and black watch.  The device wasn't vibrating.  No flash of the word 'goal'.  And it was understood the ball didn't cross the line.  The two men had a laugh.  As did Hull City manager Steve Bruce.  The two managers even shared a hug.  And it was over with.

The television replay and subsequent graphic confirmed what we all knew.  No lengthy debate.  No prolonged protestations.  The situation was over.  No goal.  The technology got it right.  Simple.  Quick.  And effective.

Hawk-Eye goal-line technology has been developed since 1999 and used in the Premier League for the first time on the weekend.  It's the same technology that's revolutionized tennis with instant replays on hotly contested shots; in or out and a decisive answer.  It takes less than a second for the high-speed cameras to determine whether the ball has crossed the line on the pitch. 

Although it's inevitably at the referee's discretion to ask the fourth official for the goal/no-goal verdict based upon the encrypted wristwatch, the man in charge would be a fool not to use his help through technology.  Sunday was exhibit 'A' how efficient it was executed.

Many fought diligently to keep goal-line technology out of football.  FIFA president Sepp Blatter dragged his feet accepting the clear benefits of technology, saying rejecting hi-tech progress put the game in a special place, creating more 'fascination' and 'popularity' in the game.  Human error was deemed to be charming and a catalyst for conversation and debate. 

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand concurs, speaking out against goal-line technology before the season.  Ferdinand believes "Incidents like that add to the game because it runs into radio phone-ins, people talk about it in the pub and in other media.  Was it a goal or wasn't it."  I strongly disagree.

Debate will always exist in football.  Various approaches to the game, and more importantly, the subjective nature of officiating provides substantial fodder to argue and discuss.  A match-official's interpretation and implementation of the rules of the game, what is a foul and how to manage proceedings varies from match to match.  Just ask Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway how he felt about the opening weekend officiating. 

Holloway provided plenty of food for thought.  The conversation to do with on field injustice is going nowhere.  Penalty calls, foul calls around the box, what constitutes a proper caution or sending off, even a flag offside are entirely unpredictable and an imperfect science.  Whether a ball crosses a goal-line is black and white.  It's not subjective in nature.  It's a game-changing call.  And it has to be correct.

I covered the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was in attendance in Bloemfontein for England's 4-1 loss to Germany in the Round of 16.  Germany held a 2-1 lead in the first half.  Frank Lampard's shot from outside the box hit off the bottom of the crossbar and over the goal-line before spinning back out of the net. 

The lineman's flag stayed down.  No goal.  The crowd was irate.  Mere seconds after the play, a photographer in front of me turned and showed photo evidence.  It wasn't even close.  The ball crossed the line.  The match was immediately riddled in controversy.  And England lost their way.

In 2005, Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll was bailed out by the linesman for what could have been one of the biggest howlers in Premier League history.  Spurs midfielder Pedro Mendes hit the ball from just inside United's half.  It was a floater.  Carroll stumbled, failed to cover and put the ball into his own net. 

In a moment of panic, Carroll scooped the ball out and the play carried on.  It was a shocking miss by the match officials.  And a clear sign technology was needed to help during such critical moments.  The match ended in a scoreless draw.  And Carroll's blushes were saved.  The embarrassment of the referees was not.

Goal-line technology is the ultimate helping hand.  Argument over whether the ball crossed the line is nonsensical with video replay from multiple angles providing irrefutable evidence.  Let's save our debate for the subjective side of the game.  Hawk-Eye goal-line technology ensures that.  And the Premier League is better for it.

- Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and Everton boss Roberto Martinez have criticized transfer activity and the approaches of their players as the transfer window remains open despite the start of the Premier League season.  The window stays open until September 2nd. 

Pardew has called for the transfer window to be closed before the first ball of the season is kicked.  And he's absolutely right.  Get rid of the distraction.  Get rid of the excuse.  A team should be forced to do team business in the run-up to the season.  The preseason instead has become a time to trek around the world on sponsorship and business endeavours.  Take care of your transfer business first.  And don't let it linger.  Close the window early.

- Manchester City showed their title credentials in Monday's 4-0 win over Newcastle.  The bad news, captain Vincent Kompany will miss three weeks with a groin injury, putting his fitness in question for the match-day five meeting with Manchester United.  The positive news, City's next three matches come against newly promoted Cardiff and Hull, as well as lowly Stoke.  Kompany's loss mitigated by poor competition.

- Widespread questioning of Manchester United's title chances seemed to have quelled to a certain degree after scoring four at Swansea.  But the need for upgrades in the transfer market has not.  United's double swoop attempt for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines is a curious one, with Everton going public about the move.  It's a curious tactic Everton revealing United's approach. 

The tactic signals a possible negotiating ploy out of Goodison Park to drive up the price of the players, rather than being insulted by the bid, as Martinez proclaims.  There has to be more than what appears. United's bid for Fellaini makes sense to fill a need at central midfield. 

A move for Baines doesn't make much sense at all.  Patrice Evra has been fantastic at left-back for United for the better part of the last two years.  United would be better off pursuing a younger successor for the position.  A player like Southampton 18-year old Luke Shaw makes much more sense.

- It looks like Yohan Cabaye will leave Newcastle for Arsenal.  A price needs to be settled, but it seems the Emirates is the most likely destination for the Frenchman.  The bigger question; would Cabaye solve Arsenal's problems?  Arsene Wenger is under pressure to buy, but the team would be better off investing in a new goalkeeper, a reliable centre-back and a top class striker.  A player like Cabaye falls further down a preferred shopping list. 

- It's always good seeing smaller clubs buy intelligently, bringing in players specific to the clubs needs.  After a terrible start to last season upon promotion and through a managerial change, Southampton has emerged a dangerous club showing ambition. 

The spine of the team up the middle is all-important to competing week after week in the Prem.  And the Saints have significantly upgraded those areas.  Centre-back Dejan Lovren (Lyon), central midfielder Victor Wanyama (Celtic), and striker Pablo Osvaldo (Roma) bring substance to an already talented side. A push for a Europa League spot is not crazy to suggest.

Impressive teams not picking up three points: Everton, Swansea.

Not sure what they are: Fulham, West Brom, Liverpool.

Performer of the week: Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

Biggest disappointment: Arsenal.

Underrated players: Kevin Nolan (West Ham), Steven Pineaar (Everton), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Sascha Riether (Fulham)

Match-day two fixture(s) to watch: Manchester United v Chelsea, Tottenham v Swansea

You can reach Gareth at gareth.wheeler@bellmedia.ca or follow him on Twitter, @WheelerTSN



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