MARTIN SAMUEL: ‘Intent’ rule that broke Tottenham’s hearts is illogical nonsense

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Antonio Conte said he does not see honesty in the decisions of referees and their video assistants these days. That is harsh. They are not crooks. But if he bemoaned an absence of logic, he has a point.

Who makes these rules? Who makes, specifically, the one that states a defender trying to block a ball coming into the box is not responsible for a deflection?

Tottenham may well go out of the Champions League next week on the back of that. And it is nonsense. Illogical nonsense. A ruling that can only exist in the mind of men with no understanding of the game.

Harry Kane was denied a stoppage time winner for Tottenham against Sporting Lisbon – and the rule that disallowed his effort is nonsense

When Flavio Nazinho stuck out a leg to stop Emerson Royal’s header from travelling into the area, any contact was intentional. If the ball stopped dead, if it went back out the way it came, if it went for a corner, even if it ended up in his own net.

The outcome may have been unintended, but his intention was to get something, anything, on that ball. To divert it from the intended target, Harry Kane.

So, Nazinho played the ball exactly as intended but did not get enough on it. There were 10 seconds left. He was hoping for the best but, in doing so, inadvertently played Kane on. Tough. It wasn’t the outcome the Sporting player wanted, but it was certainly no mere deflection.

And this is where appreciation for the game has been lost. Nobody who has played football at any level, from Wembley Stadium to the junior school playground, is confused by the logistics of trying to stop a cross. 

So how have we produced a generation of rule makers, of referees, lacking this simple comprehension? Why do they come up with interpretations that might as well have been manifested in the programmed mind of AI, without any human feeling for the sport or those in it?

Tottenham may well go out of the Champions League due to an illogical decision

Tottenham may well go out of the Champions League due to an illogical decision

Danny Makkelie, the referee, took the brunt of Conte’s anger, but it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t even really the fault of Pol van Boekel, the VAR. Both are working from a set of guidelines drawn up by colleagues at the International Football Association Board. 

UEFA’s representative on IFAB’s technical advisory panel is Roberto Rosetti, the former referee from Italy. Pierluigi Collina and David Elleray are on the technical subcommittee. And none of these guys know what a defender means when trying to block a cross? Deflection is the intention.

If Nazinho was running in the opposite direction and the ball hit him on the back of the head, that is a deflection. If he is between Royal and Kane, everything he does matters.

And if IFAB do not have any executives who know this, they need to deploy some people who have actually watched or played a game of football.

Something’s not right in Emma’s camp

One voice. Dmitry Tursunov’s suggestion for the next phase of Emma Raducanu’s career is plain. ‘You just need to have one voice and try that for a bit,’ Tursunov said.

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He did not clarify if the distracting chorus came from her family, her management team or other coaches but clearly it would not stay quiet long enough for him to stick around. Tursunov now works with Belinda Bencic, the world No 13, and Raducanu is once again on the market — although she has engaged fitness trainer Jez Green to up the physical side of her game. 

Her fall from 10 to 76 in the world rankings was perhaps inevitable after the heights of her US Open success, but Tursunov’s talk of red flags that led to their split suggests a deeper malaise.

If Raducanu is receiving conflicting messages, the inconsistencies in her tennis are really no surprise.

Emma Raducanu has fallen from No 10 to 76 in the world rankings after her US Open success

Emma Raducanu has fallen from No 10 to 76 in the world rankings after her US Open success

Title chasers don’t have to win them all 

Ben White spoke as if he was distraught at Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Southampton last weekend.

‘We were sloppy in possession, we didn’t win duels and that’s why the game went the way it did,’ he said. ‘We’re only human.’

Lee Dixon, twice a title winner with Arsenal, said he could not believe the negativity and he is right. Since when did a draw at Southampton equal disgrace?

Manchester City drew there last year, with the same scoreline, so did three other eventual champions across the last 10 seasons.

Dropping points happens and Ben White needs to get over it and come back stronger

Dropping points happens and Ben White needs to get over it and come back stronger

Since Southampton returned to the Premier League in 2012-13 their tally at St Mary’s against the title winners reads P10 D4 L6.

Yet in four of those defeats the margins have been by a single goal, including two in which the winner was scored in added-time. So no shame in coming away from St Mary’s with a point, provided Arsenal react by winning their home game against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Manchester City and Liverpool, with their incredible points totals, have created this sense of paranoia around any result that is not a win for those chasing the title. Yet across the last five seasons the eventual champions have dropped points against Watford, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, West Ham, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Brighton, Wolves, Newcastle, Everton, Burney, Huddersfield and, of course, Liverpool and Manchester City.

It happens. Get over it. And come back stronger.

No reasonable proof to charge Henderson 

As John Terry discovered, the balance of probability threshold for Football Association charges is far lower than in a court of law.

It is why in 2012 he was found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand by the FA, but not at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Balance of probability, however, works both ways. So with no hard evidence beyond claim and counter-claim, the FA had little option but to drop any case against Jordan Henderson for what passed between him and Arsenal defender Gabriel. 

Henderson is believed to have told the investigation he called Gabriel a ‘f****** idiot’. Gabriel believed he used another, far worse word in Portuguese. None of the other players questioned, from Arsenal or Liverpool, could confirm. Nobody asserted Gabriel was insincere, merely mistaken.

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So now, the balance of probability. For Henderson to use such a word would demonstrate a command of Portuguese-Brazilian dialect that he simply does not possess. 

So we would have to believe he researched how best to offend — despite being the admired captain of a cosmopolitan Liverpool dressing room — or been taught by one of his Brazilian or Portuguese team-mates, half of whom are of ethnic origin. On the balance of probability, therefore, the accusation goes away.

No action was taken after an investigation involving Jordan Henderson and Gabriel

No action was taken after an investigation involving Jordan Henderson and Gabriel

 Newcastle not spending big to succeed

Now that Newcastle have had the temerity to encroach on the top four, we will no doubt be hearing a lot more about clubs that can do what they like financially.

So, just to clarify, when winning at Tottenham last Sunday, Newcastle’s entire back four, plus goalkeeper Nick Pope, did not come to what Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire, Liverpool for Virgil van Dijk or Chelsea for Wesley Fofana. 

Their forward line did not amount to what United paid for Antony, Liverpool for Darwin Nunez or Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku and their midfield did not cost what United gave for Jadon Sancho or Chelsea for Kai Havertz and was only £10million more than Liverpool paid for Naby Keita.

Of course, had record signing Alexander Isak been fit that would have made a difference, but he is not and will not be until late December. Until then, the worth of Newcastle’s squad compares very favourably with those around them. If they have bought their success, so has everyone else.

Eddie Howe's side have made a brilliant start to the season challenging for the top four so far

Eddie Howe’s side have made a brilliant start to the season challenging for the top four so far

Rail travel is king 

Rail travel, not air travel, is now the most popular way to commute between London and Edinburgh, it was revealed this week. 

That is hardly a surprise. When trains between London and Manchester were showing full on the day Manchester United played Tottenham, British Airways wanted roughly £850 plus £100 in taxes to make the journey from Heathrow. 

Not a fancy seat, either. Standard class. It is about 35 minutes in the air. The industry really needs a government regulator of the type deemed so necessary for football. Oh, that’s right — they have got one.

City opponents could take inspiration from 1986 final 

The 1986 European Cup final was the first to end in a goalless draw, pretty much as Steaua Bucharest coach Emerich Jenei planned.

He knew his team were outmatched by Barcelona and believed their best chance of winning was through stalemate. To that end, not only did he set up to stifle the game — time-wasting was evident after just 20 minutes — he prepared for a penalty shootout. By the time it arrived, after one of the dullest 120 minutes in tournament history, Barca were demoralised. Steaua goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam saved their first four penalties and they won 2-0.

Fast forward to 2022 and given that Riyad Mahrez this week missed the 10th penalty of his career, and 25th by Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, might the odd canny Champions League coach consider similarly stultifying tactics?

Riyad Mahrez missed the tenth penalty of his career against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday

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Riyad Mahrez missed the tenth penalty of his career against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday

Serena Williams considering return 

 Serena Williams is now talking ever more seriously about ending her retirement and returning to tennis. 

Obviously that is her prerogative, just as it was when she bowed out at the US Open. But it would mean we all sat through a lot of schmaltzy, self-indulgent cobblers at Flushing Meadows this year.

Allardyce may be right about Sterling 

Asked to name his England starting XI for the World Cup, Sam Allardyce could find no place for Raheem Sterling. He may be right. Allardyce had Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham in a midfield three either side of Declan Rice, with Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka flanking Harry Kane. It is hard to disagree.

Sterling is now without a league goal since August and has scored just once under Graham Potter, in his first game. Undoubtedly, Foden, Saka and Mount are in better form and with Harry Maguire at the back, one wonders how many old favourites Gareth Southgate can afford before it impacts England’s chances.

Their group is not as easy as it looks and, with Senegal or Holland likely to be waiting in the round of 16, indulgences could be costly.

Raheem Sterling is struggling for goals and is without one in the league since August

Raheem Sterling is struggling for goals and is without one in the league since August

Tebas cuts an increasingly foolish figure 

Javier Tebas, the increasingly ludicrous president of La Liga, was on his soapbox again this week, railing against Paris Saint-Germain and claiming they have lost €1billion of late. ‘It breaks the ecosystem of European football,’ he said. Unfortunately, within a day of Tebas’s outburst, another debt-ridden super club was raising questions around financial fair play.

Barcelona’s Champions League exit cannot help but impact on their €1.3billion debt, despite selling €700m of future revenue to finance their summer transfer activity.

Barca’s only hope is a breakaway Super League, which will protect their mediocrity in a way the current competition does not. Tebas’s timing could not have been worse. 

He cuts an increasingly foolish figure, presiding over bankrupt clubs — morally as much as financially — while lecturing on fiscal propriety.

Eubank Jr vs Benn concept stank  

Eddie Hearn says he did not seek an injunction to secure Conor Benn’s fight with Chris Eubank Jnr because it would have been ‘a bad look’. 

Actually, the whole concept of the fight stank, but not as much as Hearn’s denouncement of the British Boxing Board of Control, which culminated in Benn giving up his licence shortly before the Board upheld allegations of misconduct over a failed drugs test. 

Relinquishing his licence meant the Board could not issue a suspension, so Benn can still pursue the fight abroad. No doubt Hearn would promote it, too. Now that’s a bad look.

Conor Benn relinquished his licence which meant he could not be issued a suspension

Conor Benn relinquished his licence which meant he could not be issued a suspension 

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