Oh, VAR!-May 26, 2022

The 2021/22 Premier League season is over, so besides lamenting the obvious points dropped, fans can now wonder what might have been without video assistance referees (VAR). Statistics have been developed by ESPN looking at the yes and no of VAR decisions, and it’s the stuff of pub arguments whether your team was helped or hurt. Though, the VAR-adjusted table shows that Manchester City and Liverpool would have ended 1st and 2nd, it omits the most egregious decision of the season (because there was no reversal), in my mind: the ‘handball’ by Rodri (Man City) against Everton, late in the match, when the score was 1-0, and could have given a chance to equalize with a penalty, that was clear as day but the referees missed, even after VAR. It was so bad that the refereeing body issued an apology to Everton!

For Liverpool fans, that non-decision was the one that ‘cost’ their team the title (if City had only gotten 1 point, not 3, then Liverpool would have ended 1 point ahead). I won’t go there, not least because it avoids discussing other dubious calls that might have gone in Liverpool’s favour. But, do I need to be so neutral? 🙂

Anyway, have fun reading the table and commentaries”


It was so close…-May 22, 2022

The Premier League 2021/22 season ended in dramatic fashion, with Manchester City retaining their title, winning 4 of the past 5 seasons. Credit to them, for doing that in dramatic fashion with a stunning comeback from 0-2 down to win 3-2, to a team they have hardly ever lost to at home, led by a Liverpool legend, trying to be their nemesis, and a former Liverpool star holding briefly the key to their former club’s snatch and grab of the title. But, it was not to be. Liverpool did their job, winning, and the rest was down to others. The title was never Liverpool’s to win, being 14 points behind City at one stage and only leading for a total of 11 days, mostly in the early weeks; it was City’s to lose, having led the league most of the season, for 168 days. Credit, too, to The Reds, who were the only other team to mount a sustained challenge to City, and to the final day. It’s more noteworthy because Liverpool were competing well on all fronts, chasing a unique quadruple. They’ve managed two legs of that, winning the Carabao and FA Cups, and have the Champions League final to come at the weekend. But, it has truly been a dream season, and the league title would have been really sweet icing. It’s no consolation that the total points gained by Liverpool would have won the league in most years. They and City have set a standard far higher than other clubs have so far been able to match.

It was farewell to Divock Origi, a true club legend and individual highlight reel. He warrants more playing time with a big club, and I hope he finds that with AC Milan, who won Série A on the last day in Italy.

Awards went to several Liverpool players. I don’t think much of the ‘Player of the season’ award, voted for by fans, writers and team captains, not least because the fan voting can be manipulated. The Football Writers’ Awards are more meaningful, as are the Premier League awards based simply on statistical performances.

Liverpool players were in the top 3 places, an astonishing outcome, with its two full backs supporting its ‘winger’.

I really think highly of Liverpool’s goalkeeper, who has done more to solidify the defense, almost single-handedly. The team play a high risk defensive ‘high line’ and Allison is often called on to defend one-on-one.

Was the Premier League season like no other like no other?-May 27, 2021

An interesting summary of the past English top-level football season was presented by EPL Live on May 25:


The 2020-21 Premier League season was the season like no other. Or was it?

Certainly, it differed from the norm in many aspects. The ongoing global effects of the coronavirus pandemic meant that for the majority of the campaign fans were still not allowed to attend inside stadiums.

The delay to last season also had a knock-on effect and meant the fixtures came thick and fast, causing a congested schedule and little chance to pause and reflect.

But just how different were things? Well, using some key metrics from the good folks at Opta, we have taken a look back at the comparative data going back to the 2003-04 season to look at things from a statistical standpoint.


There were certainly plenty of games with a high volume of goals and some unusual results, too. Remember Aston Villa beating Liverpool 7-2? And the Reds routing Crystal Palace 7-0?.

But in our time period, there have been nine occasions when there have been more goals tallied than the 1,024 this term. Indeed, you only have to go back to 2018-19 for the most celebrated – a whopping 1,072.

However, this term comfortably produced the highest number of penalties taken at 125, an average of 0.33 spot-kicks per game.

Players this season have statistically been more accurate as well. An average shot-conversion rate of 11.14 and shooting accuracy of 48.87 are both the highest since 2003-04.

On the flip side, this campaign produced the fewest number of shots (including blocked shots, 9,194 – an average of 24.2 per game). For context, there were 11,050 in 2010-11 – an average of 29.1 per game.

Last season saw the fewest amount of headed goals at 138. It was up to 170 in 2020-21, but that is 35 fewer than in 2010-11 – the highest on record since 2003-04.


No, that header is not just a popular lyric from the John Barnes rap in ‘World In Motion’ but a sense of the evolution of possession football and patient approach play in England’s top flight, reflected by the increasing number of passes accumulated in Premier League seasons.

Back in 2003-04 there were 284,243 (748.01 per match), while the fewest over an entire term was 272,290 (716.55 per game) in the 2007-08 campaign.

This season produced the most passes ever recorded with a staggering 359,160, equating to 945.16 per game. Moreover, the 81.5 per cent passing accuracy is also the highest in our data.

Continuing a trend of the changing times, this term marked the fewest passes in the final third (98,770) and the lowest percentage of passes into the final third (27.5 – data for these metrics began in 2006-07). The most passes in the final third occurred in 2016-17 when there were 106,993.

The 25.1 crosses per match was down slightly on last term (26.5) but still up on the fewest recorded of 24.2 in 2018-19. The highest average was back at the start of our data in 2003-04, when there were 42 crosses per game.


In perhaps another sign of how the game has evolved, this season saw comfortably the fewest number of tackles (11,800 – 31.1 per game) recorded. In comparison, the most in a campaign in the same metrics saw 18,050 and 47.5 in 2006-07 (when tackling data was first taken).

That would go some way to explaining why there were only 1,095 yellow cards dished out – the second fewest in our timespan (an average of 2.88 per match). The least amount shown was back in 2004-05 (1,015, 2.67 per game), while the most in a single campaign was the 1,392 in 2016-17 (3.66 per game).

Red cards were up from the 44 dished out last term, with 48 shown. That number is higher than the 39 dismissals of 2017-18 but way down on the 73 of 2005-06.

However, fouls conceded were up for the second consecutive season (8,283) from a low of 7,768 in 2018-19. That number is still much lower than the high of 10,886 in 2005-06, though.


Overall, there can be no doubt this season was completely different to any other we have known in the Premier League and, fingers crossed, more and more fans will return to stadiums from next season. 

In purely statistical terms, the data seems to suggest a continuation of certain trends (more passes, fewer tackles, fewer crosses, penalties on the rise) than any sort of mind-boggling anamoly. So, from that sense, perhaps it wasn’t quite as different as we thought.

Alisson wonderland as Liverpool FC create history-May 17, 2021

Watching Liverpool matches live has become so stressful this season that I rarely do it. As the season draws to a close, they’re chasing a place in the top four of the Premier League and a Champions League spot. They’ve gotten back to winning ways and won most of their recent matches, 6 in 8. They got to a point where the fourth spot is in their control, with three games to play, after beating Manchester United away, last Thursday. Win all 3 and it’s job done.

The game away against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday was going to be tough, with Albion already relegated but a hard side to break down and pride at stake. They also stole a point at Anfield with a stoppage time winner.

I saw the score was 1-1 at 88 minutes and thought a point was better than none. I then checked a few minutes later to see Liverpool leading 2-1, with a goal by Alisson in the 90+4 minute! Alisson is the team’s Brazilian goalkeeper! 😳🤔

I turned on the TV to catch the final whistle and players hugging like crazy.

I stayed with the coverage as they replayed the winning goal. Never in my life have I seen this. Alisson came up for a corner and headed in like a seasoned centre forward.

The Brazilian commentary is amazing:

The English commentary is ecstatic:

All angles can be see from a Liverpool FC post:


The goal was historic, including first ever by a Liverpool goalkeeper:

The post-match interview was emotional; Alisson had lost his father several weeks ago:

The magic of the FA Cup: Leicester City bringing more fairy tales to life-May 16, 2021

I’m a closet fan of Leicester City. It began years ago, in the early 1960s, when they were a good English First Division club, that constantly developed great players. From then, into the 1990s, the club could be named amongst those who’d been home to some of England’s best players-Shilton, Weller, Worthington, Clarke, Lineker, Heskey and some from elsewhere in Britain, such as Neil Lennon. Many went on to other clubs for stunning fees.

Then, the team waned and struggled, financially, needing the saving savings of big investors, the most recent and important being the current Thai owners, namely Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai businessman and billionaire, and the founder, owner and chairman of King Power Duty Free, from 2010 until his tragic death in a helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium. His legacy is carried on by his family. His commitment helped Leicester do the most improbable feat of winning the Premier League, in 2016, under Claudio Raineri. They did that after narrowly missing relegation, the previous season. They have since sold some of their key players from the title-winning season, some of whom have gone on to win the Premiership with their new clubs. They sacked a few managers and floundered a little, but solidified themselves as a top team in the past three seasons, managing to make their way into European competitions, under Brendan Rodgers since 2019, who’s showed his style and imagination with Chelsea, Liverpool and Celtic.

But, they also had the sad legacy of most times in an FA Cup Final and not won–4…until yesterday.

They brought the magic again, on a day when masses of fans were allowed into a football stadium for the first time during the pandemic–22,000, roaring as they should.

They won the cup with a wonder goal, too, by Belgian Youri Tielemans, and the match has been dubbed “The Tielemans final”. Watch it, and watch it again, and again:

A quick VAR check for handball by Perez in the build-up, and the 63rd minute goal was confirmed.

It was just what fans want to see, live. I was out of my seat. So, too, was Gary Lineker, now in his pundit role as presenter for BBC’s Match of the day.

It was also putting up two fingers to the aborted European Super League, with the displays of affection between Chairman, management and team…connected top to bottom:

Leicester also showed that spending big money for ‘big’ stars is not always the way to success, and bringing on lesser-known players and developing them in a solid youth/academy system is a great way to go. Ironically, two of Leicester’s developed stars were on the losing Chelsea team, and Ben Chilwell nearly spoiled the party twice, with a header saved by Schmeichel and then a goal in the 88th minute, ruled out by VAR.

In the mix, was another piece of Jamie Vardy history-making, as the only player to have played in every round of the FA Cup (14), and won the trophy:

So, there’s plenty to savour and plenty to talk about for years to come. But, for now, the focus is on a nice piece of silverware to mark another good season.

A win for the Citizens-May 11, 2021

This week sees a flurry of English Premier League football activity ahead of the FA Cup final, in part due to fans demonstrating at Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford last week and forcing the postponement of the key match with Liverpool. So, Man U have to play 3 matches in 5 days! They won on Sunday, but were pinned back well by Leicester today, which helped the Foxes sit more comfortably in 3rd spot and likely set for UEFA Champions League (UCL) and kept Man U in 2nd. They will play Liverpool on Thursday.

But, the outcome of the result last night meant that Manchester City can claim the title, which they faltered on last Saturday in a bizarre home loss to Chelsea, who scored their winner in the dying moments, and after City had squandered a penalty kick with the now-infamous Aguero missed panenka.

So, City win their 5th title since 2011/12. Kudos! It’s a great win in a bizarre COVID-ravaged, fan-free season, where form has been illusive for many great teams. Yet, City trailed badly in the early weeks then went on a 15 match win tear to seal the title lead by March. They’ve also been supreme in all contests. They have the Carabao Cup sealed, and have the UCL final to come…versus Chelsea (who have the FA Cup final this weekend, versus Leicester, having beaten City in the semifinal).

Just when English football citizens want club owners to show more respect and give them more attention, ‘The Citizens’ win the league!

So, Kudos! They set a few records along the way. Pep Guardiolo has no peers as a manager.

#COVID19Chronicles-285: January 17, 2021-Celebrate less, it’s infectious! No more hugging and kissing in English football :)

English Premier League clubs have had a rash of COVID positive tests and several matches have had to be postponed or teams field much weakened sides to fulfill fixtures over the past two weeks. Between Monday 4 January and Sunday 10 January, across two rounds of testing, 2,593 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, there were 36 new positive tests. Players or club staff who have tested positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days. This is the highest number and rate all season. Infection rates were expected to spike nationwide after the Christmas-New Year holidays.

In part, as a reaction to that, it seems, plus the wave of new strain COVID infections in the UK, and its need to go back into full lockdown, and public perception that football and other elite sports are being allowed to do what most of the rest of the population cannot, new restrictions have been introduced.

The BBC reported that ‘Premier League chief executive Richard Masters recently wrote to clubs to “stress the critical importance of adhering” to strengthened Covid-19 protocols. They were reminded that “handshakes, high fives and hugs must be avoided”.’ Initial reactions have been mixed:

The Premier League and English Football League declared in a joint statement that they were confident their respective campaigns will conclude on schedule in May, as long as clubs adhered to the Covid safety measures. Stopping the season is the sword of Damocles hanging over the clubs, with the resulting knock-on effects that could have for international tournaments scheduled for the summer. Elite rugby has suspended its season for two weeks:

The English football leagues are considering plans for clubs to bring academy players into their elite testing pool to widen their squad and to try to avoid the mass postponements that all but wiped out last weekend’s Women’s Super League (WSL) fixtures. That was exacerbated by some players having travelled to Dubai for training, which was legal at the time. The majority of academies are closed at the moment as they cannot meet the elite protocols.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard says he will suggest to his players that they stop celebrating during training: “In all seriousness, we practise social distancing as much as we can at the training ground”

West Bromwich Albion boss Sam Allardyce said the rules would be followed to keep football matches on but added he was “peeved” that players were being called “irresponsible”: “We’re getting tested two or three times a week. We have sterilisers, masks and independent monitors at the training ground making sure we don’t do this or that.” He was also critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic: “I can’t have meetings more than 10 in a room, so why are they thinking we are doing it wrong? Just because we’re celebrating scoring a goal. Come on, that’s not right.”

Well, in the weekend’s games so far, we’ve seen sharp contrasts, with several teams forgetting the new rules. The results of that are that the clubs will be policed a bit more closely:

Honestly, though, West Brom getting a massive win away in a match that was the biggest local derby for the team could be excused for going wild, sitting as they are near the bottom of the league table.

By, contrast, Leicester City’s James Maddison almost gave a tutorial in new-style goal celebrations 🙂

All of this reminded me of the National Football League’s (NFL) ‘excessive celebration’ policies and penalty that was was introduced in 2017.

To stop the kind of celebrations seen, previously, with some notable excesses in 1984 (eg Mark Gastineau’s sack dance).

Excessive celebration is considered unsportsmanlike conduct and results in a 15 yard penalty. Since it occurs on the offense after a touchdown, the penalty is given to them on the kick-off by pushing them back 15 yards, giving the receiving team a chance for great field position.

Excessive celebration is still illegal, so choreographed musical numbers that delay the game won’t be allowed. However, it will now be OK for players to join up with teammates and celebrate together.

Well, players and teams celebrate all over the field, and it’s notable that the penalties have not been raining down on them when these are doing in the midst of regular play. So much so that teams now have group celebrations in midfield for big defensive plays such as interceptions and sacking the quarterback.

These have now evolved to the stage where they can be ranked by the sports governing body!

Most are entertaining and the teams are clearly playing to the cameras.

So, let’s see how real football adjusts and makes positives of the restrictions.

How does it feel to lift the trophy? Part 2. Great! #YNWA

An absolutely brilliant game to grace the trophy ceremony. Liverpool had nothing to play for; Chelsea, sitting in 3rd spot, needed a point to seal a Champions League spot. The game started in a balanced way, then the Reds just got on fire, and 3-0 wasn’t flattering. Chelsea pulled one back just before the half. Things looked easy at 4-1, but credit the Blues for fighting to get back to 4-3 before the win was sealed at 5-3. Great final performance at Anfield, in front of an empty stand 😦 but with families present 🙂 after safety local officials had reversed a decision to not allow them into the match.

So, onto the real main event, the League Champions trophy presentation. Fittingly, Sir Kenny Dalglish was there for the honours—who was the manager when Liverpool won the First Division in 1990. Klopp came up first, and then went stage left as did the back room staff, then the rest of the squad that didn’t play, then the squad for the day, then ‘Hendo’, captain Jordan Henderson, sadly injured. He did the now-customary fast feet shuffle and then the hoist.

It was surreal to have the players as joyful as they could be but without the normally raucous Anfield crowd. But, the ceremony was in the Kop. Many watched in pubs and at home and I imagine the city is rocking and will be still till the weekend and the last game of the season, away at Newcastle. 

James Robertson made a fitting connection of the 96 points and the 96 who died at Hillsborough.

More numbers: captain Jordon Henderson is 30; Liverpool win after 30 years.

Henderson was born in Sunderland, across the River Tyne from Newcastle; arch rivals to the core. Sunday’s game could be interesting. 

Many words can and will come for ever, but now is just the time to savour the moment, long delayed this year after three decades of waiting. 


#COVID19Chronicles-99: July 22, 2020-How does it feel to lift the trophy? Part 1 #YNWA

This is the prelude to an historic moment; Part 2 will get written once the trophy presentation is over, following today’s match with Chelsea, at Anfield. So, this is really about anticipation, and it’s been a long time coming, whether you want to measure it on the 30-year arc, or the much shorter, but still intense arc of this current season, with the totally unexpected shutdown of most of the world due to a global pandemic. The title was a sniff away, when the league suspended matches after the last fixture on March 9, and Liverpool needed 6 points to assure the title. The 3-month wait till resumption on June 17 was filled with lots of anxiety for most Liverpool fans, especially when talk involved making the season null and void, when the lead was 25 points! (It was also anxious for other clubs, too, who were either looking from near the top of the table at possible European qualifying places through those who were even mid-table but could see possible relegation in their future. A lot of juggling was happening below the Premier League, though these will all be resolved today, when the Championship has its final match day today. Leagues below have all been settled with play-offs or standings determined by statistical trends.)


Liverpool FC today will hoist the trophy for winning the Barclays Premier League, having never won it, and 30 years on since they last won the top league in England (and Wales). The joy of hoisting it at home in front of fans at Anfield will have to wait a few more weeks, because the country is still in the grip of various forms of restrictions on crowds gathering and social distancing.

It’s bitterly ironic that this happens after the last home game and the opponents are Chelsea FC, who cruelly snatched the title away from Liverpool in 2014, as a result of ‘the slip’ by Steven Gerrard.

They lost the game 0-2 and missed the title by 2 points, behind Manchester City. In the days before VAR, it was no saving grace that Raheem Sterling had had an equalizing goal disallowed against City, for an offside decision that was about 1 metre wrong :(: “Such a poor decision; you could see it with your naked eye.”

So, the bitter taste in then-manager Brendan Rogers’s mouth at the end of that season must have been awful. Scoring 101 goals, for the highest tally for runners-up. Last year, with 97 points, they lost the title to City, again, by one point; the highest total points for runners-up. That, after having a massive lead in the title race, months earlier. That, added, to the long wait for the Championship was a head of pressure that’s hard to fathom and to keep going for a club that had its heyday as league leaders and cemented itself into European Cup/UEFA Champions League history with astonishing comeback victories.

Fast forward. Rogers leaves Liverpool and moves to Celtic, where he gobbles up domestic trophies for a few years before coming back to manage Leicester and show with their resurgence of form that he is really a good manager. But, it opened the door for Jürgen Klopp and the rest is history.

So, the title-winning side was built on a solid base over a half decade and more.

The 2018/19 season was amazing and capped with a great UEFA Champions League win that was more than deserved after the summary dismantling of Barcelona in the semi-final 2nd leg at Anfield. “The unthinkable, the unbelievable…comeback”, from 0-3 after leg 1, to win 4-0. And how!

I guess an absolute neutral can watch and imagine the task and how it was managed and feel unmoved. But, every time I watch the 2nd half of that match, I am covered totally in goosebumps.

That Spurs pulled off a similar feat in their semi-final to beat Ajax 3-2 away, with similar last minute drama—winner in 90+5 minutes—makes the whole story both bizarre and pleasing beyond description. “I do not believe it!” I still don’t believe the 2nd goal Lucas Moura scored.

So, Liverpool went on and lost to the Community Shield to City on penalties, then won the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup before December, and were already soaring in the Premier League, and the 2019/20 season was already one for the ages.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (May 25, 2014): no waggonist, me edition

Yesterday was a momentous day for me. I should have had no reason to beg excuses. The football team, which I’ve supported all my life, were playing a final on Wembley’s hallowed turf. It was a match that I wanted to watch, but, thanks to the vagaries of modern global marketing of television rights, I was forced to play a round of golf with two doctors instead. I never knew the drama of the match as it unfolded. Again, globalisation made it nigh impossible for me to track the match via the Internet. The cost of roaming is too prohibitive. Had I stayed in the swanky clubhouse at the golf course, I could have used their wifi connection to get Internet access. Instead, I was getting stuck in sand chasing a small coloured ball.

View of Albany Links Course, Nassau

Mementoes of a day's play

When I’d finished with the neurosurgeon and the spine surgeon, I checked my news feed. My team had won the final. I then took a stroll through history, Internet-style. I went back through tweets from before the match, so replayed events 140 characters at a time. I will bore you only with some highlights. At half-time, the score was 0-0. Near the 65th minute, my team had a player ejected; so played the last quarter of the match with 10 men, versus 11. After 90 minutes, the score was still 0-0. I thought that we had won on penalty kicks: not my liking, but take it. But, no. About two minutes into added time, Bobby Zamora scored. What!?

Watch how Zamora scores in injury time the goal that sends QPR to the Barclays PremierLeague

I am sure that I would’ve needed at least two changes of underwear had I seen this live, and maybe a defibrillator. One of the team greats, Rodney Marsh, who was in attendance, tweeted ‘Destiny’.

So, QPR will be back in the English Premier League next season, after only a season away. I know of at least one other Jamaican who supports QPR; I met him on his holiday here last year.

Last week, Jamaicans who follow English teams, were alight because ‘their’ team had won or not the EPL. I’m going to presume that few, if any, would follow those teams if they were not in the EPL. They would flee like rats on a sinking ship. Their waggons only have pull when they’re on the high road. In the ditch? See ya!

All of the emotional energy I have, would have been spent had I seen the match.

I really wanted to write about what the case of Brendan Bain has told me about Jamaicans. But, in part, I won’t because someone has said all I wanted to on it already, and with elegant simplicity. Read yesterday’s letter in the Gleaner about his falling on his sword. The baying and partial presentation in the mainstream media on this topic really showed the colours of some people. That’s not really a surprise when emotions get raised. But, I was more bothered by some of the blinkered views. Some of that was like the Jamaican EPL fan, partisan, without really going deeply into the history of why they should be so. Anyway, I leaving that subject. “Let your meat stop your mouth,” and old man used to say.

I’m saving emotional energy for a day of more finals, when Jamaican athletes go for more wins at the IAAF World Relays. They left nothing behind last night, with a world record in the 4×200 metres relay, anchored by Yohan Blake, while Usain Bolt had not been on the team.

Awesome! Beastly. I will there again, in my national colours of gold, surrounded by a sea of aquamarine last night. Today, the hosts will wear gold, so I shall don black and green. I’ll stay seated on the waggon that I’ve ridden all my life.

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