Tag Archives: Serie A

Moroccan Right Back Achraf Hakimi Signs for Inter Milan

Italian giants Inter Milan have secured the signature of highly rated 21-year old defender Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid.

Hakimi, who made 17 appearances for Los Blancos after rising through their youth ranks, has penned a five year deal with Antonio Conte’s side, who currently sit third in Serie A.

Dani Carvajal currently occupies the right-back spot at Los Blancos so Hakimi was unwilling to take a back seat after an impressive loan spell in the Bundesliga. This caused the Real Madrid youth product to request a move away from the Bernabeu.

Subsequently, Inter paid €40 million (£36 million) with €5 million add ons for the CAF Young Player of the Year winner. He was pictured in Milan for his medical on Tuesday, and confirmed the move on his official Instagram account this evening.

Real Madrid also released a statement on the departure of Hakimi saying:

“The club want to thank Achraf for all these years of dedication, professionalism and exemplary behaviour since he arrived at our academy in 2006 and wish him luck in this new stage of his career.”

Hakimi has spent the past two seasons on loan in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, where he played 70 games, scoring 12 goals and striking up a potent partnership with Jadon Sancho on the right flank.

He put in some particularly impressive performances in the Champions League, providing a hat-trick of assists against Atletico Madrid last season, before scoring braces against both Slavia Prague and his new employers Inter in this year’s group stages.

Lucian Favre tended to use Hakimi as a right wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 formation, given his ability to attack at pace and deliver pin-point crosses. He is also defensively, very sound, adept at playing long balls which open up opposition defences.

It is likely Conte will utilising the Moroccan in a similar role, given his reputation for setting teams up to play with a three at the back and having creative wing-backs as attacking outlets.

Hakimi is equally capable of playing as a winger, having featured there during his days in Real Madrid’s academy, whilst he can also slot in at left back.

At just 21 years of age and with over 100 senior appearances to his name, Hakimi is certainly a very exciting signing for Inter as they look to challenge Juventus.

The Nerazzurri have not won the league title since 2010 and acquiring a new superstar in Hakimi will certainly make them a formidable opponent in Serie A next season.

Written by Lauren McCann and Jonathan Abraham

How has VAR affected football and can it be changed?

VAR. The three letters that have sparked the biggest debate in football, in particular the Premier League, and caused many fans to coin the question “Is it football anymore?” into the plethora of chants at their disposal. It has been widely covered by the press and pundits alike with many decisions being called as too close or even inconclusive. Fans have voiced their concerns over the time taken to make decisions and the lack of clarity about the system’s use while attending matches live.

Many will look to the other top European leagues (Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and La Liga) for examples of how to use it but even they have had seen similar problems. A common theme for each league has been teething issues. The Bundesliga introduced VAR in 2017 and had issues with the time taken to make decisions and the lack of clarity within stadiums (sound familiar?) but have allowed the implementation of screens to help offload the time taken.

Although they were overused at first, it seems as though the league has seen the positive impact of it now with hardly any controversy surrounding its decisions. Serie A and La Liga had exactly the same issues when VAR was introduced to them in 2018, slow decisions, fan frustration and general displeasure led to changes being made within each system. In La Liga they stuck true to the ‘clear and obvious’ rule (more on that later) where if a decision is too close or is taking too long, they simply forget it and move on. This allows for quicker and more legitimate calls to be made. Serie A had mixed issues when they changed their system from a local VAR referee to a team of people in a centralized location – like Stockley Park here. Whilst their system is generally a lot quicker they still have some issues with misinterpretation of decisions between the two teams of officials. Of course any level of human error is met with a lot of annoyance from fans. Ligue 1 is probably where it has been implemented the worst, and where it is most similar to the Premier League.

In an interview with the BBC Sport (2019) football writer Jeremy Docteur Stated:

“This season is even worse than last season. It is good when it changes obvious errors and it is fair if a player is offside by two or three metres.

“We are judging offsides badly. The point is not to overturn a goal if a player is one centimetre offside, they draw a line and rule out a goal if an armpit or chin is offside. Football is supposed to be a human sport, but there are huge stoppages and they are reviewing everything, including ridiculous calls for handball.

“I was never pro-VAR but it’s creating even more problems than before. They need to have a meeting and discuss this. A lot of players have come to to say it is not working well and we have to listen to the people actually playing the game.”

As you can see this strongly conforms with many people’s opinions here of how VAR works as a system. The question we must ask ourselves is, of course, has VAR changed football for the better? At the moment you would have to say yes for most of Europe, but for the Premier League and Ligue 1 it is certainly a resounding no. So how can they improve their systems?

We can first look at the phrase that has been branded about all campaign – “Clear and Obvious”. We’ve heard it so many times it’s almost second nature to us football fans to refer to it in any VAR discussions. Yet its continuous use still hasn’t made it any ‘clearer’ as to what it means (no pun intended). Another common theme is the lack of consistency in decision making and confusing rules that even the players sometimes don’t understand.

When looking at the Premier League there are almost too many decisions to count. Some of the most controversial being Pedro Neto’s disallowed goal against Liverpool when Jonny’s hand was judged to be an inch offside, or when Liverpool had a goal scratched off for a ‘foul’ on David De Gea by Virgil Van Dijk when it looked to be an obvious 50/50 aerial duel. You could even point out how VAR didn’t spot a clear foul on Gerard Deulofeu that denied Watford a penalty against Spurs early on in the season. The list itself could be an article.

The biggest issues surrounding the system are ones that need to be fixed ASAP if the controversy is to end. The offside rule has been reworked to the point where a fingernail could chalk off a goal, many fans and pundits have said it ruins the human aspect of the sport. The debate has raged on about how science and calculations is taking the integrity of football away.

This in mind, it would be worth looking at how La Liga used their system for ‘clear and obvious’ decisions. One suggestion has been to set a 30 – 45 second timer on decision making- if it cannot be figure out within the limit it shouldn’t be deemed as clear and obvious and we should let the game play on. It would certainly be worth trialling considering the positive effect this brisk nature of thinking has improved the fluidity of the game in Spain. The debate on offsides would also be simplified and I’m sure the players would appreciate a change in the rulings. After offsides we then have consistency, which in itself is a different beast all together. With VAR checks taking place in Stockley park having different officials at each stadium for each game it would certainly be a positive start. This could allow for better and quicker decision making as communication would be easier and of course the VAR officials would get a feel for the match. Italy’s Serie A  saw success with this method in their initial season with this system.

Another step for change would be getting more experienced referees to manage the decisions with VAR, rather than having younger referees do it. This one is pretty self-explanatory, we don’t want better/more experienced officials being swayed by inexperienced ones – it just doesn’t make any sense.

Finally we have monitors; fans have been crying out all season for monitors to be used pitch-side like in many other leagues. For some reason the Premier League didn’t start to implement this until towards the end of the current season pre-outbreak. A more consistent use would surely help referees and speed up the time taken. With the season due to return in less than a week it is paramount that there is a solid plan going forward. We are all eager to see the league return on the 17th June, however, fans could soon be reminded of what they didn’t miss should mistakes crop up again.

Overall, VAR has the potential to make a huge positive impact. As seen in Germany. Spain and Italy it has taken some time to get going but it appears they have gradually built a solid way of using VAR. The Champions and Europa League have also seen a more consistent use for it. Both Ligue 1 and in particular the Premier League some tweaks would certainly provide a much needed improvement for VAR going forward. For now we can only hope!

Should we have a winter break in England?

It has been announced that the FA and the Premier League have agreed to have a two-week winter break in February of the 2019/20 season.

All of the other top leagues: Spanish, French, German, Italian, even Scottish have a winter break. So surely this is a step forward for English football?

Well, all that can be seen from this decision is that the English game is losing its heritage and tradition.

It maybe a stupid or a tiny tradition, or not even a tradition, just a thing that hasn’t changed, but it’s our little tradition.

Pep Guardiola said it was killing the players not having a winter break and José Mourinho says it is why English clubs don’t win the Champions League.

But the Champions League is a competition in which English clubs have the second best winning record behind Spain, a country from which only two clubs have won, whereas five English clubs have.

Pep may be one of, if not the best manager at the top level of European football. However, this isn’t the only time he has spoken out against the English game and its traditions.

Guardiola’s Barcelona and the rest of La Liga, their style of play tradition is passing from the back, keeping the ball, etc etc.

However, the English tradition in football is to two-foot the person with the ball and the crowd go mental for it. But Pep, not so much.

If a foreign player wants to play in England, they need to get used to a snowy St James’ Park and brace themselves for the tackles flying in.

And it isn’t even like the introduction of a winter break will have positives for fans to make the game more interactive with supporters.

The FA Cup Fifth Round is to be played midweek. So forget about the Plymouth Argyle fans who are drawn away at Newcastle, because English traditions need to be destroyed and a winter break is necessary for that.

The top bosses in football don’t ask themselves “Fans don’t see the FA Cup as beautiful and magical as what it was, I wonder why?”

It’s got nothing to do with the fact that the rules keep changing: moving the semi-final to Wembley, picking which rounds they want replays for, making games midweek and not putting fans first.

Also, Premier League clubs will have two weeks minimum without a match. There’s already enough stick on social media and everywhere when everyone only has England to watch, never mind no football at all.

So, the winter break is likely to be introduced in the 2019/20 season. It may be a good thing, it may not be. Only time will tell. (It’s not, it’s definitely not).