Haaland impresses & Are sin bins the way?

13th February 2024

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It was nice to see Erling Haaland back to what he does best and score goals for Manchester City over the weekend. We have been deprived of the Norwegian's greatness for two months through him picking up a foot injury and in his first two games back he failed to score. That ended against Everton with two classic centre forward goals. His first was typical of him being there at the right time. His second was one of his best for City, pace, power and application, one that reminded me of the Brazilian Ronaldo in his prime. Haaland seized the moment and ran through like a juggernaut and it was pretty spectacular to witness. Haaland has retaken the lead in the goalscorers table from Liverpool Mohamed Salah and now has 16 goals and despite missing a chunk of the season, who would bet against him not to get near his record breaking tally of 36 goals in his debut season for City?

Premier League Top Goalscorer: Erling Haaland 1.25, Mohamed Salah 7.00, Heung Min-Son 15.00, Dominic Solanke 15.00, Ollie Watkins 17.00


Last week we talked about Chelsea manager Maurico Pochettino being overrated as mutterings that his job could be unsafe. This came on the back of losing two games in a row against Liverpool and Wolves and conceding 4 goals in each game. Pochettino was not sacked and in fact it would be a surprise if he was now. Granted, since then the Blues have knocked Aston Villa out of the FA Cup and they have just beaten Crystal Palace 3-1 away from home in a game that they were trailing in. Results help and that cannot be overestimated. However being who you are helps too. A plethora of managers would have been sacked by Chelsea with the same record as Pochettino, the difference between him and most others boils down not to which clubs he has managed but which players he has been in charge of. Pochettino has had to coach Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the same team, that is credit in the bank right there. The most elite players come with the most elite egos and there will be plenty in the Chelsea dressing room too. Pochettino is seen to have that experience, and it should get him through this season. Chelsea will understand that if they finish any higher than 8th now that will be a success. In that Pochettino's second season with Chelsea will be his most telling of his career, they will not give him a second chance.


Can the base rules of football be left alone? If its not broken does it really need to be fixed? These are the questions being asked as IFAB has announced plans to introduce blue cards to the game in other words sin bins. Sin bins are used in some sports like Ice Hockey when a player receives a card they must leave the field of play for ten minutes, the hope is that they will calm down and then will be let on the pitch again. This may be one of the greatest new rules applied to football since the offside rule then again it might end up being one of the silliest rules we have ever witnessed. Change can be scary, and the hope is when sin bins are introduced, because make no mistake they will be, that the game will not be as affected as first thought. But this move feels like another step away from the European game and another step inside the American one. We must concentrate on the natural beauty of football and what it represents. Anyone who caught the Superbowl at the weekend would have witnessed a sporting event attached to a long advert about diversity and music. VAR has slowed down the game and the sin bin will slow it further, what was wrong with a yellow card? Do the authorities feel that if a player is fired up that ten minutes on the bench stirring in their anger will make everything better again? Of course we need to be open minded, maybe this will work but a lot of top level managers are against it and FIFA are shying away suggesting that for now it should only be used at low level games. As it stands meetings are taking place with a possible announcement next month. Expect cup games to be trialled first but it seems inevitable especially with some of the biggest clubs in Europe being owned by Americans that the new card will be introduced.


Finally there were two international tournaments taking place over the past month. The African Cup of Nations and the Asian Cup. Ivory Coast beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final of AFCON and while Ivory Coast were deserved winners in their home country one had to wonder how Nigeria even made it to the final? They looked slow and naive. It was fun to see Didier Drogba on the sidelines cheering his nation in their kit and one wonders if that will become a trend now to see past legends at games with the kit on feeling one with their teams? Ivory Coast became the first host nation to win the tournament since 2006, and despite many surprises and shocks the two finalists were still two of the biggest sides in Africa. In the Asian Cup Qatar beat Jordan 3-1 to impressively win their second title in a row and it will be interesting to see how the nation adapt for future World Cups. We have seen time and again that African sides, despite some speed bumps, have failed to impress overall in the World Cup finals, and that remains a head scratcher given that so much talent comes from Africa.

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