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World Cup, VAR and more: What to expect from football in 2018?

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2018. To borrow from Star Wars, it’s a new hope. Every new season, every new year, is about hope. The hope that it will be better and never more so than in a World Cup year.

But what does the year hold in store for the English game as a whole?

  1. VARs

The FA Cup tie between Brighton and Crystal Palace is the first competitive match where the new technology will be used in an English club match. The authorities are hoping that it will reduce the number of incorrect decisions.

This past week saw officials under scrutiny with controversial penalties awarded at West Brom, Arsenal and Liverpool. Dare I mention Tottenham’s offside goals which brought them four points?

VARs come into their own this week with the Carabao Cup semi-finals using their services, but largely, everyone is waiting for the first controversy. And the reaction of the manager afterwards.

Will it make things better? We hope so. We hope that the referee on the pitch won’t be so egotistical or proud to reverse an ‘obviously wrong call’ even if he is the one who decides whether he’s been ‘obviously wrong’.

The system as proposed is flawed but only over time, when trust is imbued by a procession of correct decisions, the referees will accept the decision from the control room with its’ banks of monitors.

But every change must begin somewhere…

  1. Premier League Snobs Accept the Championship is Actually Quite Good

Any fan of a well-established top-flight club will deride the quality of football in the Championship. Yet it’s the most competitive division and probably the hardest one to get out of, in either direction.

The focus is always on the promotion race – as if there is some Promised Land in the Premier League.

The only promise is money and lots of it, which all end up in the hands of players, managers and agents anyway. And CEO’s; they do well out running a Premier League football club.

In general, the quality of football on offer is turgid. Local rivalries may see Stoke sneer at Burton or Chelsea laud it over QPR and Fulham but in all honesty, the quality of Premier League football is poor.

Highlight packages make it look glamorous but condensing 95 minutes of action into seven can make anything exciting. If we crammed everything good out of Eastenders into a seven-minute slot…no, that’s a step too far.

However, supporters need to look at the Premier League table. None of the bottom seven were promoted last year. None of last season’s relegated teams were promoted the season before.

At the other end of the table, any of the teams up to Nottingham Forest in 14th are looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three. Currently occupied by teams who weren’t promoted the season before.

The Championship is a division where the quality of football is a lot better than its’ given credit for. Little wonder those who come down find it hard to go straight back up.

  1. Manchester City Don’t Go the Whole Season Unbeaten

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It may seem harsh but in many ways, Manchester City remaining unbeaten in the Premier League would be a bad thing.

Not because they play awful football; far from it, City are probably the best footballing side the top flight has ever seen. Not the best side though; defensively, they don’t hold up to Manchester United in 1998/99 or Arsenal in 2003/04.

However, if they go unbeaten, they will never be given the credit they deserve. Pep Guardiola is already derided as a ‘chequebook manager’ and reference to the amount of money spent overshadows how well he is coaching the expensively assembled players.

Maybe, just maybe, the best thing to happen is they win whatever honours they win but don’t go undefeated in the Premier League. Then they might be given the credit they deserve.

  1. The FA Cup Finds Its’ Bristol City

Let’s be honest, even Bristol Rovers fans probably enjoyed the Robins giving Manchester United a bloody nose. Maybe not, but everyone else did.

The FA Cup has become the personal property of Arsenal in recent years but its always good for the game when the exploits of Lincoln, Reading and Wigan occur.

Nobody remembers how Liverpool fared in last season’s FA Cup but the name of Sutton United is not forgotten.

With the moneyed sides fielding youth and reserve teams, the Football League clubs have the chance of claiming a scalp or two. Record books don’t say anything other than the result and scorers on the day. No judgement is brokered on the standard of the side fielded.

Grab the opportunity with both hands and don’t let the big clubs diminish the early rounds of the competition.

  1. England Win the World Cup

OK, that’s a hope. In fact, it’s a dream; the hope is that for once England don’t embarrass English football.

Is that too much to ask for?

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