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Soup of This Day #52: The Man Of A Thousand Voices Talking Perfectly Loud

August 21, 2011

Football Goalkeeper
A keeper. A proper player – Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung, USAF, 2003. Neither Master Sgt. Lance Cheung or the USAF are affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This post is a challenge. I’m going to explain the offside rule, map out the 2011/12 EPL season and reference my wedding vows. I’m going to do all of this in 1388 words.

Better make it 1398 words because I didn’t count that last bit.

Oh crap, now it’s 1415. Just read the damn post with it’s… 1424 words.

When my wife and I got married we wrote our own vows. One of my vows was to never apply the offside rule as a way of getting out of doing the dishes, even if the cat was the last defender.

I don’t think anyone at the ceremony got it, except my brother.

This is possibly because I’m not that funny but probably because the offside rule is complicated enough without feline involvement. I know this because people say to me all the time, ‘Fred, that offside rule is complicated.’ I have the same answer ready for them, each time out, ‘My name’s not Fred, that’s just a lazy pseudonym that I use on my blog. And the offside rule is easy.’

Still the questions persist so in an effort to put the whole thing to bed here’s the Longworth72 guide to the offside rule:

The offside rule came about because of lazy-arsed strikers who can’t be trusted. Now that I type that it occurs to me that all strikers are slackers and are of dubious integrity. Anyhow, what the show-boating merchant bankers used to do was camp out in front of goal, hoping that no one would notice them there. They’d then get the ball punted up to them and they could round the keeper with ease to slot home a goal. Without actually earning one or doing anything that is good for the game in general. The intent of the rule therefore is to stop players from loitering in front of an opponents goal.

So now we know why we need the rule let’s move on to how it works. Quite simply, at the moment the ball is kicked forward there must be at least 2 defenders closer to the goal line than the attacker receiving the ball. The simplest thing to do is to draw a line through the 2nd-to-last defender from one side of the field to the other. At the moment the ball is kicked the receiving striker can not have passed this line. As it happens he can be level with the line, he just can’t be passed it.

Some caveats: You can’t be offside from a throw-in. Nor can you be offside from a goal-kick from your own keeper.You can’t be offside if the ball is being passed back to you – In other words if the ball is closer to the goal line than you are when kicked then you’re ok. Hence it’s not possible to be offside from a direct corner kick.

Some teams play an ‘offside trap’. This is where your defenders push forward as a unit rendering the opposing strikers offside and left to wander by themselves dazed and confused, alone in the vast expanse of the pitch. The poor blossoms.

This is a risky strategy – Get it wrong and you’re letting a striker in with nobody to stop him from arseing a freak goal and doing some ridiculously complicated celebratory dance that you just know he took a whole week (or £100 000 in real terms) to develop. Get it right and you get the ball. It takes a well-marshaled back line to pull this off.

Liverpool has had a bit of a suspect backline of recent seasons. Their central defencive pairing has come from 2 of Daniel Agger (Oft injured), Martin Skrtel (See Agger, Daniel), Jamie Carragher (Crafty as a… crafty sod but older and slow) and Sotirios Kyrgiakos (crap). It’s not much better on the flanks although young tyro Martin Kelly gives hope. Glen Johnson, Aurelio (released by the club and then seemingly re-acquired) and the newly arrived Jose Enrique should be able to muddle the rest out, with support from youngsters Danny Wilson and John Flanagan.

The defence does have a stacked midfield in front of it with a number of options, such as the former Blackpool captain Charlie Adam and last years surprise star Lucas, to act as a holding midfield that’s also blessed with an eye for a pass. Raul Meireles, Stevie G and Jordan Henderson can drive up the middle further forward with tireless Labrador Dirk Kuyt and ex Villan Stewart Downing pinging in crosses from out wide. Such deliveries will be knocked down by Andy Carroll for strike partner Luis Suarez to fire home. It’s simple really and I predict that keeper Pepe Reina will have little to do.

Which brings me to the real core of this post. Liverpool had their 2nd game of the season last night – A tricky away tie to Arsenal. The Gunners have been rocked by the loss of captain Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and the impending departure of creative spark Sami Nasri to Man City. In return they have acquired some kid and another kid who both, no doubt, will play extravagantly elegant football without actually scoring goals. No wonder then that the Emirates faithful were chanting ‘Spend some @#$%ing money’ at phlegmatic French guvnor Arsene Wenger. Which you have to admit is more direct than the enigmatic ‘Arsene knows’ that they had previously peddled.

Although Arsene clearly knows something because Liverpool had not won away to Arsenal for some 11 years, when the splendidly named Titi Camara scored for the Reds in a 1-0 win, 13th February, 2000. On a sidebar, Titi is now the Sports Minister of Guinea. I shit you not. He managed just the 9 goals in 33 appearances for Liverpool but attained cult status and was a fan favourite during his short tenure. That goal against Arsenal had come at the old Highbury Stadium. Since Arsenal have moved to Ashburton Grove (aka The Emirates) in 2006 Liverpool have not taken a win. So high profile departures aside it was going to take something special for Liverpool to nick the 3 points here.

Or the return of Titi.

And lo, the ‘special’ did arrive (albeit sans Titi) and even though it was more Charlie Chaplin than Pele they all count. The marginally offside Luis Suarez poked a shot at goal which was then hoofed clear by defender Ignasi Miquel. Unfortunately Iggy’s teammate Aaron Ramsay was all of a metre upfield and the clearance looped off him and in for an own goal. So 76 minutes in and despite only Arsenal scoring, Liverpool led 1-0. Luis Suarez then made the game safe in the 90th minute, again seemingly from an offside position, with a simple tap in. It finished 2-0 to the Merseysiders and Arsene is no doubt mentally preparing a scathing, Gallic rebuttal for the officials.

So Liverpool with a win in their 2nd outing and based on this I’m now making my calls for the rest of the 2011/12 season. I’m reckoning on relegation for QPR, Norwich and Wolves. The top 4 will be (in reverse order):

4. Man U. It’s overlooked that in winning last term they did so without being especially good and in a season where everyone competed for the title of most mediocre.

3. Chelsea. Torres, Drogba and Anelka need zimmer frames and crutches. Hard to fathom how they will work together.

2. Man City. Money. Oh and Liam Gallagher did their theme song this year. Capital.

1. Liverpool. They’re good enough. All that talk of ‘top 4 is a realistic improvement’ is a smokescreen. This team is good enough. Walk on lads.

Honourable mention: Everton. If only they can score goals. Against Man U would be nice. Oh how we’d laugh then, my brother and I.

Dishonourable mentions: Arsenal. Because the opposition will play on their terms Mr. Wenger. Spurs. Because the poor little me schtick is getting lame Harry.

Here’s an interesting scenario to end with: A defender cramps up and hobbles over the goal line and behind the goal to await treatment. In doing so he leaves only his keeper between the opposition and a certain goal. The ball comes forward and offside is appealed for. Is it given?

Nope. The player awaiting treatment for cramp is still considered in play and forward of the attacker. The shifty striker is therefore onside and entitled to take a shot on goal, which naturally he’ll @#$% up because he’s largely useless. At which point the keeper will belt the living daylights out of the defender for going off with cramp instead of hardening the @#$% up and getting stuck in.

Ah football, it’s a funny old game.

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