Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. With apologies for my absence for a week due to being “indisposed” as they say in the theatrical profession let’s get straight down to it.

After Sunday’s excellent win against Aston Villa with Cesc Fàbregas making an appearance as a dictionary definition of “impact substitute”, tonight we need to take three points at Fratton Park against relegation threatened Pompey. The next couple of months will be decisive in deciding whether we can challenge for the title this season.

After Sunday’s game against the ‘Appy ‘Ammers at the Boleyn Ground in the FA Cup Alex Song flies off to link up with the Cameroon team for the African Cup of Nations in Angola. Emmanuel Eboué’s Ivory Coast has two friendly matches in Tanzania prior to the tournament and has already left for Africa.

Song particularly will be a big loss. He’s been in excellent form this season. With Denilson’s back apparently playing up again and Cesc having tweaked his hamstring again on Sunday against Villa we’re going to be bit thin in midfield. We could also have to scramble to re-shuffle the pack if Bacary Sagna gets a knock in January. Ivory Coast is in a group with Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana. Cameroon is in with Gabon, Zambia and Tunisia. On form both should go through to the quarter-finals. If both go through to the semi-finals then we’ll miss both players until the game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 7 February 2010, as both sides will either be in the ACN final on 31 January in Luanda or the bronze medal match the day before in Benguela.

Many managers whinge mightily at this time every other year when the African Cup of Nations comes around. I for one don’t buy it. If you don’t want these problems, don’t buy African players. It’s not as though the problem is unknown. I think it’s the height of arrogance to complain about this problem. On the other hand I think it would be right to move the African Cup of Nations to a four year cycle like the World Cup, European Championships and AFC Asian Cup. Likewise I think the Copa América and CONCACAF Gold Cup should move to a four year cycle with CAF, CONCACAF and the AFC receiving compensation for the loss of profits from FIFA and UEFA. This would lessen the burden on the top players and cut down on club/country conflicts. It would also make the African, North/Central American and South American events more attractive on the “less is more” principle.

Back to tonight at Fratton Park. It’s likely that Tomáš Rosický will feature at some stage tonight. Let’s hope he can put an injury free run together. He and we deserve some good luck with injuries which have cursed him and us as a club in each of the last three seasons. Just by the law of large numbers our luck has to change in this respect at some stage.

As for our chances in the League this season I’m still relatively sceptical, despite my view that we’re a better side overall than we were last season. I did come across an interesting perspective from outside the Gooner Nation from Manchester United blogger Jez Howard though. Here’s what he had to say, “One thing I have noticed reading the few Arsenal blogs I do is that there seems to be a real clamour for Wenger to go out and buy players. Maybe it is different for an outsider looking in, but when you compare the strength in numbers in the final third then Arsenal have far greater depth. Where we are limited to Rooney, Berbatov, Owen and Valencia,

Wenger has the likes of Arshavin, Eduardo, Walcott, Vela, Van Persie and Bendtner when fit, while the likes of Fàbregas, Diaby and Nasri are always capable of chipping in with goals. The variation in goalscorers is vital in any title push, especially when we and Chelsea are so reliant on one or two players to deliver the goods”

I think he’s essentially right. I do think we still tend to gift too many soft goals at the back though. If we can tighten that up we might, just might, be in with a serious shout at the business end of the season. One period that sticks out in the fixture list is the period from Wednesday 27 January when we visit Villa Park to Wednesday 17 February when we play Porto in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at the Estádio do Dragão in Oporto. In that period we also have Yoonited and Liverpool at home in the League. Depending on whether we go through against the Hammers in the FA Cup and the subsequent draw(s) we could also have a big FA Cup fourth round replay and/or fifth round tie in that three week period as well. Let’s hope the likely absence of Alex Song at Villa Park and home to United isn’t too crucial.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The only way to digest a fixture list like this is one game at a time. Total focus must be on three points at Fratton Park tonight. We’re on a roll. Let’s keep the momentum up.

On a completely different subject those who read this blog regularly will know I’m of the opinion that top-flight football should follow the move rugby league made nearly four decades ago in 1972 and introduce off-field timekeepers with the referee controlling the clock via signals to the timekeeper. They’re also a feature of gridiron football, basketball and ice hockey in the USA and Canada and Aussie Rules.

To illustrate the point I’ve decided to time all Arsenal matches I actually attend from now until the end of the season using the laws of the game as set down by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to decide time added on for stoppages. To remind ourselves, here’s what they say on this subject in Law 7 (Duration of Play):

Allowance is made in either period for all time lost through:

• substitutions

• assessment of injury to players

• removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment

• wasting time

• any other cause

The allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee.

There is also the following official IFAB guidance to referees contained in an appendix to the laws of the game:

Allowance for time lost

Many stoppages in play are entirely natural (e.g. throw-ins, goal kicks). An

allowance is to be made only when these delays are excessive.

The fourth official indicates the minimum additional time decided by the

referee at the end of the final minute of each period of play.

The announcement of the additional time does not indicate the exact amount

of time left in the match. The time may be increased if the referee considers it

appropriate but never reduced.

The referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first half

by increasing or reducing the length of the second half.

Applying these laws and guidance I timed both halves of the Aston Villa match with a stopwatch, stopping it where I considered appropriate during the game. By my timing referee Phil Dowd was 1 minute 35 seconds long in the first half (one minute added time on the board) and 1 minute 15 seconds short in the second half (four minutes added time on the board.  I shall be interested to see how the pattern builds up. The next game I’ll time will be our Cup game at the Boleyn Ground on Sunday.

Keep the faith!

6 Comments on "Pompey/Ownership/Timekeeping"

  1. nice work bud.
    i happen to think refs don’t really pay attention to the added time unless big injuries or stoppages occur. hence it’s 9/10 1-2 mins in 1st half and 3-4mins 2nd half as standard, regardless of actual stoppages.

  2. edwardo must not substituted

  3. Has anyone seen the latest ANR post! The man has finally lost the plot. He is surely not a well man!!

  4. Great work on the timekeeping. I always assumed as standard that the games were being seriously cut short by 10 minutes or more each match because of poor timekeeping. Obviously your results from the Aston Villa match dispel this theory. Or perhaps it is down to Phil Dowd having an excellent game, allowing the game to flow often, as well as no injuries.

    I also seem to have noticed that in the majority of second halves 4 minutes added time is indicated. I don’t know if this is a new guideline that the referees have secretly revised or if it’s just coincidence.

    I’ll be keeping my eye on your results as they are posted. Keep up the good work 🙂

  5. Tom, Myles continually amazes me at his idiocy.

    Vic, agree completely re Gold Cup, Copa America and the ACN – they’re much too frequent. The Copa America wasn’t always every two years, CONMEBOL just decided to change the frequency for profit sake, of course. It dilutes the significance of the tournament to hold it so often. I also agree that no manager should complain about the ACN – don’t buy African players, or keep African transfers in to a minimum. And make damned certain that you have good cover in the positions your African players play in while they’re gone. One of the reasons I was glad to see Kolo (much as I loved him) and Ade go was precisely their departures during the ACN.

    For Chelsea, they lose two of their most important players – Essien and Drogba. They’re just not the same team without those two.

    Tonight’s game can be a banana skin, Grant is a better manager than Hart. I’ll take a scrappy 1-0 to the Arsenal.

  6. About how much depth we have up front.

    I dont think this is a thing about quantity its about quality.

    This 4 players: Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela and Walcott could be reduced to only 2 of better quality.

    For me the ideal will be to only choose one of this four, send another on loan and sell the other two to buy one with better quality than the couple to be sold.

    Our only really good strikers are Van Persie and Arshavin. The other 4 are not even at the 50% of this 2.

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