When Arsene Wenger left the Arsenal dugout for the final time back in May 2018, we thought his influence on the Premier League would have ceased. Obviously he was never going to manage again in England, and he seemed set on taking up a cushy national team coach position.
However, in a surprise move he signed up to a somehow even cushier role at not-quite-as-corrupt-as-they-used-to-be FIFA, becoming their head of global development. In this newly created role, Arsene basically gets to go to any game he wants and be part of meetings where football’s laws are amended. Not bad, eh?
This week he’s begun to exert his influence in an effort to fix Premier League fans’ anger with the current offside law. After numerous incidents of goals being ruled out by a fraction of an armpit, Wenger has stated his belief that if any part of a player’s body that can score a goal is onside, they should stand.
Of course, this rule change won’t really solve anything in the long-term. Thanks to the magical invention that is VAR, we’d still endure long delays in reviewing goals as the faceless refereeing version of Neil Buchanan does an Art Attack on the instant replays, only this time wildly “offside” players will be judged to be onside by a heel.
Still, you can’t blame Arsene for this – you’ve got to try and at least look like you’re doing something to justify your place in a new job, haven’t you? But seeing as Wenger is keen to take his Tipp-Ex to football’s rulebook and rewrite the rules, we’ve got a few other suggestions to keep him busy…
1. Award a trophy to the team who finishes fourth
Following a dismal FA Cup exit back in 2012, Wenger claimed that “the first trophy is to finish in the top four”, which he was widely derided for. But given the extent of how the battle for Champions League qualification has taken on a life of its own, fuelled by TV companies and money-hungry clubs, Arsene may have been right all along.
The next time he sits in on the rule-setting IFAB panel, the very least he can do is suggest that leagues recognise the importance to clubs of sneaking onto Europe’s top table by handing them a nice piece of 4-shaped silverware. To be perfectly honest, we are amazed this wasn’t at the top of Monsieur Wenger’s agenda the moment he got behind the desk.
2. Introduce Refbots to the Premier League
“I did fight very hard for the referees to become professional many years ago and they did a good job to allow them to be professional. But I see no improvement.” Arsene wheeled out this criticism about Premier League officials for years. But now, removed from the dugout and placed in a position of power at FIFA, he’s finally able to do something meaningful about it.
Common complaints aimed at referees are that they are too inconsistent, too easily swayed by atmospheres, and too unfit to keep up with the rapid pace of play in the Premier League. An easy way to fix all these issues is to simply introduce an updated version of Refbot from Robot Wars, remotely controlled from the mystical VAR hub at Stockley Park.
Cameras in the ref’s “eyes” could offer a couple of bonus VAR review angles, and if players try to abuse the official, Refbot can fight back with a mechanical saw. Everybody wins!
3. Bring back competitive drop balls
Last summer a new rule came in marking the end of competed drop balls because of the inevitable “aggressive confrontations” it led to. Sadly, what rulemakers have failed to realise is that witnessing such an encounter is one of football fans’ rare joys. Who doesn’t love to see a couple of players quite literally go to hell for (a ball of) leather?
Reversing this would be most welcome.
4. Ban teams from scoring from long throws
This would be a purely personal win for Wenger after years torment at the hands of Stoke City’s orcs up at the Britannia Stadium. If goals coming from missile launch throw-ins were outlawed,
Arsene will finally stop waking up in cold sweats with flashbacks of Rory Delap every night and get a good night’s rest.
5. Clear up handballs
The handball rule is undeniably in a sorry state of affairs right now. Indeed, football fans haven’t been left this frequently incensed with handball decisions since they were introduced to Pro Evolution Soccer 3 and issued completely at random.
The mist of confusion over what is deliberate handball, accidental ball-to-hand, and whether goals can or cannot stand needs fixing, plain and simple. The way the law is currently being implemented, we wouldn’t be surprised if referees start getting sent off via VAR for handling the ball during the walk out from the tunnel ahead of kick-off.
Something’s got to change, which brings us neatly on to…
6. Get rid of f*cking VAR
Yes, we know Wenger has long been a key advocate for video technology. Yes, we know it can get more decisions correct even if it does mean taking five minutes to watch replays frame by frame. But please, for the love of all that is holy, f*ck off the most utterly joyless, soul-destroying addition ever made to the sport. Otherwise we may as well all just stay at home and watch YouTubers play out the Premier League fixture list on FIFA 20.
So, there’s plenty to do. Better get to work, Arsene!