There are three certainties in life. Death, taxes and Premier League managers moaning about referees. This weekend we got to hear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whinge about a challenge on Bruno Fernandes and in a strange turn of events, side with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who was unhappy with Burnley’s physical game plan at Anfield.
"It's like we're going 10 to 15 years backwards,” Klopp said. “The rules are like they are, but you cannot defend these situations. The message now is let the game flow, but nobody exactly knows what that means.This is the football we want to see but it's just too dangerous."
The thing the German boss doesn’t quite grasp is that football was much better, and more competitive a decade ago. We aren’t talking about a return to the dark ages of football, but just to an era where every piece of contact on the pitch wasn’t a foul. From what we have seen over the opening two games in the Premier League, the officials have already got this spot on.
Not that Solskjaer agrees with that point.
"If that is the way they want to go, we will get injuries," said the Norwegian. "Hopefully we can find a middle way. I'm not worried but we have to look at it because we can't go from one extreme of volleyball or basketball from last year and go into rugby now.
"I liked the more lenient way, it's more men's football but, still, that is a clear foul."
Over the opening two weekends of this season, the referees have let challenges go, and that has led to a more free-flowing game, and one fans can enjoy from the stands. We have seen the fouls awarded per game statistic drop from 21.8 to 19.7, which may not seem like much on paper but it is a noticeable change and is only beneficial to the game.
Less stoppages means that the game flows naturally and momentum can play a real part in dictating a result. This new system also means that players are less likely to go down and feign injury, which is a huge plus in the game, but also means that when players are injured, there is less likely to be a delay in them receiving the medical attention they need.
For the big clubs that seem to be the ones that have a problem with this, citing potential injuries as a reason, they truly have no room to complain. With the financial advantage the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool boast over the rest of the division, and the fact their squad depth is so rich, they should be able to cope with a couple of knocks and bruises here and there.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker commented on Twitter: “The constant free kicks for minimal contact and endless stoppages was making the game dull, as well as encouraging diving. Real fouls and dangerous play are still punished, as they should be, but it’s a much more enjoyable spectacle when it’s a contact sport.
If clubs like Burnley or Southampton aren’t allowed to physically impose themselves on their opponents, then they have little to no chance of winning against these superior teams. Although teams that roll over may be exactly what Solskjaer and Klopp want to see in the Premier League, for the good of the competitiveness of the division, we need to see these ‘lesser’ teams scrap and fight. It’s brilliant news that the referees will continue with this refreshing style of officiating and the majority of the feedback they have received has been positive.
VAR has spoiled the game in the top flight for the past two years, but now we may have finally reached a stage where the technology is not interfering overbearingly with the sport. With the referees also handed more responsibility to officiate the game and fans on board with the more relaxed style of officiating, now it is time for the big clubs to stop whinging, and get on with it.