A case for the away goals rule

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud reacts during the UEFA Champions League match against Monaco - AFP

FOR the first time since 1993, there are no English sides in the last eight of European club competitions.

French Ligue 1 sides Monaco and Paris St Germain knocked Arsenal and Chelsea respectively out in the UEFA Champions League thanks to the away goals rule.

Manchester City, on the other hand, have money, yet their cash was not match for Barcelona who beat them 3-1 on aggregate.

And then there was Everton, led by under pressure Roberto Martinez, who were beaten 5-2 by Dynamo Kiev in the Olympic Stadium, with the Toffees losing 6-4 on aggregate.

So many fans were waxing lyrical over the top-notch performances of English clubs in recent years especially in 2008 when Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Unfortunately, after Chelsea’s win in 2012, it has all gone downhill.

The English love history. Whenever they are in the World Cup, the only thing they seem to talk about is their 1966 World Cup victory. So now, with all their teams out in Europe, you can expect them to want to remind people of the recent past.

In the meantime some English football fans have asked if it’s time for the away goals rules to be abolished.

And a certain Frenchman is in agreement.

Arsene Wenger is one the game’s greatest thinkers and if he has an opinion on something, he is not afraid to say it. And in the aftermath of his side’s defeat, he seems to feel that the away goals rule has no place in the modern game.

The away goals rule is a tiebreaker in a football match when teams play each other twice, at each team’s home ground.

In home and away matches, the rule dictates that the team which has scored more goals away from home wins if the scores are tied after the two games.

The rule was established in 1965 by UEFA as a means of settling two-legged ties without the need for an additional game at a neutral venue. It also helps resolve logistical, physical and calendar problems when two teams are very closely matched.

Wenger, however, feels that the weight of an away goal is far greater than it was in 1965.

“Two English teams have gone out on away goals and that should be questioned. The rule was created in the 1960s to favour attacking teams but football has changed,” Wenger is quoted by Sky Sports as having said at a press conference on Thursday

And it seems this is not the first time Wenger has complained about the rule …

“It is something I have raised many times at UEFA meetings.

“We have to find a mixed formula, when maybe the away goals are only taken into consideration if the teams are still level after extra-time,” said Wenger a couple of years ago.

Even former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson also recently weighed in with his thoughts saying that it is not as important as it used to be.

“The attacking emphasis on the game today means more teams go away from home and win,” said Ferguson during the UEFA annual managers’ meeting in Nyon last year.

The way things are, away teams tend to take advantage of this rule as they go all out to score goals whereas the home sides tend to take a cautious approach because they do not want to concede and put undue pressure on themselves in the return leg.

To me, these elements make return legs exciting.

I did not watch the second-leg of Arsenal vs Monaco but my friends told me it was an exciting match and Arsenal were close to qualifying for the next round.

At times like theses, you will see teams at their best!

In the ’80s, counter-attacking consisted of one or maybe two quick players with the ability to beat defences easily.

Nowadays, counter-attacks have players flooding forward in with really positive, quick passing. This makes the game exciting and whether it is the home or away team, players go all out come the second-leg.

Five months ago, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the rule dates back to a time when away games were often an adventure, involving journeys that could be long and arduous with  playing conditions varying considerably.

“It is time to rethink the system,” he said.

Major changes do take time and if the away goals rule is to be abolished, we might lose some excitement in football.

To me, teams should go all out in both legs and find a way to get around the rule instead of asking for it to be abolished!

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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away goals , football , Arsenal , Chelsea , UEFA , FIFA


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