When the members of the International Board meet up at the end of each season in order to change the rules that govern any football match, no matter if it is from the interpretation perspective, like the recent handball´s case, or changing a rule to increase the show or even make the coaches work on new ways of playing, expectations and controversial thoughts always come along.
In the second case, the variation of a rule, I remember the change that was made a couple seasons ago to the number 16, the goal kick one. Defenders were not allowed to receive the ball inside the box. By that time I was coaching in China and seasons take up a natural year, which means that the changes on the rules made by the International Board take place half way of the season.
It was summer 2019 and it was very interesting to appreciate coaches and teams get used to this change. Particularly, Roger Smith, who has by that time Beijin Guoan´s coach, dragged my attention the way he ordered the defenders inside the box and then based on would split the rest of their teammates along the field in order to create spaces and take advantage of those gaps. It was a lesson for me.
On that first name of the rule, my partner David Pirri and I were coaching at the Shanghai Greenland Shenhua academy and faced Guoan. I had another great coach on the other side, Quique Sánchez Flores and we witnessed a great tactical game.
By that time we became aware the change of a rule that modified as well the way to conceive football from the start of the play. The sense that was given to the rule was so positive that fit in perfectly to the sense of this change: to improve the show.
A couple weeks ago, the UEFA change one of the rules in all their competitions, as they decided to abolish the away goals rule in knockout ties. They also changed some aspects regarding to the final spot for teams that end with the same points at the group stage in all their tournaments, but I am more concerned about the away goals rule because I still have not found the sense to this change.
I must say that this is a personal opinion and I am sure that the UEFA directing staff have thought about this sense deeply in order to not attempt against the spirit of this rule, but the away goals rule in knockout ties made the rounds more interesting from the beginning.
Now with this change a risk is being taken that the first leg lose some interest and that both teams, specially the visiting one, speculates with the final score with the intention to make it through at home.
This is the exact and common situation at the World Cup or the EURO when two main candidates face each other and, due to their mutual respect, play the first half afraid to make mistakes and give options to the opponent, which ends up on too many poor first half cases in this kind of situation.
It is true that the home team is now forced to risk more in the first leg, but so had to the visiting team before, as the reward for an away goal put the chances to make it through on at least a 70/30% probability for the team that obtained that goal in the first leg. I fear that this will not fade away.
The sense of the rules at a football competition mustn´t ever go against the spirit of that change, which should not be any other than improving the show. I believe that in this case the sense is exact the opposite.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.