In the end, the highly-anticipated clash between Arsenal and Manchester City was rather underwhelming. An early header from Raheem Sterling and a defensive masterclass from Ruben Dias and John Stones were enough to seal the 3 points for high-flying City, but there was a moment of history in this game. And no, it wasn’t the number of times Martin Tyler referred to Smith-Rowe as the “Croydon De Bruyne” and it wasn’t Pep Guardiola’s decision to just stick on a hoodie in a Premier League tie (something that I fucking loved by the way).
After Rob Holding went down injured, we saw the first use of a “concussion substitution” in the Premier League, inspired by Raul Jiminez’s awful injury earlier in the season. Of course, a player going off with a head injury is never a good thing, but it’s good to see that something is finally being done about it. In previous games, a player would likely have carried on so as to not leave his team a man down, but by adding this new rule, allowing both teams an extra substitution in such circumstances, we are seeing the safety of players put first without putting the integrity of the game at risk. It’s something that has taken far too long to implement- there is evidence to suggest that just heading the ball can be detrimental to players’ heads in the long run. Of course serial pessimist Martin Tyler voiced his issue with it, as players will apparently use it to their advantage (is he assuming that the medical staff won’t do their job properly?) and it shocked me how much negativity this substitution invited on Twitter.
I’m tired of the negativity. I’ve spoken before about why I started this blog and I’m not going to go in to it again. But we should be doing everything we can to protect the physical well-being of players who we tune in to watch every week and this is a step in the right direction.