'Too much greyness' now with the offside rule, say Graeme Souness and Thierry Henry
Last Updated: 27/04/15 2:05pm
Sky Sports pundits Graeme Souness and Thierry Henry both agree there is currently too much ambiguity over the offside rule in the aftermath of Everton’s 3-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday.
Roberto Martinez's side recorded their biggest victory over United in 23 years at Goodison Park, but there was some controversy over the nature of the home team’s final goal scored by Kevin Mirallas.
The Belgium took advantage of how the law is at present to run on to an overhit Ross Barkley through-ball intended for Romelu Lukaku, clearly standing in an offside position, before beating United goalkeeper David de Gea.
As both Souness and Henry pointed out after the match, though, it is hard to actually criticise United’s defence for their part in the goal, with centre-back Chris Smalling reading the play well by stepping up and catching Lukaku offside.
However, the issue arose because despite the Everton striker clearly being in an offside position when the ball was played, with United’s back four stopping as a result, Mirallas - lurking behind an unaware Antonio Valencia - was not.
And it is that confusion which the duo believe is unfair on defenders.
"There’s too much of a grey area now," said Souness. "People who do not understand football historically say they do not understand the offside rule. I’m beginning to think like that now, I’m not quite sure.
"There’s too much discretion. It’s left up to the referee and the linesman and I think United are entitled to feel hard done by there. The rules say that can happen, but I think it’s unfair on the defenders.
"If you work with a back four the idea of staying up the pitch is to make sure you are always in contact with your midfield and your midfield are in contact with you strikers. You are always compact going up and down.
There's too much discretion. It's left up to the referee and the linesman and I think United are entitled to feel hard done by there.
"That is a fundamental rule, but there’s so much greyness attached to it now, it’s very difficult for defenders."
Former Arsenal forward Henry agreed with Souness’s viewpoint, although he did admit United’s defence were wrong to just stop playing in the build-up to Mirallas’s goal and that the midfielder’s strike was legitimate under the present rules.
"Everton were fortunate," Henry said. "You want to give the striker the benefit of the doubt. We want to see goals, but Smalling’s doing what you want to see a centre-back do.
You want to give the striker the benefit of the doubt. We want to see goals, but Smalling's doing what you want to see a centre-back do.
"Obviously Mirallas carries on and scores a goal but when you look at it from a different angle, that ball is being played to Lukaku. Therefore Smalling stepping up holds a great line.
"The defence did well and Smalling did well catching Lukaku offside. I repeat that ball was played to Lukaku. That should be offside and they all stop. Now you shouldn’t do that because we all know the rule and that’s a good goal at the end of the day.
"I’m just saying, to help the defenders out, it was great movement from Smalling and he recognises the ball is for Lukaku and steps out."