Handball – after matchday three of the 2020-21 Premier League season, that seems to be all anyone is talking about.

It proved decisive in three different games over the weekend, with Brighton and Hove Albion, Tottenham and Crystal Palace all on the receiving end of controversial decisions – the latter's manager, Roy Hodgson, went on a tirade regarding the "nonsense" rule change.

But arguably the most vociferous of the hot takes regarding handball – see Jamie Carragher deriding the decision as "an absolute disgrace" – focused on the events at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where in the seventh minute of added time, Eric Dier was penalised via VAR for handball despite having his back to the ball.

Although Mourinho refused to criticise the decision, in his own unique Jose way he left no uncertainty as to his feelings on the matter – "If I want to give money away, I'll give to charities, not the FA," he told Sky Sports.

Steve Bruce, whose Newcastle United profited from the decision to clinch a 1-1 draw, gave the impression of being almost embarrassed at having been a beneficiary, effectively suggesting some form of football managers' mutiny against the sport's rule-makers.

But are they exaggerating the changes? Is handball proving more prevalent? We looked at the Opta data and, as the old adage says, there's no smoke without fire…

Premier League on course for avalanche of penalties

Before delving into the data, we have to understand what specifically has changed with respect to handball in the Premier League. Technically, the idea that it is a "new rule" this season is a red herring – instead, the law has been altered in England to bring it into line with those adopted across Europe last season.

It's a stricter approach that basically means a player will be penalised for handball – in a defensive context – if the struck hand/arm is away from the body or raised, or if the player leans into the path of the ball.

On top of those points, the International Football Association Board (IFAB, the body in charge of the rules) tightened up the boundaries involved, meaning handball should be given – regardless of intent – if the ball strikes the arm below the bottom of the armpit unless it has come off another part of the player's body first or they have fallen on to the ball.

The numbers do IFAB and FIFA no favours.

After 28 matches in the new Premier League season, 20 penalties have been given and six of them awarded for handball.

That means there has been an average of 0.71 penalties per match this term, a huge increase on the averages from the previous four seasons.

Last term it was at 0.24 per game – prior to that it stood at 0.27 (2018-19), 0.21 (2017-18) and 0.28 (2016-17).

"But those figures could be down to an increase in bad tackling!" – don't worry, we thought of that.

While that stat of six handballs may not sound huge, it's actually the same figure for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, while it also equates to 30 per cent of all penalties this term – in 2019-20, 20.7 per cent of penalties were awarded for handball, 13.6 per cent the year before and 7.5 per cent before that.

Put into a 'per game' context, penalties for handball are being given every 0.21 matches – almost one in four. The most it reached in the preceding four seasons was 0.05 in both 2019-20 and 2016-17.

While it is unlikely that penalties will be given at such a frequency throughout the season, it's not impossible.

If it does carry on, we are on course for 271 in 2020-21, just four fewer than the totals for 2019-20 (92), 2018-19 (103) and 2017-18 (80) combined. Similarly, we would expect 81 of those to have been caused by handball.

That's 24 more than were given in total across the previous four years.

How do the figures compare to European leagues?

Clearly, the change that has been effected in the Premier League is significant, but compared to the other top five leagues, the differences are a little less stark… in most cases.

Even though the rules are now supposed to be consistent across the top five leagues, we are still seeing a lot more penalties in general.

Last season, Serie A recorded the highest frequency of penalties at 0.49 per game, with that figure dropping to 0.15 specifically for handball.

LaLiga was next with 0.39 penalties each match and 0.13 for handball. The Bundesliga's respective figures were 0.24 and 0.06, and for Ligue 1 they were 0.32 and 0.08.

But specifically relating to handball, the percentages are much closer. In fact, LaLiga (32.2 per cent) and the Bundesliga (30.5 per cent) saw a greater share of spot-kicks awarded for such offences than the Premier League is in 2020-21.

Ligue 1 (25.8 per cent) and the Bundesliga (24.7 per cent) aren't far behind, either.

So, while the data would seemingly prove the points of Bruce and Hodgson, IFAB might argue the consistency and black-and-white nature of the law make it better - football managers and players, on the other hand, disagree.

Inter coach Antonio Conte is anxious for the transfer window to close because it can cause worries for players while it is open.

The Nerazzurri began the 2020-21 Serie A season with a 4-3 win over a Franck Ribery-inspired Fiorentina on Saturday, with late goals courtesy of Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D'Ambrosio completing a dramatic turnaround.

While the win highlighted their effectiveness in attack, it did raise some questions regarding the defence – though Conte does not seem to think there is a great need to make changes.

After all, when asked about transfers on Tuesday ahead of the trip to Benevento, Conte was completely dismissive, stating he would rather the transfer window was not even open for the good of the players.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez had been linked to Barcelona, although that has since gone quiet, while Milan Skriniar could join Tottenham after not proving an ideal fit for Conte's defensive structure.

When asked if he anticipated seeing a "different Inter" after the final week of the transfer window, Conte told reporters: "It would be fairer for the directors to answer that.

"I, like all coaches, can't wait for this transfer period to end. As long as it remains open, it can often create anxieties and worries for the players.

"I hope for that [the window to close]. The rest is for the thoughts of the executives, who are trying to do their job in the best way."

Radja Nainggolan, who returned from a loan spell with Cagliari last season, is among those seemingly most likely to leave Inter, though Conte again showed no interest in the topic.

"I repeat, ask the directors about signings and sales," he said. "It does not seem correct to me to talk about individuals. These are questions to be asked exclusively to those who deal with them."

But Conte was a little more forthcoming regarding his next opponents, who are coached by a man he knows well: fellow "football addict" Filippo Inzaghi.

"I expect a tough game. Last year they won Serie B with many games to spare," he said. "Inzaghi was a team-mate of mine, I know what he can give to the team.

"I'm happy for him and how he started. His guys in Marassi [the 3-2 win at Sampdoria] showed character. Great attention will be needed.

"As I said before, I had the pleasure of playing with [Inzaghi] both in Juventus and in the national team. We have shared many emotions for years.

"He is passionate, a football addict like me. He studies football and I was sure he would do well. I'm happy for him."

Lazio have signed talented attacking midfielder Luis Alberto to a new five-year contract.

The 28-year-old joined from Liverpool in 2016 after struggling in England but has since developed into one of Serie A's most effective attacking players.

Only Atalanta's Alejandro Gomez (16) claimed more assists than Luis Alberto's 15 in the league last season, while the Spain international also enjoyed an outstanding 2017-18, registering 25 goal involvements (11 scored, 14 assisted) in the top flight.

Such attacking output had led to links with other clubs, most notably Everton and Sevilla, whose academy Luis Alberto is a product of.

But, having qualified for Champions League football this term, Lazio have secured the future of the talented creator, tying him to the club until 2025.

Serie A side Genoa have announced 14 people at the club have returned positive tests for coronavirus.

The cases, from among the playing squad and other staff, were confirmed following the 6-0 league defeat to Napoli on Sunday.

"The club has activated all the procedures as per the protocol and informed the authorities. The club will give updates as the situation evolves," Genoa said in a statement on Monday.

This news means Saturday's scheduled game against Torino could now be in doubt.

It also means Napoli will likely need to carry out tests of their squad before Sunday's clash with champions Juventus.

Sampdoria also confirmed on Monday that forward Keita Balde had tested positive for COVID-19 and will now follow the necessary health protocols.

The player is due to join Sampdoria from Monaco this week on loan.

Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi hailed Andreas Pereira as a "quality" player as the Manchester United midfielder nears a move to Serie A.

Reports in Italy have suggested Lazio will look to sign Pereira on loan with an option to buy, having missed out on the chance to bring in David Silva.

Pereira, who has been at United since the age of 15, has fallen down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the arrival of Donny van de Beek is likely to limit his first-team chances further.

It looks likely Pereira will undergo a medical in the coming days ahead of a move to the Stadio Olimpico, and Inzaghi seems excited by the prospect of his arrival.

"I know him, he's a quality player who could help us a lot," Inzaghi said on Monday, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

"Right now, I don't want to talk about players who are not ours. We're fortunate to have [sporting director Igli] Tare, who knows how to do things. We'll see if he gets it done or not."

Pereira made 40 appearances in all competitions last season, scoring two goals, but he struggled to make a consistent impact under Solskjaer.

The 24-year-old has started only four Premier League games in 2020 and just one of those, a 4-0 defeat of Norwich City in January, ended in a victory for United.

Ante Rebic dislocated his left elbow during the Serie A fixture against Crotone but suffered no fractures, Milan announced on Monday. 

Forward Rebic tripped and fell during an attack and immediately signalled to be substituted in his side's 2-0 triumph on Sunday, his arm causing him clear discomfort. 

The Croatia international has undergone medical checks on the injury, with scan results revealing no broken bones or nerve damage. 

In a short statement issued on the club's website, Milan revealed Rebic will undergo another scan, as well as a check-up, in 10 days. 

The 27-year-old will miss two games for the Rossoneri prior to the international break in October, sitting out the Europa League tie with Rio Ave and the Serie A clash with Spezia. 

Rebic's injury comes at an unfortunate time for Milan, who have been without Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the veteran Swedish striker tested positive for coronavirus. 

Lorenzo Colombo replaced Rebic at Stadio Ezio Scida, just three days after the youth product marked his full debut with a goal in the 3-2 Europa League qualifying win over Bodo/Glimt. 

Will he or won't he?

That's the question regarding Jadon Sancho and a possible move to Manchester United.

United, however, are reportedly bullish about their chances of prising the England international from Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER CONFIDENT IN SANCHO PURSUIT

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho he expects the blockbuster transfer to be completed, according to Dagbladet.

United have so far been unable to prise Sancho from Dortmund, who refuse to budge on their £108million (€120m) asking price, with the transfer window set to close on October 5.

However, Solskjaer appears confident of landing his number one target.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona could announce the signing of Ajax full-back Sergino Dest on Tuesday, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich are also trying to prise the United States international from Amsterdam.

- The Telegraph says Tottenham are eyeing Bournemouth forward Josh King, who was previously linked to United.

United are closing in on Porto full-back Alex Telles. Romano claims personal terms have been agreed, with final details and agents commission remaining as United and Porto negotiate a fee.

- The Guardian reports Tottenham have not given up on signing Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar. Inter are holding out for £55m (€60m) but Spurs are only prepared to pay between €30m-€35m. Napoli's Nikola Maksimovic could reportedly replace Skriniar in Milan.

- According to L'Equipe, Leeds United are nearing a deal to sign Bayern midfielder Michael Cuisance. Leeds have been unable to meet Udinese's demands for star Rodrigo De Paul.

Marcelo Brozovic has realised Inter want to sell him as the Croatia international eyes an exit, reports Calciomercato. It comes as Inter chase Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has since been linked to United.

- Romano says Milan are confident of completing a deal for Bodo/Glimt star Jens Petter Hauge, who impressed during the Europa League qualifier at San Siro.

Napoli director Cristiano Giuntoli believes star defender Kalidou Koulibaly will remain at the Serie A club, despite links to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Koulibaly had been strongly linked with Premier League giants City but Pep Guardiola's side agreed a deal to sign Benfica centre-back Ruben Dias on Sunday.

Ligue 1 champions PSG are also reportedly interested following Thiago Silva's departure, while the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked previously.

Asked about Koulibaly prior to Sunday's 6-0 demolition of Genoa, Giuntoli told Sky Sport Italia: "The team was completed in January with Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme, who can play in a few different roles. With Amir Rrahmani, [Victor] Osimhen and [Andrea] Petagna, we are complete, so will now try to release players who won't have much time on the pitch.

"I think Koulibaly is staying, we are very happy and so is he. I believe that he is staying."

Koulibaly helped keep a clean sheet as high-flying Napoli preserved their perfect start to the season against Genoa.

Napoli are yet to concede in two Serie A fixtures this season, while scoring eight goals to top the standings.

Gennaro Gattuso was also quizzed on Koulibaly following Giuntoli's comments and the Napoli head coach told Sky Sport Italia post-match: "I hope he remains with us, selfishly speaking, because he gives us so much both in technical terms and as a character.

"The world has changed because of the pandemic and I realise all clubs need to balance the books. I hope the call won't arrive, but I'll be nervous about it until transfer deadline day."

Senegal international Koulibaly has called Napoli home since arriving from Genk in 2014.

The 29-year-old was instrumental as Napoli claimed the Coppa Italia title last season – the club's first piece of silverware since 2014.

Andrea Pirlo says he is not concerned by Juventus' lacklustre performance in their 2-2 draw with Roma on Sunday, insisting they are a team still "under construction". 

The Serie A champions were far from their best in the capital and found themselves 2-1 down at half-time, Jordan Veretout scoring either side of a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. 

Juve midfielder Adrien Rabiot was dismissed shortly after the hour mark but Ronaldo salvaged a point for the Bianconeri with a towering header soon after. 

Pirlo, who replaced the sacked Maurizio Sarri last month, pointed to a lack of match fitness as the reason for his side's sluggish performance and expects them to get significantly better as the season progresses. 

"Roma attacked with many players like us so it was a different game than Sampdoria [who they 3-0 last weekend]," he said. 

"This was a step backwards but we are a team under construction. We didn't have time to try any solutions in pre-season so these games are tests.

"But, in the end, it was a point earned. [Alvaro] Morata only arrived two days ago, Arthur has not played for six months and has to adapt to Italian football. [Rodrigo] Bentancur is also starting to feel a bit better. The condition of these important players needs to grow a bit."

Juve beat Inter to the title by just one point last season, with Antonio Conte's side responding by bringing in Achraf Hakimi, Arturo Vidal and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Asked if Inter's squad is now stronger than his own, Pirlo said: "I don't know if it is better than ours, but it is certainly stronger than last season as they brought in players of quality. I think it'll be a battle to the very end."

Roma boss Paulo Fonseca, meanwhile, was frustrated with his side's inability to kill off the game when they were 2-1 up, with reported Juve target Edin Dzeko guilty of a particularly glaring miss. 

"I think we had a good game, but I am not satisfied with the result," he said. "We created chances and played to win the match.

"I saw Dzeko focused, motivated and he worked hard for the team. There were errors in front of goal, as everyone did, but he played well this evening.

"I felt the team was always comfortable, we didn't allow Juve any real chances and were solid defensively."

Cristiano Ronaldo has predicted a "bright future" for Juventus after his double salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Seria A champions against Roma on Sunday. 

The Bianconeri were far from their best at Stadio Olimpico and went in at the break 2-1 down, Jordan Veretout netting a brace either side of a Ronaldo spot-kick. 

Juve's chances of clawing their way back into the game suffered a blow when Adrien Rabiot was dismissed for a second bookable offence after 62 minutes, but Ronaldo secured a point with a towering header seven minutes later. 

Despite Roma dominating for long periods, Ronaldo was pleased to leave the capital with a point and believes the Bianconceri are in for another successful season. 

"I think it is a point earned," he told Sky Sport Italia. "It had become a complicated situation but we got back into it, even after the red card, so by the end of the campaign this could prove to be an important point.

"We're at the start of the season, there's a new coach, new ideas, but I see the team working well. We're enthusiastic and I see a bright future for us.

"What we're seeing is that the team is happy to work with a smile."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus secured a scarcely deserved 2-2 draw with Roma after Adrien Rabiot was sent off on Sunday.

The Serie A champions cruised to victory against Sampdoria in Andrea Pirlo's first game in charge last weekend but they looked badly off the pace at Stadio Olimpico against a Roma side full of verve, vigour and no little skill. 

Jordan Veretout opened the scoring early on from the penalty spot before adding a second in first-half stoppage time, just moments after Ronaldo had drawn Juve level with a spot-kick. 

Rabiot was dismissed for a second yellow card shortly after the hour mark but, as is so often the way, Ronaldo rose highest to power home a header seven minutes later and seal a point for the Bianconeri. 

Roma started brightly and should been in front after 12 minutes but Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired straight at Wojciech Szczesny after an exhilarating run from inside his own half. 

The hosts did forge ahead shortly after the half-hour mark when Veretout squeezed home from the penalty spot after Rabiot had blocked the Frenchman's powerful shot with his arm. 

That woke Juve from their slumber and they pulled level shortly before the interval, Ronaldo slotting into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards after Lorenzo Pellegrini had handled the Portugal superstar's pass inside the area. 

Veretout restored Roma's advantage two minutes later, however, taking advantage of generous Juve defending to collect Mkhitaryan's pass in acres of space and slot past Szczesny.

Edin Dzeko squandered a golden opportunity to add a third shortly before the hour mark, clipping the outside of the post from 10 yards with scarcely a Juve defender in sight. 

The visitors' task was made harder in the 62nd minute when Rabiot was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Mkhitaryan. 

Juve's numerical disadvantage was of little concern to Ronaldo, though, who towered above a posse of Roma defenders to seal a point from Danilo's cross in the 69th minute.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli says Ante Rebic appears to have avoided any serious damage to his arm after an incident in Sunday's win over Crotone.

Rebic tripped and fell during a Milan attack and immediately signalled to be substituted, his left arm causing him clear discomfort.

There were fears the Croatia international had dislocated and perhaps fractured his elbow during the accident, which occurred 58 minutes into Milan's 2-0 Serie A victory.

Pioli, though, is hopeful the injury is not as bad as it first looked.

"It seems there aren't any fractures, so he could be back soon. I hope this is confirmed," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"He's important given the absence of Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] and the physical condition of [Rafael] Leao, who isn't yet at his best."

Rebic's injury comes at an unfortunate time for Milan, who are without veteran Ibrahimovic after he tested positive for coronavirus.

Lorenzo Colombo replaced Rebic at Stadio Ezio Scida, just three days after the Rossoneri youth product marked his full debut with a goal in the 3-2 Europa League qualifying win over Bodo/Glimt.

Pioli appears happy to use the 18-year-old again in the coming week, as Milan prepare for a Europa League play-off against Rio Ave and a league game at home to Spezia.

"He came on with the right approach. You have to go out onto the pitch with the awareness of being ready and with the right sense of calm," he said of Colombo.

"He's a mature boy. If I think it's right to play him, I will."

Brahim Diaz scored his first goal for Milan as they claimed a 2-0 Serie A win away to Crotone on Sunday.

Franck Kessie opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the first half before Brahim struck early in the second to secure a fourth win in four games in all competitions in 2020-21.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was again absent after testing positive for coronavirus on Thursday, but Stefano Pioli's men were in control throughout at Stadio Ezio Scida as they stretched their unbeaten Serie A run to 14 matches.

There was a blow for Milan, though, who saw Ante Rebic leave the pitch in the second half with a nasty arm injury sustained after he tripped and fell.

Milan's early control of possession yielded little in terms of chances, although a header from Simon Kjaer bounced off the turf and then the crossbar from Hakan Calhanoglu's corner.

As the half moved into injury time, Rebic was felled by Luca Marrone in the penalty area and, after the forward escaped a possible handball following a VAR check, Kessie made no mistake with an emphatic finish from the spot.

Milan doubled their advantage just five minutes into the second half, Brahim finishing low on the turn after the ball fell kindly to him in the six-yard box at the end of a swift break involving Alexis Saelemaekers and Calhanoglu.

Crotone did not lack endeavour but Gianluigi Donnarumma's goal was rarely threatened as the Serie A newcomers slipped to a second successive defeat.

What does it mean? No Zlatan, no problem for Rossoneri

While the 3-2 win over Bodo/Glimt on Thursday was a little closer than Milan would have liked, this was an assured and controlled outing in Calabria.

Crotone did not manage a shot on target as the visitors eased to another victory and clean sheet and a fifth league game without defeat against this opposition.

Brahim building bridges

Not only did he score one of his two shots on target, Brahim also completed all but one of his 23 attempted passes, 15 of which were in the final third.

The Real Madrid loanee might have been on the fringes of things in the Spanish capital, but he is already at the heart of things in the Milan attack.

Can I be blunt?

Crotone's starting attacking pair of Simy and Denis Dragus managed not one shot or chance created between them. Crotone will not last long in the top flight if they cannot start at least threatening a goal.

What's next?

Milan head to Rio Ave in the Europa League play-offs on Thursday before hosting Spezia in Serie A three days later. Crotone head to Sassuolo next Saturday.

Ruben Dias is on the verge of leaving Benfica.

The Portugal international is wanted by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Could he help City dethrone Premier League champions Liverpool?

 

TOP STORY – DIAS SET FOR CITY

Benfica defender Ruben Dias will join Manchester City, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Pep Guardiola has been eyeing defensive reinforcements following Nathan Ake's arrival from Bournemouth, and now Dias is set to swap Benfica for City.

As part of the deal, veteran centre-back Nicolas Otamendi will move in the opposite direction.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Barcelona rejected a €150million offer for teenage sensation Ansu Fati from an unnamed club. Manchester United have been linked previously.

Sergino Dest will travel to Camp Nou to complete his move to Barca, reports RAC1. The Ajax full-back is also wanted by Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Milan and Roma are both interested in signing Norwich City right-back Max Aarons, says Sky Sports. The Englishman has previously been linked to Barca and Bayern.

- According to Sportitalia, West Ham are in talks with Serie A holders Juventus for defender Daniele Rugani.

- Lyon want €50million (£46m) for in-demand star Houssem Aouar amid interest from Arsenal, claims RMC Sport. Paris Saint-Germain, City and Chelsea have also been linked.

Antonio Conte enjoyed seeing his substitutions pay off as Inter claimed a roller coaster 4-3 win over Fiorentina in Serie A, but warned championships are not won with cavalier football.

Inter came from behind with two goals in the final five minutes of a wild game in their season opener against Fiorentina at San Siro on Saturday.

Franck Ribery was outstanding for Fiorentina and teed up two goals in the second half, with substitute Dusan Vlahovic squandering a chance to give the visitors a 4-2 lead after another exceptional piece of play from the veteran Frenchman.

Ribery was hauled off after 83 minutes, with Fiorentina taking the chance to give him a rest, but the Viola were then rocked by late goals from Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D'Ambrosio that earned 2019-20 Europa League runners-up Inter all three points.

Inter head coach Conte sent on Achraf Hakimi and Alexis Sanchez, and it was their crosses that led to the late goals. Like Hakimi, former Barcelona player Arturo Vidal was introduced off the bench for a Nerazzurri debut in the second half.

Conte said via Inter's website: "The changes brought benefits. I am happy and the guys know it. It will be a long and tiring season. There will be room for everyone and everyone will be needed.

"The three points are important, we have had many chances and we found the way to goal four times.

"This is the positive aspect but at the same time we cannot concede three goals like this."

The former Juventus and Italy boss said Inter lacked the right balance between defence and attack.

"In this respect we were not careful and we need to improve," Conte said. "If you want to play high-level championships, balance is the basis of everything."

Conte also saw signs from Christian Eriksen that the former Tottenham midfielder could have a big role to play this season, having struggled to adapt to Serie A last term.

"Compared to when he arrived he has increased the engine revs, he is playing in his ideal position," Conte said.

"I think he had a good game. We are working with him because we know he has important qualities.

"I have faith in him, he is a guy who trains very well and makes himself available to the team. I hope he will soon be able to strike the spark that will take him to the maximum."

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