A new era has begun in the Premier League with the advent of VAR – and it’s safe to say there has been no lack of talking points. Despite being longed for by some quarters, others have always been sceptics of VAR due to how it slows the game down and takes some of the autonomy away from referees.
It has divided opinion on its use with former Premier League referee Keith Hackett unequivocal about its deficiencies.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “The international break has come at a good time for the Premier League’s referees because they are really struggling with the video assistant referee process. “I have always been a big supporter of technology but we are seeing no consistency in how or when it is used. Referees are looking foolish.”
With that in mind, here are five times when VAR was the main talking point of the match.
Gabriel Jesus’ disallowed goal – Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham 17/08
The biggest talking point so far this season came in the 95th minute between Manchester City and Tottenham with the game finely poised at 2-2.
City won a corner which was flicked on at the near post by Aymeric Laporte before the loose ball was smashed in by Gabriel Jesus – cue mass celebrations.
However, VAR spotted an infringement – the ball (very much accidentally) skimmed off Laporte’s arm and, despite the fact absolutely no one appealed for a handball, the goal was chalked off.
People may say that it is the new, frankly ridiculous handball law that caused that and not VAR – but had it not been for VAR then no-one would have noticed and the goal would have been given.
Leander Dendoncker’ disallowed goal – Leicester 0-0 Wolves 11/08
Very similar to the Jesus goal – a corner was swung into the box, both Willy Boly and Dendoncker jumped for the ball, it somehow ricocheted onto the Frenchman’s arm (when he was not even looking) and bounced down allowing the Belgian to score.
Again, there were no protests – a very telling sign that nothing clear and obvious has happened – yet VAR ruled it out.
Henri Lansbury’s disallowed goal – Crystal Palace 1-0 Aston Villa 31/08
An incident where player’s reputation could have got the better of him – Henri Lansbury’s goal was ruled out due to an alleged dive by Jack Grealish in the build up.
Running at speed towards the Palace box, Grealish was clipped by Wilfried Zaha and he tumbled to the ground but the ball broke to Lansbury who finished neatly in the far corner – giving what Villa thought was a late equaliser.
However, referee Kevin Friend accused Grealish of diving and the goal never stood, even though contact was clear.
The controversy came from VAR NOT getting involved this time, as they felt it was not a “clear and obvious” error from Friend to book the Villa man.
Raheem Sterling’s disallowed goal – West Ham 0-5 Manchester City 10/08
Another City goal chalked off this time for offside – Sterling was quite literally a shoulder’s width offside when he thought he had put City 3-0 at the Hammers.
VAR intervened, and, after the traditional lengthy deliberation, decided the goal should not stand, and the celebrations were cut short.
Again, VAR was simply a tool that is existing to uphold petty rules in the sport – the advantage Sterling had was so minimal that common sense dictates it should have been excused.
Ronaldo told the Juventus fans to calm down in case his goal was disallowed by VAR pic.twitter.com/URxhjQFWE7
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 1, 2019
Sokratis’ disallowed goal – Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham 01/09
This was a classic case of VAR unnecessarily complicating matters – Sokratis thought he had given Arsenal 3-2 lead in the North London derby, but this time, it was instantly ruled out as the assistant referee raised his flag.
VAR decided to take a closer look which was fair enough, and on the first freeze frame, it was evidently clear that Sead Kolasinac was offside when he crossed the ball into the box.
Yet for some bizarre reason, it took nearly a minute for VAR to reach the conclusion that the on-field decision was correct, as it was using its clever machinery to draw imaginary lines on the field and analyse the goal from every millimetre.
Instances like must surely be disheartening for on-field officials, particularly assistants, whose purposes in the game are increasingly diminishing due to the advent of VAR.