The Premier League is only two weeks into its 2019-2020 campaign and VAR is stealing all the headlines. After a wild opening weekend which saw a ton of VAR decisions come into question, Man City was once again at the forefront of VAR’s wrath and this time it may have cost them points.
Man City vs Tottenham Spurs is quickly becoming appointment television ever since the teams squared off three times last April. Two of those games were Champions League quarter final matchups, so the stakes were as high as they get.
You may remember that in the second leg, VAR overturned a goal scored by Man City in stoppage time because of a narrow offside. The decision knocked Man City out of the competition and saw the Spurs through to the semi final.
These world-class clubs faced off again over the weekend at the Etihad in another classic, one that saw Spurs earn a point in a 2-2 draw. City dominated, owning nearly 70% of the possession time while driving over twenty shots to the Spurs’ three. VAR should have given City a penalty in the opening few minutes, but it ruled play on. Despite City’s domination, the game was 2-2 in the dying minutes. A corner was swung in and took a few deflections in the box before landing at the feet of Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus who buried the apparent winner with just seconds to play. Cue the evil empire music for VAR …
After review, it was determined the ball had inadvertently hit off the hand of City defender Aymeric Laporte before arriving at the feet of Jesus, illegally aiding City’s goal and thus called a handball. Laporte knew nothing about it, but City players along with packed Etihad fans were furious to see the tie. Spurs Coach Mauricio Pochettino joked after the game saying “I love VAR.” City manager Pep Guardiola was surprisingly calm about the whole thing.
The problem with VAR thus far is that it’s still subject to human error in many cases, particularly now examining potential borderline incidents that were not reviewed previously. Additionally, there are different VAR rules in every competition, with the Premier League VAR having different review rules than the Champions League. We fear this will be a touchy subject throughout the Premier League campaign. After just two weeks, the story has been more about VAR issues than the actual performance of players and teams. For the sake of the game, that needs to change quickly. Uniform VAR rules need to be established across leagues.
The 2019-2020 Premier League campaign got underway this past Friday in Liverpool as the Mercy-siders walloped newly promoted Norwich City at Anfield. It kickstarted a slate of opening weekend games as the PL returned with new teams, new players, new homes, and for the first time ever, VAR.
The big guns got off to a great start to the campaign with Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United all opening up their seasons with wins. Chelsea was the lone “BIG 6” team that did not win as they fell to a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford to the Red Devils. Meanwhile newly promoted teams did not fare so well asNorwich City, and Aston Villa all were defeated in their opening fixtures, and Sheffield United tied to the Cherries of Bournemouth 1-1. However it was VAR that stole the headlines of the weekend.
Making its debut in the Premier League this year, it was used a whopping 42 times, overturning five decisions. The language for the VAR in the Premier League is stated as such to only be used for goalscoring moments, and to correct “obvious” errors. In many cases it got the calls right, and also stole rhythm from the games which was already known to be the case. It was in the Man City vs West Ham game where VAR received it’s harshest criticisms, specifically on the Jesus goal where Sterling was ruled offsides, and Aguero’s penalty that was saved but brought back due to infringement.
The system still isn’t perfect, but for the most part it gets the calls correct. The scenario in the City game where Sterling was ruled offsides was a scenario that will cause problems for VAR as the margin was SO slim that many would argue even the technology couldn’t prove the call right or wrong one way or another.
This year’s Premier League campaign should be more thrilling than the last. Whilst City are still the clear favorites, it feels like more than one squad can challenge them and prevent them from winning three straight titles.
What was your thoughts on the opening weekend and VAR’s impact? Share your opinions with us in the comment section below. orts