Probably the most controversial innovation in Premier League history, the introduction of VAR has seen clubs seemingly robbed of goals at crucial moments throughout the season. At the Emirates, we’ve endured no shortage of our own heartache, including the decision to deny Sokratis his winner against Crystal Palace in October.
That decision was eventually proven to be incorrect and referees’ chief Mike Riley pleaded with supporters to give the technology more time – not that the admission was any consolation to Gunners fans, who saw two points unfairly slip away.
Speaking at the time, Riley spoke about discrepancies and how it’s still possible for referees to make correct decisions, while the VAR intervention seems to be wrong. “It will happen,” he said. “Everyone has to go through a learning curve.”
It’s fair to say that VAR is indeed in its infancy but, as we approach the closing stages of its inaugural season, can the technology be considered a success?
Can an armpit be offside?
One major bone of contention with VAR this season has been its interpretation of the offside rule, which has seen numerous goals chalked off following two minutes or more of studying scrawled lines on a screen.
Premier League newcomers Norwich were unlucky not to earn all three points just shy of the new year when VAR denied Teemu Pukki a goal that would have put the Canaries 2-0 up. VAR adjudged the striker’s arm to be marginally offside, which prompted huge debate among pundits, while Norwich boss Daniel Farke argued the possibility that a part of his shoulder that was not onside.
“In my eyes, VAR doesn’t make the game more fair in this situation. The striker should be given the advantage,” said Farke.
Many fans can get behind Farke’s sentiments, especially when those decisions are having a huge bearing on Premier League betting markets. However, it is clear that the majority of decisions made by VAR have in fact favoured the defending team, especially for marginal offside calls.
❌ – No red card for Lo Celso against Chelsea
? – VAR admit they got the decision wrong
❌ – No retrospective action to be taken on Lo Celso
Take it away, Jeff…? pic.twitter.com/l5K9kZRcco
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 22, 2020
Just get on with it
Another major frustration cited by fans following the introduction of VAR has been the delays caused by its use. Some supporters even go as far as to suggest that its introduction has diluted the moment in which a goal is scored.
This is despite assurances ahead of the season that the use of VAR would not result in long delays. And it seems fans, players, managers and pundits alike share that frustration at being made to wait while officials in a studio work out a decision.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo said: “I’m concerned about the two minutes we celebrate, then we wait and then the Leicester fans celebrate a non-goal – this is not the spirit of the game.”
? "It's not good enough!"
Frank Lampard speaks out on the failings of #VAR.
— SiriusXM FC 157 ⚽️? (@SiriusXMFC) February 22, 2020
Here to stay?
It’s perhaps too early to declare VAR a success or failure and, though the concept has had more than its fair share of negative press throughout its inaugural season, referees and other senior officials insist it is here to stay.
But so far, VAR has failed in its mission to bring simplicity to the sport – and fans still feel the same sense of injustice around refereeing decisions after the game that they did before, if not more so. It seems that if VAR is to be a long-term success then changes need to be made.