Is VAR meeting expectations in the Premier League?

From the beginning of the 2019/20 season, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced to the Premier League to be used across all matches, and it has caused many controversial decisions to be made throughout its time in the league.

The technology itself is impressive: it can be used to intervene in goals, penalties, cards, and identification issues throughout the game that may need correction. On paper, one would think implementing this into the game ensures that human errors are minimized and wrongful decisions made on the pitch are corrected.

However, it seems that referees are struggling to get to grips with the new technology, and it has no signs of improvement. These mistakes that are made have a huge influence on the result of games. To rub salt into the wounds of sides that are on the wrong end of the decisions, the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) formally apologizes when a clear and obvious error is made. Unfortunately, this does not change the result of the game.

The latest clear and obvious error to happen is in a huge clash between Tottenham and Liverpool. In this case, Luis Diaz was declared offside. The VAR officials, having seen that the Diaz was onside, told the referee that his on-field decision was correct. Just one problem: the VAR officials thought that the referee had awarded a goal, when in fact, he had called it back for offside.

Tottenham went on to win the game with a goal in second half stoppage time. Of course, we do not know exactly what would have happened if the goal had been allowed. However, the points lost could be crucial to where Liverpool finishes at the end of the season.

PGMOL apologies over the past two seasons

Crystal Palace 3-1 Aston Villa / August 20th 2022

During Villa’s defeat at Selhurst Park, Andy Madley awarded Palace a penalty following a VAR check, which was the wrong call against Lucas Digne.

Chelsea 2-1 West Ham / September 3rd 2022

Maxwell Cornet’s late goal against Chelsea, which would have made it 2-2, was disallowed by the referee due to a wrongfully judged foul on Edouard Mendy by Jarrod Bowen in the build-up.

Newcastle 0-0 Crystal Palace / September 3rd 2022

Crystal Palace escaped when Tyrick Mitchell’s own goal was disallowed, as it was believed Joe Willock obstructed Guaita. However, despite a lengthy VAR check, it was ultimately the wrong call.

Manchester United 3-1 Arsenal / September 4th 2022

Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was initially denied after a VAR check, which later PGMOL admitted should have counted, as Martin Ødegaard was wrongfully judged to have fouled in the buildup.

Fulham 3-0 Aston Villa / October 20th 2022

Douglas Luiz received an unjust red card for Aston Villa as the real culprit, Aleksandar Mitrović, caused the altercation.

Nottingham Forest 2-2 Brentford / November 5th 2022

Brentford received a controversial penalty when Dean Henderson collided with Yoane Wissa, even though replays indicated the latter initiated the contact.

Brighton 2-1 Liverpool / January 29th 2023

Fabinho was only cautioned with a yellow card after a studs-up challenge on Evan Ferguson, which should have been a red card.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Brighton / February 11th 2023

VAR misplaced the offside line, disallowing Brighton’s Pervis Estupiñán’s rightful opening goal.

Arsenal 1-1 Brentford / February 11th 2023

Arsenal’s pursuit of the title was thwarted as VAR’s Lee Mason failed to identify the correct player while checking for offside in Brentford’s goal.

Everton 0-1 Manchester City / February 26th 2023

Both the referee and VAR overlooked Rodri’s handball, denying Everton a penalty.

Tottenham 2-1 Brighton / April 8th 2023

A potential foul by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg on Kaoru Mitoma inside the Tottenham box raised questions, but the referee ultimately granted the penalty, and VAR concurred.

Manchester United 1-0 Wolves / August 14th 2023

Andre Onana challenged Sasa Kalajdžić inside the box, and VAR failed to prompt the referee to review the incident.

Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool / September 30th 2023

Luis Diaz scored for Liverpool to lead 1-0, but the offside flag was raised. VAR checked, but the decision stood without drawing lines for offside.

These mistakes should not be happening

To have a total of 14 mistakes publicly taken accountability for alongside all the decisions in games that have gone under the radar without an apology. This should not be happening in a league like the Premier League. With these types of decisions being so influential on results, it is embarrassing that this is happening without any signs of change.

There is no consistency in the decisions across games. Many instances have arisen when in one game something has been awarded in one game but in another. Yet, the same circumstance has gone the other way. Each individual has their own perception of how things should go when judging what way something should go. However, all anyone asks is that there is some ground to the choices made by the match officials.

VAR itself is an amazing addition to football, but the individuals involved with officiating need to understand how to communicate more effectively and use the technology correctly, because it was introduced to reduce human errors, not welcome it.

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