Football for the fans has been very different this season: it’s taken until December for fans to be allowed back into stadiums (all be it in a very small capacity and unfortunately that rare privilege has since been taken away); we had to spend almost £15 to watch a single game; and many of us have had to deal with a ever growing injury list.
But I think there has been one thing that has sent shivers down the spine of every football fan and it’s been by far the biggest hindrance to the enjoyment of the beautiful game this season; it is of course them three dreaded words ‘Video Assistant Referee.’ VAR has had football fans stuck to their seat afraid to celebrate their team scoring for fear of a last minute offside call, a questionable handball or a potential foul being spotted five minutes earlier in the play.
To be clear, I very much supported the declaration of “the problem isn’t VAR itself but how it is being used,” to paraphrase slightly. I do believe that once the glaring issues with VAR have been sorted, VAR will become a valuable part of the game we all love.
All that said, this season in particular there has been many questionable decisions being made. So I thought, why not look at the top five most controversial VAR decisions of the Premier League season… so far!
Patrick Bamford vs Crystal Palace
Wow! What a start to this infamous list we have. A questionable offside call at best. Every football fan’s heart sinks when they see the dreaded lines come out (by the way, this definitely won’t be their first inclusion on this list) and I bet Leeds fans felt like throwing their TV out the window when this decision was made.
The only reason this one isn’t higher on my list is because of the change in rules. The offside rule has been changed so that any part of your body that is now in an offside position makes you offside on the whole. But ,the big question is, why should his hand be offside as he clearly can’t score with it? And are we really lead to believe that Bamford would have gained an advantage from this position?
Bamford would go onto to get his goal, however, most fans would agree he definitely should have bagged himself a brace.
Michail Antonio vs Man City
From a decision that was discussed in length to a decision that got virtually no attention at all. Back in October, it would appear that Garcia hacked down Michail Antonio when he was through clean on goal; however, nothing was made of it. This might have been down to a potential handball not being spotted in the build up to Antonio’s opening goal that gave West Ham a deserved lead; however, it still doesn’t make this particular decision any less wrong. After all, we shouldn’t approach decisions on a ‘they will level each-other out’ basis, we should focus on making sure all decisions are as correct as they can be.
As you can clearly see Garcia got none of the ball and Antonio was through on goal! In the modern game there are arguably too many penalties given however in this case, this should not only have been a penalty, but a sending off to boot!
Ollie Watkins VS West Ham United
From a decision that went against The Hammers, to one that went for them. Ollie Watkins was denied a late equaliser by a questionable offside call back in late November.
Similar to the Bamford goal against Palace, it would appear that only Watkins’ arm is offside, that on it’s own is beyond debatable. But what makes this decision arguably worse than the Bamford fiasco is the fact that it would appear that Watkins is being held and therefor fouled in the build up. So surely even if this is now considered to be offside, it should not matter as Villa should have been awarded a penalty? Honestly decisions should not be leaving fans this confused.
Eric Dier vs Newcastle United
One thing that has been highlighted by fans since the introduction of VAR, is that the referee’s are seemingly reluctant to give a decision against the so called ‘big six,’ but for my penultimate pick, this clearly wasn’t the case. Earlier on in the season, players were scared for the ball to go within ten feet of their upper body in case they would have been judged to have handled the ball, and unfortunately for Eric Dier in the closing minutes against Newcastle these fears were realised.
Much to their own surprise, the Geordies were awarded a late penalty against Spurs – I say to their own surprise as I think most people agree that it was not a handball. Yes, it technically hit his arm, but seriously what was he to do? It was at very close range, his arm was only up as he was jumping and he had his back firmly to the ball and therefore could not have seen what was happening.
I think Jamie Carragher summed up how every fan felt in his commentary when he said ‘ I hope that’s not a penalty’, just as it was about to be awarded.
Sadio Mane vs Everton
The Merseyside derby in October was one of the most dramatic games in recent Premier League history and this was largely due to VAR. If you have not already noticed, for the issue of fairness, I have limited my list to one decision per match otherwise Pickford’s horror challenge on van Dijk would have easily made the cut. The clumsy challenge that has seemingly ended the Dutchman’s season went completely unpunished. The fact he was offside in the build up does not change the fact that Pickford was very lucky not to see red.
But the most dramatic decision of the day was when Jordan Henderson’s last minute winner was disallowed when Sadie Mane was Judged to have been offside in the build up. Still looking at it, most fans can’t see how he was offside. It really is that simple. Even if Mane’s elbow hairs were straying in an offside position this is not what most fans want to be seeing!
There we have it. Five of the most controversial VAR decisions of the Premier League season so far. I tried to pick the five that arguably caused the most controversy. Do you think I missed any? I am sure I have. Leave them in the comments below.
With more controversial decisions being made every weekend, I am sure some of these will be topped.