2019/20 Premier League Season Analysis: Goals Ruled Out By VAR
Our final analysis of the 2019/20 Premier League season sees us delve deep into analysis surrounding the introduction of video assistant referees (VAR). Our Chief Writer, Sam Austin, worked all season to track and analyse the use of VAR in Premier League matches and has provided a season worth of feedback and data that primarily focuses on the goals that were ruled out by the system during its maiden league campaign. All aboard.
Introduction: Sam Austin (@HypeTrainSam)
Welcome aboard the crazy train, it is finally time that I reveal what I learned about VAR based on just one aspect of its application, plus a few bonus bits I was surprised of along the way. If you are reading this, you may have been one of the people that took interest in my Twitter feed where I recorded every single goal ruled out by VAR in the Premier League. You can also look for yourself below, but I have also broken down everything from that list into this article (you won't be able to see the tweet in a simplified view if you've clicked on the link from social media).
VAR’s introduction to the Premier League for the 2019/20 season was, to put it bluntly, a completely polarising anomaly that overshadowed the conversation of the beautiful game. You can learn a lot about VAR from just one aspect of it, and the goals VAR ruled out was the biggest contributor to its large shadow. I guarantee that you will learn something as I did about VAR’s first attempt of changing Premier League officiating. First up is the list of every goal ruled out by VAR this season, and then the madness begins.
Goals Ruled Out: 2019/20 Season
1 | GW1: Leander Dendoncker (WOL) vs. Leicester | Away | LEI 0-0 WOL
2 | GW1: Gabriel Jesus (MCI) vs. West Ham | Away | WHU 0-5 MCI
3 | GW1: Chris Wood (BUR) vs. Southampton | Home | BUR 3-0 SOU
4 | GW2: Gabriel Jesus (MCI) vs. Spurs | Home | MCI 2-2 TOT
5 | GW2: Leandro Trossard (BHA) vs. West Ham | Home | BHA 1-1 WHU
6 | GW3: Kurt Zouma (CHE) vs. Norwich | Away | NOR 2-3 CHE
7 | GW3: Lewis Dunk (BHA) vs. Southampton | Home | BHA 0-2 SOU
8 | GW4: Sokratis (ARS) vs. Spurs | Home | ARS 2-2 TOT
9 | GW4: Henri Lansbury (AVL) vs. Crystal Palace | Away | CRY 1-0 AVL
10 | GW5: Olie McBurnie (SHU) vs. Southampton | Home | SHU 0-1 SOU
11 | GW6: Serge Aurier (TOT) vs. Leicester | Away | LEI 2-1 TOT
12 | GW6: Ayoze Perez (LEI) vs. Spurs | Home | LEI 2-1 TOT
13 | GW6: Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE) vs. Liverpool | Home | CHE 1-2 LIV
14 | GW6: Joshua King (BOU) vs. Southampton | Away | SOU 1-3 BOU
15 | GW7: Nathan Ake (BOU) vs. West Ham | Home | BOU 2-2 WHU
16 | GW9: Conor Hourihane (AVL) vs. Brighton | Home | AVL 2-1 BHA
17 | GW9: Raul Jimenez (WOL) vs. Southampton | Home | WOL 1-1 SOU
18 | GW9: Raul Jimenez (WOL) vs. Southampton | Home | WOL 1-1 SOU
19 | GW9: Sadio Mane (LIV) vs. Manchester United | Away | MUN 1-1 LIV
20 | GW10: Sokratis (ARS) vs. Crystal Palace | Home | ARS 2-2 CRY
21 | GW10: Pascal Gross (BHA) vs. Everton | Home | BHA 3-2 EVE
22 | GW11: Roberto Firmino (LIV) vs. Aston Villa | Away | AVL 1-2 LIV
23 | GW12: Chris Wood (BUR) vs. West Ham | Home | BUR 3-0 WHU
24 | GW12: David McGoldrick (SHU) vs. Spurs | Away | TOT 1-1 SHU
25 | GW13: Declan Rice (WHU) vs. Spurs | Home | WHU 2-3 TOT
26 | GW13: James Tomkins (CRY) vs. Liverpool | Home | CRY 1-2 LIV
27 | GW13: Raheem Sterling (MCI) vs. Chelsea | Home | MCI 2-1 CHE
28 | GW14: Davinson Sanchez (TOT) vs. Bournemouth | Home | TOT 3-2 BOU
29 | GW14: Michail Antonio (WHU) vs. Chelsea | Away | CHE 0-1 WHU
30 | GW14: Trézéguet (AVL) vs. Manchester United | Away | MUN 2-2 AVL
31 | GW15: David Luiz (ARS) vs. Brighton | Home | ARS 1-2 BHA
32 | GW17: Sadio Mane (LIV) vs. Watford | Home | LIV 2-0 WAT
33 | GW17: Michail Antonio (WHU) vs. Southampton | Away | SOU 0-1 WHU
34 | GW18: John Egan (SHU) vs. Brighton | Away | BHA 0-1 SHU
35 | GW18: Jack O’Connell (SHU) vs. Brighton | Away | BHA 0-1 SHU
36 | GW19: Harry Kane (TOT) vs. Brighton | Home | TOT 2-1 BHA
37 | GW19: Pedro Neto (WOL) vs. Liverpool | Away | LIV 1-0 WOL
38 | GW20: Dan Burn (BHA) vs. Bournemouth | Home | BHA 2-0 BOU
39 | GW20: Teemu Pukki (NOR) vs. Spurs | Home | NOR 2-2 TOT
40 | GW20: Max Meyer (CRY) vs. Southampton | Away | SOU 1-1 CRY
41 | GW20: Lys Mousset (SHU) vs. Manchester City | Away | MCI 2-0 SHU
42 | GW21: Phil Foden (MCI) vs. Everton | Home | MCI 2-1 EVE
43 | GW21: Jack Grealish (AVL) vs. Burnley | Away | BUR 1-2 AVL
44 | GW21: Robert Snodgrass (WHU) vs. Sheffield United | Away | SHU 1-0 WHU
45 | GW22: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (EVE) vs. Brighton | Home | EVE 1-0 BHA
46 | GW22: Jonny Evans (LEI) vs. Southampton | Home | LEI 1-2 SOU
47 | GW22: Ben Mee (BUR) vs. Chelsea | Away | CHE 3-0 BUR
48 | GW22: Roberto Firmino (LIV) vs. Manchester United | Home | LIV 2-0 MUN
49 | GW22: Gini Wijnaldum (LIV) vs. Manchester United | Home | LIV 2-0 MUN
50 | GW26: Wily Boly (WOL) vs. Leicester | Home | WOL 0-0 LEI
51 | GW26: Kurt Zouma (CHE) vs. Manchester United | Home | CHE 0-2 MUN
52 | GW26: Olivier Giroud (CHE) vs. Manchester United | Home | CHE 0-2 MUN
53 | GW27: Joshua King (BOU) vs. Burnley | Away | BUR 3-0 BOU
54 | GW27: Harry Wilson (BOU) vs. Burnley | Away | BUR 3-0 BOU
55 | GW27: Sadio Mane (LIV) vs. West Ham | Home | LIV 3-2 WHU
56 | GW27: Troy Deeney (WAT) vs. Manchester United | Away | MUN 3-0 WAT
57 | GW28: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (EVE) vs. Manchester United | EVE 1-1 MUN
58 | GW31: Hueng-Min Son (TOT) vs. West Ham | Home | TOT 2-0 WHU
59 | GW32: Riyad Mahrez (MCI) vs. Liverpool | Home | MCI 4-0 LIV
60 | GW32: Tomas Soucek (WHU) vs. Chelsea | Home | WHU 3-2 CHE
61 | GW32: Harry Kane (TOT) vs. Sheffield United | Away | SHU 3-1 TOT
62 | GW34: Joshua King (BOU) vs. Spurs | Home | BOU 0-0 TOT
63 | GW35: Mamadou Sakho (CRY) vs. Aston Villa | Away | AVL 2-0 CRY
64 | GW36: Jordan Ayew (CRY) vs. Manchester United | Home | CRY 0-2 MUN
65 | GW37: Sam Surridge (BOU) vs. Southampton | Home | BOU 0-2 SOU
66 | GW38: Onel Hernandez (NOR) vs. Manchester City | Away | MCI 5-0 NOR
67 | GW38: Jay Rodriguez (BUR) vs. Brighton | Home | BUR 1-2 BHA
Goals Ruled Out by VAR: Individual Teams
Below is the list of all the teams next to the number of goals that they had ruled out in the 2019/20 season. For example, when Sadio Mane’s goal was ruled out in GW9 against Manchester United, it goes on this tally.
6 Goals: Liverpool, Bournemouth
5 Goals: Man City, Spurs, West Ham, Wolves, Sheffield United
4 Goals: Chelsea, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Aston Villa
3 Goals: Arsenal
2 Goals: Leicester, Everton, Norwich
1 Goal: Watford
0 Goals: Manchester United, Southampton, Newcastle
Goals Ruled Out by VAR: In a Teams Favour
Below is the list of all the goals have been ruled out in favour of a club, for example, when Sadio Mane’s goal was ruled out in GW9 against Manchester United at Old Trafford, it benefitted Manchester United.
10 Goals: Southampton
9 Goals: Manchester United
7 Goals: Spurs, Brighton
6 Goals: West Ham
4 Goals: Liverpool, Chelsea
3 Goals: Leicester, Burnley
2 Goals: Manchester City, Sheffield United, Everton, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Bournemouth
1 Goal: Watford, Norwich
0 Goals: Arsenal, Newcastle, Wolves
Goals Ruled Out: Individual Players
This is the tally of the number of goals ruled out for individual players.
3 Goals (2 Players):
Sadio Mane (LIV), Joshua King (BOU)
2 Goals (9 Players):
Sokratis (ARS), Roberto Firmino (LIV), Harry Kane (TOT), Michail Antonio (WHU), Gabriel Jesus (MCI), Kurt Zouma (CHE), Raul Jimenez (WOL), Chris Wood (BUR), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (EVE)
1 Goal (43 Players):
David Luiz (ARS), Gini Wijnaldum (LIV), Hueng-Min Son (TOT), Davinson Sanchez (TOT), Serge Aurier (TOT), Robert Snodgrass (WHU), Tomas Soucek (WHU), Declan Rice (WHU), Phil Foden (MCI), Riyad Mahrez (MCI), Raheem Sterling (MCI), Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE), Olivier Giroud (CHE), Ayoze Perez (LEI), Jonny Evans (LEI), Pedro Neto (WOL), Wily Boly (WOL), Leander Dendoncker (WOL), John Egan (SHU), David McGoldrick (SHU), Lys Mousset (SHU), Olie McBurnie (SHU), Jack O’Connell (SHU), Ben Mee (BUR), Jay Rodriguez (BUR), Max Meyer (CRY), James Tomkins (CRY), Mamadou Sakho (CRY), Jordan Ayew (CRY), Leandro Trossard (BHA), Dan Burn (BHA), Pascal Gross (BHA), Lewis Dunk (BHA), David Trézéguet (AVL), Henri Lansbury (AVL), Jack Grealish (AVL), Conor Hourihane (AVL), Sam Surridge (BOU), Harry Wilson (BOU), Nathan Ake (BOU), Troy Deeney (WAT), Onel Hernandez (NOR), and Teemu Pukki (NOR).
Overall Player Tally:
Total with 1 goal ruled out: 43
Total with 2 goals ruled out: 9
Total with 3 goals ruled out: 2
Total Number of Players: 54
Goals Ruled Out: Analysis
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out: 67
Total Number of Home Goals Ruled Out: 41 (61%)
Total Number of Away Goals Ruled Out: 26 (39%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for ‘Top Six’ Clubs: 23 (34%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for ‘The Other 14’: 44 (66%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for Relegated Clubs: 9 (13%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out in Major Derbies: 3 (4%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for London Clubs: 18 (27%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for Manchester Clubs: 5 (7%)
Total Number of Goals Ruled Out for Merseyside Clubs: 8 (12%)
Teams with Most Goals Ruled Out: Liverpool (6) & Bournemouth (6)
Teams with Least Goals Ruled Out: Newcastle, Southampton, Manchester United (0).
Team with Most Goals Ruled Out in Their Favour: Southampton (10) (15%)
Team with Least Goals Ruled Out in Their Favour: Newcastle, Wolves, and Arsenal (0)
Players with Most Goals Ruled Out: Joshua King (3) & Sadio Mane (3)
VAR Observations (2019/20 Season):
Newcastle United was the only team in the 2019/20 season that didn’t have a goal ruled out, or even a goal ruled out in their favour.
Gabriel Jesus (MCI) had goals ruled out in GW1 against West Ham, and then Spurs in GW2. The Brazilian had two of the five goals ruled out in the first two weeks.
West Ham had goals ruled out in their favour in both GW1 & GW2, with Gabriel Jesus (MCI) and Leandro Trossard (BHA) having their strikes ruled out against the Hammers.
There was only one game where one player had multiple goals ruled out in the same fixture. Raul Jimenez (WOL) had two goals ruled out against Southampton in GW9 at the Molineux Stadium.
There were six games where there were multiple goals ruled out in the same match.
LEI 2-1 TOT (GW6) – Aurier (TOT) & Perez (LEI)
WOL 1-1 SOU (GW9) – Jimenez (WOL) (2)
BHA 0-1 SHU (GW16) – Egan (SHU) & O’Connell (SHU)
LIV 2-0 MUN (GW22) – Firmino (LIV) & Wijnaldum (LIV)
CHE 0-2 MUN (GW22) – Zouma (CHE) & Giroud (CHE)
BUR 3-0 BOU (GW27) – King (BOU) & Wilson (BOU)
There was only one game in the 2019/20 season that had both teams having a goal ruled out. This took place in GW6 when both Serge Aurier (TOT) and Ayoze Perez (LEI) had goals ruled out. Leicester won this game 2-1.
Manchester United were the only team to have two goals ruled out in their favour in two games in the season.
Wolves had five goals ruled out in the debut VAR season, and if they were all scored when Wolves would have gained a better result in all of their games. They would have converted three draws to wins, and one loss to a win (Liverpool in GW19).
Sheffield United have the most individual scorers of ruled out goals in the 2019/20 season (5).
Watford are the only team in the 2019/20 season to have one goal ruled out (Troy Deeney) and one goal ruled out in their favour (Sadio Mane during GW17).
There was only one game of the 2019/20 season that had both teams in the same game have a goal ruled out by VAR. This occurred during GW6 when Serge Aurier (TOT) and Ayoze Perez (LEI) both had strikes ruled out. Leicester won this game 2-1.
Raul Jimenez (WOL) is the only player to have two goals ruled out in the same game. This occurred in GW9 at home against Southampton. Either of the Mexican’s strikes would have won the game for Wolves.
How many gameweeks didn’t have any goals disallowed by VAR? 8. GW8, GW16, GW23, GW24, GW25, GW29, GW30, and GW33.
Newcastle United: A VAR Oddity
After digging through my Twitter feed, one theme started to pop up around halfway through the seasons ruled out goals. Newcastle were absent from everything. When I asked Rob if he was surprised (being a Newcastle supporter himself), he intuitively said that he was surprised Newcastle were capable of scoring at all, and he was right as only two teams scored less goals than Norwich in the 2019/20 season. The Toon scored only 38 goals, Watford scored 36 goals, and Norwich only managed 26 which is one less than their losses for the season. To be in a chance of having goals ruled out you need to score enough to have more scrutiny from VAR.
The big question is the other half of the equation. Newcastle conceded 58 goals and didn’t have any of them ruled out in their favour. If you are wondering why this is strange, look at Southampton. The Saints conceded 60 goals in the season, only two more than Newcastle. Southampton were the team with the most goals ruled out in their favour due to VAR, with 10 goals wiped off their goal difference. Were it not for VAR they would have conceded 70 goals. Also, only six teams conceded more goals than Newcastle, and if you are conceding more goals than the majority of teams then you’d like to think they would have a goal ruled out in their favour here or there. Nope, not Newcastle. Rob joked that Newcastle played too deep of a line to have any offsides even in question, and when we were doing the research it was less of a joke when you consider that Newcastle had the lowest possession of any club in the 2019/20 season as they did spend most of their time in a deep block to halt teams.
That isn’t where it ends for Newcastle, aside from goals ruled out by VAR, they also only had three instances of having VAR interfere in their games, and it only happened in two games across the season. The first was against Sheffield United in GW15 when Jonjo Shelvey scored from a cheeky play with the Englishman running through their defence from a set piece as the Blades defenders stood still. The second game which had the other two incidents was the Toon’s 1-0 win over Southampton in GW29. VAR sent off Moussa Djenepo for a challenge on Isaac Hayden, and then the Toon were awarded a penalty after VAR picked up that Sofiane Boufal had committed a handball.
Newcastle won both games when VAR intervened, and they had the fewest number of VAR interventions of any team so far with three reviews, and all went in their favour. VAR was virtually non-existent for Newcastle in the duration of the 2019/20 season. They were truly the exception to the rule for VAR last season. This was the biggest surprise having reviewed all things VAR.
Sheffield United vs. Aston Villa: The Ghost Goal Conundrum
I was conflicted when the Premier League returned, and then it was all out pandemonium when Orjan Nyland couldn’t fumbled and dragged the ball into his own net, with Hawkeye technology failing to detect the ball go into the back of the net during the first time game of the lockdown period, an eventual 0-0 home draw for Villa against Sheffield United.
VAR controversially didn’t give the goal neither. So, it was a clear officiating error, and VAR is there to correct big mistakes that are also as clear as day. My thinking behind this complete lack of VAR is that because they didn’t confirm the goal, the VAR officials also technically ruled out it…VAR made a decision by not making a decision. The goal should have stood, so VAR is at fault for that calamity.
As a result of this game Aston Villa picked up an extra point in their survival bid of which they were successful in seeing through on the final day in a 1-1 draw at West Ham. The Villains stayed in the Premier League by just one point, and you can argue that the goal that never was in GW29 was the goal that kept them up. Bournemouth were relegated, and they inquired about legal action because of the total failure to record the goal.
VAR: Goals That Should Have Stood
There were goals over the course of the debut season of VAR that were ruled out incorrectly. The problem with VAR is that it invites criticism on itself when the referees behind the monitor are making a mistake which is wholly against the premise of what it was brought into do. Below are the five goals that should have stood, and this isn’t even the definitive list as I didn’t watch every single Premier League game, but these are the ones that stand out more than anything.
GW10: Sokratis (ARS) vs. Crystal Palace | Home | ARS 2-2 CRY
GW11: Roberto Firmino (LIV) vs. Aston Villa | Away | AVL 1-2 LIV
GW12: David McGoldrick (SHU) vs. Spurs | Away | TOT 1-1 SHU
GW20: Max Meyer (CRY) vs. Southampton | Away | SOU 1-1 CRY
GW20: Lys Mousset (SHU) vs. Manchester City | Away | MCI 2-0 SHU
The Sokratis goal in GW10 against Crystal Palace was ruled out because of a foul committed by Calum Chambers on Luka Milivojevic in the box during an Arsenal corner. Here’s the thing though, it wasn’t a foul, more of a player just falling over.
The McGoldrick goal against Spurs in GW12 was also ridiculous, with John Lundstram deemed offside for his assist. Lundstram was level, and even looked behind the Spurs defender, and it was a goal ruled out which would have won Sheffield United the game.
Max Meyer had a brilliant goal ruled out against Southampton in GW20 because Wilfried Zaha was deemed to be offside when he received the ball, who went onto assist Meyer. The Ivorian was dead level, and it was clear to see, and one of the many goals ruled out to offside that challenged why the hell goals were being ruled out. To decide if Zaha was offside you need better technology, like a microscope. All three of these goals would have won their teams the respective games.
Lys Mousset against City in GW20 was also another goal that challenged the offside rule, and it was many that Gameweek that Premier League had to apologise for being wrong. Sheffield United would have taken the lead, and that blow allowed City to take over the game.
Then, there was the infamous Roberto Firmino goal in GW11 that was ruled out by Martin Atkinson who oversaw VAR for the Reds win over Aston Villa. The home team were leading the game 1-0 and the goal would have put Liverpool level in the cagey game at Villa Park. Upon video reply you can see Martin Atkinson get the angles right first time, with Firmino behind Tyrone Mings. Atkinson then redraw the lines to make it look like Firmino was offside. You see him change the lines until he is happy that he can rule the goal out. Even by the human eye you can see that the Brazilian was behind Mings, and Atkinson used the technology to rule out the goal. This wasn’t a case of a referee making a mistake…it showed that the referees acted with bias to rule out the goal.
What made this worse for Liverpool fans such as me was that Martin Atkinson who officiated in the Reds 1-1 draw in GW9 against Manchester United refused to acknowledge a clear foul on Origi which then allowed a quick counterattack for Rashford’s goal. Atkinson showed that it wasn’t just mistakes that were happening, it was much, much deeper than that. Referees backed up their colleagues and close friends, which ended up doubling down on individual errors made by officials.
Adjusted Premier League Table: 2019/20 Season
You’re probably wondering how VAR has affected the Premier League and we have produced a table based on VAR’s introduction. Based on just the Goals Ruled Out by VAR here is the revised 2019/20 Premier League table. The new points total is in the (brackets), with the actual points on the left.
Place Team Points Difference Position
1 Liverpool (C) 99 (95) -4pts DIF 1st (No Change)
2 Manchester City 81 (83) +2pts DIF 2nd (No Change)
3 Chelsea 66 (68) +2pts DIF 4th to 3rd (+1)
4 Wolverhampton Wanderers 59 (66) +7pts DIF 7th to 4th (+3)
5 Manchester United 66 (62) -4pts DIF 3rd to 5th (-2)
6 Leicester City 62 (61) -1pt DIF 5th to 6th (-1)
7 Arsenal 56 (61) +5pts DIF 8th to 7th (+1)
8 Sheffield United 54 (55) +1pt DIF 9th to 8th (+1)
9 Burnley 54 (55) +1pt DIF 10th to 9th (+1)
10 Tottenham Hotspur 59 (54) -5pts DIF 6th to 10th (-4)
11 Everton 49 (49) 0pt DIF 12th to 11th (+1)
12 Southampton 52 (46) -6pts DIF 11th to 12th (-1)
13 Newcastle United 44 (44) 0pt DIF 13th (No Change)
14 Crystal Palace 43 (43) 0pt DIF 14th (No Change)
15 Brighton & Hove Albion 41 (40) -1pt DIF 15th (No Change)
16 West Ham United 39 (39) 0pt DIF 16th (No Change)
17 Aston Villa 35 (39) +4pts DIF 17th (No Change)
18 Bournemouth (R) 34 (38) +4pts DIF 18th (No Change)
19 Watford (R) 34 (36) +2pts DIF 19th (No Change)
20 Norwich City (R) 21 (23) +2pts DIF 20th (No Change)
What you see above is what the Premier League table would have looked like if all the disallowed goals didn’t happen. Things learned from the adjusted table:
10 teams get more points.
6 teams lose points.
4 teams don’t lose or gain any points.
The bottom eight clubs don’t change positions in the adjusted table.
Only the bottom four clubs gain more points in the season in the adjusted table within the teams finishing in the bottom half of the table.
Wolves would be the biggest upward change, their additional 7 points gets them Champions League football after getting to 4th from 7th, Manchester United would be the team knocked out of the top four and would have to settle for Europa League football next season.
Spurs are the biggest downward change, going from 6th to 10th. The North London club would miss out on all European football.
Southampton however are the team with the biggest negative points difference with -6 points, but they only switched positions with Everton from 11th to 12th.
Liverpool still win the league, even with -4pts. Manchester City also still don’t catch the Reds, and the points difference is 12pts in this table. Jürgen Klopp’s squad would have won the title in GW34, after they beat Brighton away from home in GW34. The player that would have scored the goal to win Liverpool their first league title in thirty years would have their captain, Jordan Henderson.
If the Sheffield United ghost goal counted in GW29, Aston Villa would been relegated just as they would have in the final Premier League table.
10 teams get more points, but only five of those teams rose in the table: Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal, Sheffield United, and Burnley. Spurs dropping four points put them 10th, and effectively gave everyone below them a rise in the table. Those five teams are also in the top half of the table.
VAR (2019/20): Final Thoughts
When I think about my experiences, and honest opinion about VAR, I think to all the times I watched highlights after seeing a goal was disallowed. Normally, I would see the replay and the first words out of my mouth were: “seriously?”
More times than not, I would question the logic behind the referees sat behind the VAR monitors. The whole point of VAR was to eradicate the high number of mistakes that were bringing down English football. All VAR has done is give two referees the chance to have another roll of the dice in making the mistake. The sad fact about VAR in the 2019/20 season in the Premier League was that it normally made both referees look clueless. The same goes for linesmen, with a lot of the narrow calls proving to be adjudged by less than a centimetre, or less. No common sense was applied to these decisions, and it put the offside rules into scrutiny, especially when the technology couldn’t accurately make a technical decision. The technology was clearly not up to the task, and neither were the officials. The VAR referees didn’t like overturning their mate on the pitch and not create a civil war within the ranks of England’s officials.
After working through the numbers, and getting the adjusted table, it shows just what impact that VAR has had on English football, especially in the top half of the table. The inability to make accurate decisions affects the fine margins between clubs, and at least half of the goals that were ruled out should have stood due to offside penalising an attacker for being a hair length offside. The common sense is that you give the attacker the advantage, because otherwise the league loses some of its attacking flair, and it means managers are limited tactically. Strikers this year were less inclined to hang off the last man because VAR would find a way to make you offside. Body parts that don’t play the ball were also factored into a lot of goals ruled out by VAR, notably, the armpit. Referees didn’t know the difference between a human torso, and arm, or a shoulder. If your armpit were offside, a part of the body that couldn’t play the ball, there was a good chance the goal would be wiped off the scoreboard.
I believe that VAR is important to the long-term decision making in the Premier League, I always will be. At the World Cup in 2018 the officiating by VAR was quick and effective. Referees also used the screens by the side of the pitch to review decisions. I didn’t get the ego that referees boasted about not wanting to have another look on the monitor. Only in the final few Gameweeks referees made the short walk to the monitor, and it proved that referees were discouraged from using them as part of their union. Everywhere aside from England, VAR was clinical, and it says a lot about the officials in the Premier League. They shouldn’t have been entrusted to make decisions, as that was the problem in the first place. The ideal solution is to have a neutral party take over the VAR rooms, such as what FIFA has proposed to create a more streamlined system that can make VAR an asset, and not another liability. If I was a Wolves supporter, I would be frustrated that VAR denied them a chance in the Champions League because a lot of the decisions were incorrect. Even as a Liverpool fan I was sweating when Pedro Neto had a goal disallowed at Anfield which should have stood.
I am a supporter of VAR, but not the referees using it. This article only covers goals not given due to a video referee, and VAR covered things such as penalties and fouls, and all you have to do is just switch the focus and you’ll arrive at the same answer. VAR isn’t fit for use when the referees using it were the problem that VAR came in to solve. A lot of people believe that VAR and referees are separate in England, but it totally the opposite. VAR is an extension of referee powers, and this debate over its function will rage on until the referees are no longer controlling it.
I hope that you have learnt something from this article, and it was quite a journey tracking all things VAR for its debut season. VAR changed football, as you couldn’t celebrate a goal. More times than not I would say ‘hold on a second’ after a goal was scored, and here we are.
See you again next season.
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