VAR. I never would have guessed how much hatred and frustration merely three letters could cause me to feel. The very tool that was meant to bring consistency and fairness in the Premier League and football as a whole has ruined the sport for many. Officials make decisions from miles away. Referees on the field rarely go to the pitch-side monitor to review the situation. Poor calls seem more frequent than ever. Unless you’re Manchester United, not Arsenal, VAR has largely been a disappointment.
It started with the offside calls. Wildly inconsistent, incredibly time consuming and tedious, offside calls have epitomized everything wrong with VAR. It ruins the flow of the game, players are too restricted and are penalized for being human.
Strikers have to be even more attentive to the defensive line in order to see whether they’re a nose hair offside. Frustrations have been cyclical but the start of this season was particularly contentious. The handball rule was chopped and changed every weekend. After a period of normality (only ten-minute offside calls every weekend), the worst of the beast has reared its head again.
Arsenal’s outcries against VAR renewed themselves in the game against Manchester United. Bruno Fernandes caught Granit Xhaka high up, his studs slammed halfway up the Arsenal midfielder’s calf. VAR reviewed it and Fernandes didn’t even get a yellow. Eddie Nketiah was sent off for a very similar challenge last year against Leicester.
VAR poses more questions than answers as Arsenal feel unfairly treated by the technology
In VAR’s defense, it was only halfway up Xhaka’s calf. Not too serious, right?
Then came the refereeing disasterclass that was the game against Wolves. Both David Luiz and Bernd Leno were sent off in a rollercoaster of a game. The refs get off the hook for Leno’s dismissal – nothing contentious about his moment of madness. Rarely do we see a keeper do something so mindless. However, the Luiz sending off was nothing short of shambolic.
The defending before the referee’s whistle was chaotic as well. Willian (Jose that is, not that one) made a run between Arsenal’s two center-backs before being ‘tripped up’ in the box. Luiz attempts to pull out of the challenge after Willian Jose runs across him while looking for contact. Close up pictures show one stud of the Wolves player lightly grazed Luiz’s thigh. And for that, he was given his marching orders.
Double jeopardy anyone? What happened to that rule? Why England’s top tier has so many conflicting rules, I do not know. Apparently the referee did right by the rulebook, but the debate over whether it was a penalty in the first place remains. Arteta stated they had every intention of appealing, which has since been upheld despite Jan Bednarek seeing his sending off overturned for an almost identical offence.
Such consistently woeful officiating with call after call going against Arsenal (and others) has left us disappointed, angered and frustrated. And that’s before our own internal implosions.