Arsenal’s unblemished record in the Premier League this season came to a halt as they suffered their first defeat at St James’ Park.
The deciding moment in the match was Anthony Gordon’s winning goal for Newcastle United, subject to an extensive Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review before being confirmed as valid.
However, Arsenal had legitimate reasons to feel aggrieved, with claims that the ball had gone out of play before Joe Willock’s crucial cross, along with suspicions of a foul on Gabriel and an offside on Gordon.
The first point of contention revolved around whether the ball had crossed the line when Jacob Murphy’s cross initially swept across the goal. Replays indicated a clear space between the ball and the line, but Stockley Park, the VAR officials’ hub, contended that there were insufficient angles to conclusively prove the ball had exited play, even after Madley’s confirmation that it had stayed in. A graphic from beIN Sports seemed to support this decision, revealing a sliver of the ball over the line.
Subsequently, VAR examined a possible foul on Gabriel by Joelinton, who appeared to make contact with the Brazilian defender, leaving him grounded. However, Madley informed Attwell that no foul had occurred after multiple reviews of the incident.
Finally, VAR scrutinised an offside involving Gordon, who appeared to be positioned between Raya and the goal line. Typically, this would have resulted in the goal being disallowed. Still, during the offside review, Stockley Park disclosed that Madley had no clear camera angle available to ascertain if and when Joelinton had played the ball to his teammate.
In the midst of this controversy, former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher elucidated the VAR process that led to the goal’s confirmation. First, he discussed a Newcastle cross that came perilously close to crossing the byline before Joe Willock gathered it and delivered the fateful cross.
Amid claims that the ball had exited play, Gallagher clarified that neither the on-field officials nor the VAR team could definitively determine if the ball had fully crossed the line.
Gallagher explained: “The whole of the ball has to be over the whole of the line. You can look at it from that angle and it is impossible to tell.
“We see it with corners where it looks over the circumference but the ball overhangs so they are allowed to play. I think that might be the problem with this, that they can’t be sure that some of that ball isn’t overhanging the line. There is no evidence to say the ball is out of play. It isn’t whether the ball is in play but whether the ball is out of play.”
The next focus for VAR was the potential foul on Gabriel by Joelinton, which referee Stuart Atwell did not deem a foul. VAR also failed to find sufficient evidence to overturn his decision.
Gallagher clarified, “Stuart Attwell didn’t think it’s a foul. That’s the difference. The VAR didn’t think there was enough contact to overrule the referee so therefore the on-field decision stood.”
Lastly, VAR investigated Gordon’s potential offside position before scoring, but Gallagher pointed out the lack of conclusive video evidence available to make a definitive decision.
“The offside, which they looked at for a long, long time, but couldn’t find the lines to decide where the ball was when it struck Joelinton to come down,” Gallagher added.
“The ball is obscured, so they have no start point. And that’s the problem. You need to start point to get to a conclusion.”