I was sitting at Smithfield Hall in NYC on Monday with fellow Turf writer Joe Danbusky watching the Manchester United/Chelsea match. We watched as Joe’s United team undeservedly beat Chelsea 2-0. The story once again? VAR. Joe even went so far as to ask if Howard Webb (former referee famous for calls in favor of United during the Fergy era) was the ref in the VAR booth.
As we chatted, Joe brought up an interesting question. What if we did an analysis of what the current Premier League table would look like if VAR didn’t exist? I’m also curious what percentage of this season’s VAR calls would be deemed “correct”. My immediate thought was that Sheffield United would be a top 4 team, possibly as high as second. They’ve been rocked by VAR time after time. That’s analysis for another time, though. Maybe an end of season piece.
But, simply in this game at Stamford Bridge, I don’t know that VAR got a single call correct. Okay, by the letter of the law maybe they got one (the Giroud goal), but we’ll dive into that.
First and most egregious, was the Harry Maguire kick. Haven’t seen it? Check it out here.
After looking at that, tell me how it’s not a red card. Maguire straight up kicked Batshuayi in the man bits. On purpose.
Now let’s take a look at another, similar instance from just before Christmas. In this case, Tottenham’s Heung-min Son kicked out at Antonio Rudiger. He got red for violent conduct. And he deserved it.
Best/worst part of this? The referee was the same in both cases. Anthony Taylor is a travesty. This spurned conversation in our writer’s room.
A little over 10 minutes after the second half kickoff, Kurt Zouma fired in an equalizer off a set piece. Or so he thought. VAR strikes again! The goal went under review, and was called back. Cesar Azpilicueta was said to have pushed a United player, thus allowing the ball to reach Zouma for the goal.
However, anyone with eyes could see that Fred actually pushed the Chelsea defender, causing him to bump into a United player. The goal should have stood. How on EARTH can you call a push on Azpilicueta without seeing Fred clatter into him first? Pure incompetence here.
The goal that shouldn’t have existed
In the 66th minute, Harry Maguire scored. He should have been sent off 40+ minutes prior. The opposite of poetic justice. That’s all I have to say about that.
The diving header
After the Maguire goal that shouldn’t have been, Frank Lampard brought in French pretty boy Olivier Giroud in place of Batshuayi. Less than 10 minutes later Giroud made a break for goal and scored on a beautiful diving header.
Next up? VAR. Duh. The booth took a look at the goal and deemed Giroud offside. If you look at the review you can clearly see that Giroud’s toes are offside. But he scored with his head. So there’s some talk around how that should be called. Regardless, it was called back. And it was the right call according to the letter of the law.
Chelsea lost 2-0 in a game they probably should have won 2-1. Sorry, Andrew Mark Wilhelm. This one should have gone differently. VAR is affecting the game in a big way. I honestly haven’t paid enough attention to the Bundesliga or MLS (whoops) to see how much better VAR works there. What I will say is that something needs to change before a revolution erupts. Get your shit together, Premier League. For the love of the beautiful game.
This game is simply one example in a sea of VAR controversy across the league. As I mentioned before, I’d love to see what the table looks like if games ended without VAR decisions. When something is introduced to the game with the purpose of bettering it, there NEEDS to be forethought and a clear, consistent process to it. That hasn’t been the case in the Premier League this year. Calls are inconsistent not just from referee to referee, but from game to game with the same referees, as we’ve seen here.
The system needs to be re-evaluated. If they can’t figure out how to lay that groundwork, and stay consistent with it, VAR needs to go. Because right now? It’s a shitshow. End of discussion.
- / 20 hours ago
This one is a classic.