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Manchester City And The Ever Confusing Tale Of VAR

Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

We knew this would happen. At the start of the season, every football fans fear would be that conversations about VAR would take precedence over the actual football. And we were right. We were told VAR would improve the game, make sure that clear and obvious errors were eliminated from the game and that video technology was the way forward.

Yet here we are, over half way into the season and VAR has dominated the Premier League this season.

We saw at the 2018 World Cup how effective it could be and again at the Women’s World Cup during the summer of 2019, yet it seems that its implementation into the Premier League has been nothing more than a joke.

I’m not going to labour the point that, without VAR City would be closer to Liverpool. The Merseysiders have pulled out all the stops this season and, although I hate to say it, deserve their lead at the top of the league, with or without the technology.

It says so much that City fans have taken to cheering the kick-off more than any goals scored, simply because once the match has restarted that a goal cannot be disallowed. But it also says a lot about how VAR is used when the manager of the club asks why a penalty, saved by a goalkeeper so far off his line he could chat with Ederson in the opposite goal, wasn’t retaken because of the keeper’s actions.

The same was asked by numerous fans on social media and even by football commentators and pundits. Why didn’t VAR pick it up?

The simple answer is that VAR is not being used in the Premier League to look for goalkeepers moving off their lines, instead leaving it up to the linesman…sorry referee’s assistant. But this is where the confusion lies.

With a penalty award, the assistant has one job – to look down the line to ensure the keeper has at least one foot on the line when the ball is kicked. If not, then a retake is ordered however, what happens if the assistant misses this? Well, it’s a ‘clear and obvious error’ by the assistant that VAR should pick up, but it can’t because it’s not monitoring the goalkeeper!

And you could pretty much say it’s the same with the handball rule. The rule is if it’s accidental by the defender, then no penalty awarded, but in reality, how many defenders deliberately handle the ball in the area? On Saturday against Crystal Palace, the ball flicked of the boot of the defender onto his hand. Yes, he didn’t mean it to happen, but the fact is it did. Practically every handball in the box is accidental so how will a penalty for handball ever be given?

No wonder the fans are frustrated with it.

Like some other teams, City have had their fair share of VAR decisions, both for and against, but if Pep Guardiola has no idea why a penalty isn’t being retaken, it speaks volumes about how the system is being used.

The chances are that the rules will change and with it, the use of VAR next season. But this season, it may mean the difference between relegation and survival, Champions League qualification against Europa League or even qualifying for the Europa League itself. I’m not going to pretend that it would have made a difference to City’s season, that’s down to us. We simply haven’t been good enough and lost too many silly points, but for some other teams, it could be major for the clubs.