Whats the point of VAR? Sadio Mane saves Mohamed Salah as Liverpool win again and Chris Wilder for Arsenal, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich

4 Nov

As I watching the weekend’s Premier League action, I was caught thinking about two things in particular.

Firstly, has whoever signed off the big order for VAR pitchside monitors for the Premier League kept the receipt? And secondly, how little do they pay everyone other than Gary Lineker on Match of the Day if Wrighty is going to have to go and eat kangaroo testicles to top up his earnings?

VAR’s introduction to English football has caused plenty of controversy already
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A third thought also popped into my head, again VAR related – rather than have fellow referees manning the video, why not have an impartial group of ex-pros or something? You know, like they do in those fancy spot-the-ball competitions and things like that?

After all, surely it is the utter inadequacy of the referees that have meant we need VAR in the first place – and clearly, judging by the penalty given at Vicarage Road, giving them a chance to review it 100 times on video isn’t improving the decision making. And as for the goings-on at Goodison Park, well we will come on to them.

I thought the whole point of VAR is for the referee to get some guidance, for the video assistant to go, ‘fella, I think you might just want to go and have a look at that one again’ so that the referee on the pitch does still get the final say on what is happening on his field of play?

What if Anthony Taylor then looked back at the penalty given against Jorginho after the game and still felt his on-field call was correct? How much does he really trust Mike Dean to be able to give a correct decision even with numerous replays? I mean, it’s Mike Dean.

Either way, Chelsea should have had Watford tucked up in bed well before they started trying to play keep-ball on their own goal-line. The football following world have got themselves a little too excited with Jorginho’s through-ball to Tammy Abraham which saw the latter stick Frank Lampard’s boys 1-0 up early on.

Yes, he took out five players with one ball forward. Please don’t forget he took out five Watford players with one ball forward though – it’s a small but important detail.

Christian Pulisic is firmly filed under ‘perfect man-management examples’ right now as the young American followed up his imperfect hat-trick at Burnley with a tap-in. If he keeps this up, Pedro might become a distant memory for Chelsea fans.

It was important for Chelsea to get back to winning ways after their midweek defeat to United and 2-1 flattered a much-aged Quique Sanchez Flores more than anything.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is loving life with the Blues
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Up on Merseyside, we saw VAR at it’s inconsistent finest – and the beauty of this episode was that it was not Anthony Taylor behind the controls.

The game itself was a shocker with some shocking decisions – not least Alex Iwobi’s decision to put Spurs through two-on-one which led to Dele Alli reminding us why he keeps getting picked.

But the refereeing and VARring – absolutely dire. There was as much contact in Yerry Mina’s challenge on Son as there was in the Jorginho incident the day before but this time, no penalty. Then, down the other end after he had scored, Dele Alli seemed to punch the ball clear from a corner with his hand right above his head – Taylor also deemed this one not to be a penalty.

And then, finally, Martin Atkinson upgraded Son’s yellow to red, presumably due to the horror freak and accidental injury suffered by Everton’s Andre Gomes who went tumbling into Serge Aurier. The injury was clearly awful given the reaction of anyone near Gomes, but that didn’t mean Son’s challenge was any worse than at first glance.

A terrible match played by terrible players officiated by terrible officials. Oh, and Spurs failed to win on the road once again – but that’s almost as standard as VAR shockery now.

Andre Gomes fell awkwardly after being fouled by Heung-min Son
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Having seen Southampton’s bench try to hang on to the ball for as long as possible each time it went their way at the Etihad, I have a lot of time for Peppy G looking to give it back to Southampton players as quickly as possible after City finally found themselves ahead with minutes to go. It’s the kind subtle pettiness most of us can applaud quietly.

I think Southampton told us a lot about who they are as a club in Manchester. The way they celebrated the fact they hadn’t got completely battered by City was sickening.

Yes, they led for a large chunk of time and looked like they might complete the most miraculous seven-day comeback in the history of football but, by the end, the expected points went to the expected side – thanks, surprisingly, to a rather adept finish from England’s forgotten man, Kyle Walker.

Gareth Southgate doesn’t seem to have too many blind spots as England boss, but not finding a place for Walker in his squad is just bizarre. I’d wager he is a better central defender than Michael Keane even though he never plays there for Pep.

Kyle Walker celebrates his winner for Man City
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Speaking of Pep again, although he had a pretty good day with that quick recycling of the ball stuff, he did let himself down with his post-match jab at Sadio Mane. It was hardly the stuff of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Guardiola gave Mane, scorer of a very late-winner to spare Liverpool’s blushes against Aston Villa, a compliment so thinly veiled behind the diving claim that it was almost see-through. It was a random attack, given that Mane isn’t even the biggest diver on Liverpool’s books and Man City are hardly whiter than white when it comes to the dark arts of modern football.

Either way, Villa led Liverpool until that moment when it would really, really hurt if they threw it away. And throw it away they did – Andrew Robertson of all people bundling home an equaliser before Mane did what Mane needs to do when Mo Salah is having one of those afternoons.

It used to kill Liverpool fans when United used to stage this kind of comeback several times over the course of a season when marching to another title – could their ability to maintain that unbeaten run once more be a sign that they really are ‘mentality giants’ or whatever lame label is being thrown around on social media?

Sadio Mane scored Liverpool’s winner in the fourth minute of stoppage-time
getty images – getty

Unai Emery was happy with Arsenal’s performance on Saturday. Yes, the manager of Arsenal was happy with a 1-1 draw at home to Wolves in which his side allowed the opposition to have twenty-five shots on goal. Twenty-five! Having let Liverpool’s youth team score five past them during the week, you’d have thought Emery might have set Arsenal up to be a little more thrifty at the back.

Jose Mourinho is being linked with the Arsenal hot seat in a way that really does suggest Emery’s days are numbered. Talk is that when Arsenal lose to Leicester next week, he’ll be gone – which is probably more to do with the length of time needed to get Mourinho to agree to the terms on offer than anything to do with the actual results that might save Emery’s job.

When Arsene Wenger finally left the Emirates, Arsenal will have probably looked up at the mess United were/are in and thought, ‘yeah, we might want to do it a bit different to that’ and yet, here they are – about to sacrifice all their stylistic principles in the hope of getting a quick fix out of the Portuguese title-winner. 

Can you really imagine Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe or even Calum Chambers getting excited by that rumour? No, probably not – but hey, at least Nemanja Matic might get a chance to move back to London.

Jose Mourinho has been tipped to replace Unai Emery at Arsenal
Getty – Contributor

If Mourinho does end up at Arsenal, he will leave the club in a far worse state than it is right now – and that is saying something.

It must have been a bit wet for Manchester United on the south coast. It was hammering down at Bournemouth and it was clear to see what Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial might be an awesome partnership for Ole, providing the weather conditions are just that little bit better.

It was Josh King who won the game for Bournemouth – a man who now has as many winners against his former club than he does minutes on the pitch for them.

Caglar Soyuncu channelled his inner Muzzy Izzet to find acres of space in the Crystal Palace area to give Leicester the lead at Selhurst Park. With minutes to go, Jamie Vardy won the race to the first player to ten Premier League goals this season – and you can do your own Vardy account jokes from here, I’m done with them.

Jamie Vardy cant stop scoring for Leicester
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West Ham United are in fine West Ham United fettle right now. Following a little run that had the bubbles aimed at Europe, Saturday was the day when the target shifted towards scrambling 40 points as quickly as possible instead. I haven’t checked this stat, funnily enough, but I reckon Steve Bruce has won as many matches in London with Newcastle now as Rafa managed in his entire tenure.

Credit to Sean Dyche. I was expecting him to go for VAR in a big way after his Burnley side got done 3-0 at Bramall Lane. But, even though they did have a semi-reasonable shout for two penalties, Dyche fully admitted that his lot were rubbish and Chris Wilder’s team thoroughly deserved yet another win. Wilder for Arsenal/United/England/Barcelona/Bayern Munich – you can choose.

Brighton versus Norwich can be summed up in this simple sentence: Norwich will be relegated in March.

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