VAR... what is it good for? The 10 big Premier League decisions so far

We pick 10 cases when the new system has been called on and how the football world reacted

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur goes down in the after being challenged by Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the last minute of the North London derby. No penalty was given Getty
Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur goes down in the after being challenged by Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the last minute of the North London derby. No penalty was given Getty

The introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) into the breathless world of Premier League football was never going to be an easy transition – for players, referees, managers and fans alike.

Four matches into the new season and the old grumbles about refereeing mistakes have been replaced with new ones aimed at VAR.

In reality, its impact has not been huge. Of more than 30 incidents that have been reviewed, only six decisions by the on-field officials have been overturned.

The focus has certainly been on trying to minimise any disruption to the pace and intensity of the English top-flight, and the main source for discussion has largely been about deciding what constitutes the "clear and obvious" error that allows VAR to get involved.

Here, we pick out 10 incidents when the system has been called on and review if the right call was made.

August 11: West Ham United 0 Manchester City 5

VAR reversed its first decision in Premier League history when it was used to rule out Manchester City’s third goal at the London Stadium. Raheem Sterling had played the ball across for Gabriel Jesus to tap home. The assistant referee kept his flag down but the video official ruled that Sterling was offside by a matter of inches. Former England captain Alan Shearer said on BBC Radio 5 Live: "The law ... is that you are either offside or you're not, so you can't really argue it.”

Decision: right call

Manchester City Gabriel Jesus argues with referee Mike Dean after his goal is disallowed by VAR on the opening weekend of the season. Getty
Manchester City Gabriel Jesus, right, argues with referee Mike Dean after his goal is disallowed by VAR on the opening weekend of the season. Getty

August 11: Leicester City 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Early in the second half, Leander Dendoncker thinks he has opened the scoring when he finishes from close range after his first header hit Wolves teammate Willy Boly following a corner. But replays reveal that the ball struck Boly's arm. Under new Premier League guidelines, "any goal scored or created with the use of the hand or arm will be disallowed – even if it is accidental”. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo said after the match that the new rules could "ruin the game".

Decision: right call

Leander Dendoncker sees his header hit the arm of Wily Boly during Wolves' Premier League game against Leicester City and his subsequent goal disallowed.  AP
Leander Dendoncker sees his header hit the arm of Willy Boly during Wolves' Premier League game against Leicester City and his subsequent goal disallowed. AP

August 17: Brighton & Hove Albion 1 West Ham United 1

A rollercoaster day for Brighton summer signing Leandro Trossard who scored one and had another ruled out by VAR. The Belgian midfielder thought he had opened the scoring midway through the first half only for his finish to be ruled out after Dan Burn, who provided the cross for Trossard's effort, was offside from the initial ball into the box. Trossard said the following week that he will now not celebrate a goal straight away in case it is subsequently ruled out.

Decision: right call

A goal scored by Brighton's Leondro Trossard against West Ham in August is checked and disallowed following a VAR check. Getty
A goal scored by Brighton's Leondro Trossard against West Ham in August is checked and disallowed following a VAR check. Getty

August 24: Norwich City 2 Chelsea 3

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma thought he had scored when he bundled the ball home after Canaries goalkeeper Tim Krul fumbled under pressure from Olivier Giroud. The French striker did not make contact with Krul but no goal was awarded after a VAR consultation. Referee Martin Atkinson initially awarded a goal to Zouma, only for VAR to urge him to change his mind. This is, so far, the only subjective decision overturned by the new system.

Decision: contentious

Cherlsea defender Kurt Zouma saw his goal against Norwich City in August controversially disallowed by VAR Getty
Cherlsea defender Kurt Zouma saw his goal against Norwich City in August controversially disallowed by VAR Getty

In the same game, Norwich midfielder Marco Stiepermann appeared to foul Chelsea full-back Cesar Azpilicueta but no penalty was awarded by Atkinson – and as no "clear and obvious" error had been made, VAR could not intervene. Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher said that while he felt it was a penalty, many others did not and that the rules had been followed correctly.

Decision: not clear and obvious, so out of of VAR’s hands

August 25: Tottenham Hotspur 0 Newcastle United 1

Spurs were pushing for an equaliser when Harry Kane appeared to be tripped by the stumbling Jamaal Lascelles, who lost his footing and fell in front of the England striker. Referee Mike Dean did not award a penalty, and VAR chose not to overrule the decision. The ​Professional Game Match Officials Board said: “As this was a subjective decision, the VAR deemed that there was not enough evidence to overturn the original call." Kane said "it is hard to understand" how he was denied a penalty. Former top-flight referee Keith Hackett said it was “absolutely amazing” VAR did not give a spot-kick.

Decision: contentious

August 31: Newcastle United 1 Watford 1

Newcastle’s Swiss defender Fabian Schar levelled for his side just before half time, guiding a left-foot shot past Ben Foster after the ball fell into his path from Isaac Hayden's knockdown. But replays showed that there had been an accidental handball by Hayden in the build-up that was missed by the on-field referee and VAR, a reminder that even the new technology is not immune to human error. Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg described it as “a worry going forward, as a clear infringement has been missed”.

Decision: mistake

Newcastle United's Fabian Schar of Newcastle United scores against Norwich City at St James' Park in August. But the goal should not have stood as there had been a handball by Magpies midfielder Isaac Hayden in the build-up. Getty
Newcastle United's Fabian Schar of Newcastle United scores against Norwich City at St James' Park in August. But the goal should not have stood as there had been a handball in the build-up before the ball reached Schar. Getty

August 31: Crystal Palace 1 Aston Villa 0

Villa were left furious when a late equaliser was controversially ruled out. Henri Lansbury's injury-time effort was disallowed for what referee Kevin Friend judged to be a dive by Jack Grealish in the build-up. The Premier League would later say that VAR had reviewed the incident but found that no clear and obvious error had occurred. Villa manager Dean Smith said that the referee had chalked off a “perfectly good goal”.

Decision: not clear and obvious, so out of of VAR’s hands

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, left, argues with referee Kevin Friend after being booked for diving near the end of his team's defeat at Crystal Palace. Reuters
Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, left, argues with referee Kevin Friend after being booked for diving near the end of his team's defeat at Crystal Palace. Reuters

August 31: Leicester City 3 Bournemouth 1

Youri Tielemans, who had put Leicester 2-1 up in the 41st minute, was lucky to stay on the pitch after an over-the-top challenge on Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. For VAR to intervene, it would have to be "clear and obvious" that Tielemans was exceeding the necessary use of force to contest the ball. But after a review to check for a potential red card that delayed the game’s restart by nearly two minutes, no decision was forthcoming. Wilson said: “If it’s not clear and obvious then I don’t know what is. He almost broke my ankle.”

Decision: could easily have been a red card

Bournemouth's Callum Wilson receives medical attention after a challenge by Leicester City's Youri Tielemans. Wilson claimed that the tackle could have broen his ankle. Reuters
Bournemouth's Callum Wilson receives medical attention after a challenge by Leicester City's Youri Tielemans. Wilson claimed that the tackle could have broken his ankle. Reuters

September 1: Arsenal 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Kane, who scored a first-half penalty, is back in the headlines with another spot kick when he went to ground after a challenge from Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the final minute of the North London derby. Kane appeared to throw himself into Papastathopoulos but insisted afterwards that it was a “50-50” decision for referee Martin Atkinson. Kane said: “On halfway [line], I think I would get that foul. The ref probably thinks I am looking for it.”

Decision: right call

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur goes down in the after being challenged by Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the last minute of the North London derby. No penalty was given Getty
Harry Kane, of Tottenham Hotspur goes down in the after being challenged by Arsenal's Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the last minute of the North London derby. No penalty was given Getty

Updated: September 13, 2019 01:59 PM

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