VAR is Sucking the Soul Out of the Premier League


It's an unoriginal premise I know, but it must be stated for yet another time: VAR is ruining football. The reason we all tune in every day to watch this great sport is for moments of spontaneous brilliance. Imagine the great goals in history, having dulled celebrations as fans waited for the VAR check. Would fans at the Etihad have to wait to celebrate Aguero's 97th-minute winner? What about Sergi Roberto scoring Barcelona's final goal in a 6 goal comeback against PSG? Would the Barca players wait on the field to celebrate the goal rather than dive into the exasperated arms of the Camp Nou supporters? Restricting emotion removes an impetus for supporters to turn on the television or go to a match. With VAR hanging like the sword of Damocles over every goal, the brilliance of live football is torn from the sport's heart and thrown into the bin.

Twice in two days, VAR stuck its hand into a thrilling competition and altered the result of a match. The potential for two exciting games died with both decisions as the referees stuck their noses into the midst of the action like grade-school buzzkills.

On Saturday, Tottenham had gone a goal ahead of Leicester when Serge Aurier attempted to double his teams lead. Whipping a cross into the box, Aurier found Son Heung-min for the finish. Tottenham had secured a deserved two-goal lead and was well on their way to achieving their first away victory in the Premier League in eight months.

A whistle. A mimed box. And a referee's hand motioning play on. These three actions took away Spurs' goal and gave Leicester the motivation to take advantage of this gift from an almost divine force - the Premier League referees. Moments later, Ricardo Pereira drew Leicester level. Later in the second half, James Madison scored a thunderous free-kick to give his Leicester side a well-fought, if not luckily secured, win.

Let's be clear - the VAR call, while bogus, does not excuse Spurs' individual mistakes. Both of Leicester's goals were more than deserved and, regardless of VAR's interference, may have given them victory in the afternoon. Had Tottenham been 2-0, both teams would have entered the final twenty minutes with different tactics. Sitting with a comfortable two-goal cushion, Tottenham could have coasted, playing defensively to secure three points.

Today, Chelsea were robbed of a response to Trent Alexander-Arnold's opening screamer when Mason Mount's heel was called offside. Though Mount's questionable positioning occurred nearly twenty seconds before Chelsea putting the ball into Liverpool's net, the whistle blew, and the goal was reversed. Did Mount's heel have anything to do with the eventual goal? Of course not. VAR, however, said otherwise and returned the ball to Liverpool. Disregarding Mount's positioning for a moment, Liverpool certainly doesn't need favors from the referees to compete with Chelsea. Had the goal stood, the match would have been set up perfectly for a thrilling final two-thirds of the game.

Similar to Leicester's victory on Saturday, Liverpool probably deserved three points against Chelsea. If Chelsea's goal stands, the match ends in a draw - a result that gives a young Chelsea team confidence, ends Liverpool's winning record, and offers Man City ground to gain in the table. Also, an argument should be made that if Chelsea scores the goal that VAR overturned, Liverpool would not have scored from a set-piece that occurred in the following possession. Of course, the VAR call should not protect Chelsea from criticism over their weak mentality that allowed them to switch off in disappointment and allow Liverpool a second goal. Also, Chelsea should never give up two goals from set-pieces - something which again is completely their fault and ultimately cost them the match. Should VAR, however, have stripped them of the chance to compete with the European Champions in a thrilling primetime match? Absolutely not.

Not for the first time - or last - this season, a fantastic competition between two great football sides was ruined by an inexplicable and absurd VAR call. The call undoubtedly shifted the following twenty minutes and robbed Spurs of at least a point. With Leicester fans cheering the refs for saving their side from defeat and Spurs players furiously questioning why their attackers were punished, one question became clear: why was such a call necessary? Even if Son was offsides (which he wasn't) it was a matter of millimeters. Surely, punishing his movement is a wholly unfair and undeserved result for a skillful move that resulted in a goal. Perhaps the worst part of the entire spectacle, however, is the cold shrug with which VAR disregards the emotions of fans and players. In the pursuit of a judicial position that allows them to make the final decision on every call, officials seem to desire credit for the moments that make football so brilliant. The effect of this new role for officials is as obvious as it is dreadful - they will ultimately decide who wins games, leagues, and trophies.