Richard Keys has reacted to the “scary” way VAR was implemented as Everton drew 0-0 with Aston Villa at Goodison Park.
Writing on his blog (15 January) the beIN Sports anchor railed against the length of time it took video assistant Paul Tierney to rule out Alex Moreno’s first-half strike a day earlier, with the official’s decision-making taking the best part of four minutes despite Leon Bailey looking relatively clearly offside in the build up, to the irritation of Gary Lineker among others.
Keys is aghast that Tierney didn’t immediately rule the goal out for a foul on Arnaut Danjuma, who was being manhandled in the box by Clement Lenglet in an attempt from the French defender to get the Toffees winger to play everyone onside, and begged the question as to what decision would have been reached if the Villa man had succeeded.
Keys wrote: “Fast forward to Goodison. Villa think they’ve scored when Moreno sticks the ball in the net. Ok. Goal given, but we need VAR, of course, to be certain.
“Bailey is clearly offside when he receives the ball as Villa pop it about from a corner. You can see he’s offside by the cut of the grass. He’s ahead Everton’s last man – Danjuma.
“What emerges from the first replay though is that Danjuma is fouled as he tries to clear the box with the rest of Everton’s defence. Lenglet grabs him and holds onto him so that Villa can remain onside from their little set-piece movement.
“It’s a foul. It’s clearly and obviously a foul – so all Paul Tierney in VAR has to do is call it – but oh no – he wants to check for offside. He wants to put lines on – which aren’t needed.
“When he sees that Bailey is offside he wants to check if it was in an APP – attacking phase of play. I know – but I’m not making this up. He decides it was. Well done Paul. Spot on. But he’s not finished yet – he then wants to see if Lenglet is blocking Jordan Pickford’s view of the ball. Why? None of this matters. Sorry!
“The best part of four minutes is wasted as Tierney runs these checks and both sets of fans – Evertonians as well – start chanting ‘[expletive] VAR’. Paying supporters appear not to matter to these guys.
“None of Tierney’s checks were necessary. Lenglet fouled Danjuma on the first post. Dyche saw it – we all saw it – except Tierney. Why didn’t he see it? And here’s a question. What if Bailey had kept himself onside?
“If Lenglet had kept Danjuma, who Tierney used to draw his lines from, just a little bit closer to the goal? Would Tierney have then acknowledged the foul? It came first – so there was no need for an offside check. It’s scary. Sorry!”
Even when VAR, or more importantly the operators of VAR, get the decision right they manage to shoot themselves in the foot in the process.
Thankfully from an Everton perspective the goal was disallowed and Jordan Pickford, with the help of an impressive defensive performance from his back line, kept a clean sheet, which should have been good enough for three points if Dominic Calvert-Lewin had converted a golden opportunity at the other end.
But, just like a stopped clock, Keys is right to question why Tierney was engaging in so much extra unnecessary officiating when either the foul or the offside, which should have been simple since the six-yard box was already showing a line across the pitch to judge from, seemed easy to spot.
The answer is probably that after so many bizarre choices by officials in general and the resulting scrutiny that VARs are now panicking when they are faced with such decisions for fear of doing something strange and sparking another backlash, and so end up overcomplicating the situation.
It is probably a toss-up for individuals over what is more important to them between getting the decision right and not wasting time, but when both of those objectives can be met quite easily it will obviously frustrate if they aren’t.
VAR as a system has the potential to be very helpful but if it is used in a way that annoys everyone even when it successfully rules a goal out that shouldn’t stand it seems unlikely it will ever gain popular approval.
And with so little confidence in the officials at the moment it actually isn’t possible to tell if Tierney would have allowed the goal to stand if Clement had managed to wrestle Danjuma into position to be the deepest defender.