VAR too Far?

How much reliance are we going to give to VAR?

Now there will be a lot of people either side of this argument and I’m going to keep this unbiased (hopefully). The penalty in the 1st minute of the Champions League Final between Liverpool & Spurs has caused a lot of controversy. Fans of either side have their opinions and the neutrals are split, myself included.

Sissoko appeared to be pointing/ordering at a team mate as Mane crossed the ball from about 1 metre away.. on first viewing on TV it looked like it hit his hand but on closer viewing it’s hits his chest first and rolls down.

The letter of the law (12):

It is usually an offence if a player: touches the ball with their hand/arm when: the hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger. the hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level (unless the player deliberately plays the ball which then touches their hand/arm)..

So, with Sissoko pointing and having his arm away from his body, it IS in an unnatural position and it is making his body bigger.. however, it hits his chest first? The photo very clearly shows this so where does VAR come into this?



The decision went to VAR and on the biggest stage of them all, with the whole world watching, this ‘independent panel’ of referees decided that he referee was correct, even with the unlimited amounts of angles that they have on offer. Couldn’t they see that Mane was so close to Sissoko, there was no way of moving out of the way? Could they use common knowledge and decide this? Was he stopping a goal-scoring opportunity? Mane was simply going to cross the ball and hope to create a chance. All of this added to the drama but it also has left a sour taste for Spurs fans who feel it ruined their chance of the biggest footballing trophy of all.


Anyway, away from this decision, VAR is changing the game. We were told that VAR would eradicate human error, it would stop the doubt and the decisions which could prove costly to all teams. In my opinion, it’s opened the game up to more disrepute.

One piece of technology that has changed the game for the better is Goal-Line Technology. This is a huge positive to the Premier League and the one and only example that needs to be given to signify this came at the Etihad this season where Liverpool somehow missed out on a goal by millimetres which ultimately could have been the Premier League Trophy defining moment.


Had John Stones not made that clearance, had Goal-Line technology not been available to clear up all doubt then we could of found ourselves with all sorts of question marks hanging over the Champions head. From watching it live, this looked a clear goal. So why is VAR not so conclusive?

Lots of examples available but I will look at few..

Offsides –

Harry Kane was controversially given Onside by VAR in a cup tie against Chelsea back in January. The striker ran through, was wiped out by the Goalie and a penalty was given and converted. However, on reflection, angles came to light after the game which clearly showed Kane’s top half offside… again, one up for debate and not remove the ‘doubt’ that VAR was supposedly there to do. The only part of the body that isn’t possible to score with is your hand/arm. His head is shown to be past the ‘VAR Line’ so why wasn’t this given? Why didn’t VAR have the correct angle for this decision?


Penalties (for holding) –

World Cup 2018. 3 words which are key to VAR and this example. Never has a World Cup had so many penalty incidents – the amount given was up 174% in fact. A huge increase and it had its highs and lows.. for England it was good. Maguire, Kane and co were man-handled in most games and penalties kept being given.. there is a fine line between holding (football is a contact game remember) and dragging an opponent down. Where should the game of Football draw the line? VAR will highlight that shirt holding/tugging but isn’t that part of the game that we love? Obviously to an extent but still, if we take this side of the game out of it and allow people to have a clear run or not compete for a header then are we taking the competitive nature out of the game?

Diving/Contact in the area –

Now this is a controversial section. One which you shout for if it’s your attacker or you throw the TV out the window if it’s against you.. a player goes down in the box and the referee heads to VAR. Slow motion zooms in the contact area and you see the slightest contact, maybe even a shoe lace brushing an opponent. To the letter of the law, it’s contact and the defender didn’t get the ball and it’s a penalty.. but do we really want this to happen? As soon as an attacker gets to a goal threatening area, defenders will be afraid to make any contact and instead of making tackles they will simply just try and block or deflect away. Common sense needs to prevail. Diving is cheating and we need to be clear that contact needs to strong enough to cause someone to go down and fall over.


VAR in the Premier League.

We all love a big crunching tackle, but as we all know, what was acceptable back in the 80s and 90s is not possible now. The game has changed in a way where it is more about flair and skill rather than passion and brute force. Some people love it, some people loathe it. VAR will be introduced into the Premier League this season, expect less big tackles and a more sterilised version of Football as managers ask players to rein it in to ensure they have 11 men on the pitch and give them a better chance of winning.

One worry I have is the infrastructure that we have in place. People have probably seen the wonky lines we currently get on the photos and in turn then more doubt around the decision. Does the English Stadia have the network in place to catch all angles and aid VAR to the extent that it needs? American Football are huge stadiums, all with cameras that follow the play overhead and capture all angles. The Premier League does not have this sort of access at all stadiums apart from a small handful of Champions League / Top 6 clubs. I can’t imagine Turf Moor or Carrow Road being able to have this set up in place so will VAR be successful on potentially trophy deciding decisions.

Are we changing our game for the better or worse? There are arguments for both sides. I would hate for our game to become reliant on computers and technology and the ‘fun’ aspect is removed. Bad decisions are swings and roundabouts in football. Every team gets bad calls against them and then the following week will pick up a call in their favour. It gives us talking points and is part of the highs and lows of being a passionate fan. Waiting 2 minutes for a VAR decision to be made can stop celebrations or you’ve just fallen down 5 rows and sent limbs flying everywhere for no reason.

In my honest opinion, use VAR with common sense. Goal-Line technology, mistaken identity, Clear penalties that are NOT given (allow the ref to use his common sense and instinct) and potential horror challenges which get punished incorrectly.

Magic of the FA Cup?

Once again, Congratulations to Manchester City for winning the FA Cup and completing the Domestic treble for the first time in history. However this final seemed a lot different to the neutral. Many of us will have an opinion on the FA Cup, some love it but for me the spark is fading. Now that isn’t me being negative because my team weren’t in the final, a cup final occasion is always special and I was lucky enough to be a part of a winning one last season but that day at Wembley doesn’t paper over the cracks that are beginning to appear amongst the fans.

The fairy-tale stories from the FA Cup are what make it special. Every year something happens unexpectedly which can give memories for life to players and fans of teams who cause a shock. This is what makes it so special. I’m sure the players of Sutton Utd in 1989 thought the magic was alive and kicking after beating Coventry City or when Wigan Athletic scored a late winner in the cup final in 2012 via a Ben Watson header.

My only gripe is as mentioned in a previous blog, the standard between teams at the top and bottom of the football pyramid is now astronomical due to the money at the top of the game and not much filtering down. Apart from true magical stories such as Wigan in 2012 and Portsmouth in 2007, nobody outside of the monopoly of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool have won the FA Cup since Everton in 1994/95. Alongside of that, these teams in my opinion aren’t respecting the competition or the magic of the FA cup due to other commitments such as winning leagues or competing in European competitions which are on at the same time as the FA Cup run in.

It’s the dream of so many lower league teams to draw the big clubs away from home. A once in a lifetime opportunity which nobody can take away from them.. but then they may turn up and play the oppositions kids or B team. Big teams are willing to risk the loss in the FA Cup to concentrate on other competitions which might be more advantageous in terms of revenue and playing European football.

Could the FA Cup go through a mix up? What would make teams take this seriously? Obviously I am not saying that every FA Cup game has to be full strength, there is such a thing as squad rotation which is done in the other competitions too but when Managers say ‘Ahh it’s the FA Cup and we’re only playing X’ let’s make 11 changes and we should still be fine.

I asked for people’s opinions on what may bring the ‘magic’ back. A lot of suggestions came from offering the Final Champions League spot to the winner or Runner up.. This could be a positive and would maybe be an ‘easier’ route for a team to go for the win and play their better teams to get in European football. It would also mean that with only 3 places available for the Champions League in the Premier League competition, it would arguably make that more competitive too. Take this season for example, Chelsea managed to grab 3rd on the last game of the season, Spurs and Arsenal who came 4th and 5th would’ve missed out.. Spurs lost in the 4th round to Crystal Palace with arguably only 4 first team regulars playing (Dier, Vertonghen, Trippier, Moura) and Arsenal went out to Manchester United but in all fairness both teams went nearly full strength and it wasn’t meant to be.

Another suggestion which cropped up would be to remove the Top 6 from the competition completely. This in turn would potentially make the possibility of advancing to the latter stages of the competition even better for lower league teams and in turn give teams more hope and desire to push for the win. I’m sure the big 6 would have a say in that and would not want to be missing out on this lucrative, traditional competition but they do get all the joy and money out of the Europa League and Champions League..

A simple change which surely everyone agrees on is that Wembley should NOT host the Semi-Finals. My personal opinion is that every year 2 stadiums should be selected for the Semi-Finals in advance and it gets rotated round a select number of stadiums all over England each year. Obvious choices would be the classic Villa Park and Old Trafford. These were the original choices for Semi-Finals before reaching the Old Wembley for the Final. This creates an amazing atmosphere, more fans get to visit different stadiums but also it makes the final a monumental occasion. If you’ve been to the Semi at Wembley, you then turn up to the final at Wembley and you kind of already know what it’s about and you don’t get the same buzz or wow factor that comes with a final.

Secondly, The cost of going to Wembley is an absolute disgrace, so having 2 trips there within a few weeks of each other is killing the modern day fan. The semi-final prices ranged from £30 to £80. The FA Cup final tickets, the exact same seats in the same stadium magically shoot up to £45 to £145. Incredible when you think a typical family of 4 who may want to go for the mid/good tickets because they don’t want to be sat in the gods at the poorly designed Wembley will be facing a cost of £410 (2 adults, 2 under 18s in Category 2) and that is on top of the semi-final cost of the same family of £240. Nice £650 for the average family to experience a trip to Wembley and that’s before you pay astronomical prices for a bottle of coke (£3.70 for the standard £1 bottle at your local shop) or a pint of beer for £6.50 and the list could go on..

Ultimately, The FA are leeching off of the fans who love their football club and would not want to miss out on a special occasion if it doesn’t happen very often. If this is being treated as a business which it clearly is, then they should be clear about this. However, they are getting millions and millions out of sponsorship such as Emirates to have their name at this iconic sporting event. They are getting millions from TV broadcasting across the whole world. They are getting millions from revenue up and down the country every Saturday in the club competitions but this money is not being used to subsidise loyal fans supporting their club or even as an alternative, it is not being used to support Grassroots football or lower/non-league clubs to improve facilities & Coaching to provide a future for the next generation.

This money is going towards the overspend on Wembley, the £1billion stadium that has since been trumped in so many ways by Tottenham Hotspur by designing a stadium that is arguably the best in the world. Something that Wembley most definitely isn’t. I have been, lots. I have done the stadium tour and seen most parts and although they have tried to replicate the tradition that was once there, it falls short and so just like the FA Cup at the moment, it has lost it’s magic.

Who will win the Champions League?

First things first, what an achievement from the 2 teams to make it to a European final and the glam of the Champions League. Both of these teams has a different story but ultimately there is only one goal and that is to win. I will pick up the differences below and why that night in Madrid could be huge for both clubs involved whether it be the biggest achievement in the history of the club or break a ‘voodoo’ and get some more silverware added to the cabinet.


I probably speak for most people who said 10 days ago, neither of these teams would be battling it out for the pinnacle of European Football, the Champions League trophy. That night at Anfield will probably live long in the memory of all Liverpool fans. 3-0 down against the Greatest player of all time, missing Salah and Firmino who are instrumental in terms of goals but also the style that Liverpool play in. Moments of magic from Gini Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold allowed Liverpool to run riot over a Barcelona which were completely outwitted in all areas of the pitch. Tottenham on the other hand were down and out. 2-0 against a young Ajax team which were always looking dangerous and creating chances but as soon as Ziyech started missing chances, maybe it was meant to be? Lucas Moura produced his inner Ronaldo 9 and the 96th minute left limbs still being picked up around Amsterdam by the travelling faithful.


Liverpool have 5 European Trophies in their trophy cabinet, Spurs have 0. Maybe that is the 1st advantage given to Liverpool. The club is built on European success and I have no doubt that they won’t need reminding. For Spurs however, the pressure is off. Win and they become the greatest ever Tottenham team in history, instant legends. Lose and they lost to a team that have just got 97 points and somehow not won the league? Beaten Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG along the way so you may have to give credit where credits due, still a monumental occasion for the club and they will be hopeful of the future under Pochettino.


Liverpool are back to full strength and will be ready to fire on all cylinders after last year’s defeat to Real Madrid. They have won both Premier League fixtures vs Spurs this Premier League campaign by 2-1 at Home and Away so maybe that will also add a psychological advantage? Spurs are possibly going to risk Harry Kane for the big one and he won’t be 100% for sure, but a calculated risk and this occasion will not hold him back. Jan Vertongen is rumoured to be struggling which would also be a massive loss when having Salah and Mane charging down the wings so again, another advantage to Liverpool.


But, have you ever heard of the term ‘Spursy’? Well this has the potential to not be it.. Underdogs and 2 key players possibly not 100% BUT nobody wants to write Spurs off. Even getting to this stage has defied the odds. A headline in the Evening Standard on 12th December 2018 shows why.. PSV have told Tottenham to “thank us later” after holding Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw at San Siro to help Spurs reach the Champions League last-16 stage. I am sure PSV are even more delighted that the team they helped have now managed to knock out their arch rivals Ajax out in the semi-finals and saved themselves the antagonisation from Ajax fans that would of followed. With counter attacking football, Spurs are able to get from front to back very quickly with link up play between Alli, Son, Moura, Kane with the occasional cameo from Moussa Sissoko.


I think this final will come down to Full backs. Yes, I said Full Backs. Both strike forces have the ability to punish either team and create chances right until the end and maybe it could be an absolute goal fest? But with Alexander-Arnold and Robertson vs Trippier and Rose, this could be the real game changer. May be an easy selection to pick out but I really feel both sides are fairly even all over the pitch except here. Both have average to good midfielders (Liverpool maybe edge it with Fabinho, Gini, Henderson) A solid centre-half partnership and a very very good front 3.. so this full back mismatch could win it.. in Liverpool’s favour. Overlapping and Assists have been key to Liverpool’s success this season, TAA and Robertson have managed to transform that position into their own and nobody can get close to the levels that they have reached this season in the whole of world football.


Who is this game bigger for? Liverpool and Klopp are still chasing silverware as they have not managed to get one since 2006 in an FA cup Final at the Millennium stadium (yes it was that long ago) **2012 League Cup actually, I stand corrected** . They have obviously come close and are improving massively but they need to go that one step further and get the winning mentality back in the club and they could become a force for years. Spurs have an opportunity to be written into Folklore but again, they have not won a trophy since 2008 in the League Cup Final (if that counts). The winning of the Champions League is one that every footballer dreams of and for sure this game will be one to remember.


The fans will be there in their thousands and I’m sure the atmosphere on the streets will be like a carnival. Whatever method of transport people have been forced to use to get there due to the greed of the airlines and the hotels, this will be one to remember forever.


May the best team win but I believe Liverpool will edge this 2-1.



**Photo Courtesy of**