Every week, it seems there’s something to talk about regarding Aston Villa v the Referee.

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Mike Riley, the Referees’ Chief, actively said ahead of the Premier League season that he wanted the Video Assistant Referee to ‘protect referees from making serious errors’.

What is the point of VAR then, when the new addition to the Premier League is not even doing that? The Video Assistant Referee is said to become involved in potential ‘game-changing instances’; including goals, penalty decisions, fouls, and cases of mistaken identity – so how is it that two or three cases were poorly adjudicated, overlooked or not awarded against Arsenal in Sunday’s game at The Emirates Stadium?

Possible Attacker Encroachment?

Firstly, however, there’s a case of encroachment by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal’s penalty. This is not punishable as the goal was scored by Nicholas Pepe, however had he have missed it would have been Aubameyang that was first to the ball. The big issue here is how confusing the rules regarding this are. They state:

Before the ball is kicked, all players (bar the taker) must be:

  • at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the penalty mark
  • behind the penalty mark
  • inside the field of play
  • outside the penalty area

The rules then go on to state that “If there is encroachment by an attacking player and the penalty kick results in a goal, the penalty kick must be retaken. But then a number of news outlets have published information saying “While encroachment into the penalty area isn’t punished if the penalty is scored or if the penalty is saved and held by the goalkeeper.”

So by the FA’s Rules – using the image below, before Pepe’s penalty was struck – should the penalty have been ordered to have been retaken? Are we misinterpreting the rulebook? Are referees? Or is it just the referee interpreting what he sees?

Chambers in Walls

This is one making the rounds on social media at the moment. According to new rules brought in this season:

“When there are three or more players in a wall, no players from the opposite team can get amongst it, distract players or open up a gap for their team-mate to shoot through. Opponents will now have to be at least one yard away from the wall.”

Take a look at the image below:

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Well. That looks like Calum Chambers is “amongst the wall” at a distance adjudged to be too close.

But that, once more, depends on the referee’s interpretation of what he sees. To some, that is a seven man wall consisting of Guilbert, Elmohamady, Mings, Engels, Wesley, McGinn and Grealish. To others, that’s a five man wall with a gap before another two man wall.

If you take it as a two man wall, it’s likely that Chambers has done nothing wrong. But he still pushes Grealish into the path of the ball – which looks like it takes a deflection off the captain and into the net. Either way, his brash attempt to disrupt the ‘wall’ knocks Grealish to the ground and Nakamba around three yards forward.

He’s too close to the wall if you’re following the rules, and you’ve got to take into account he actively fouls two players by shoulder barging into two players as he does it though. Why isn’t this picked up?

A Greek Tragedy

This one has caused some controversy, and that’s also down to an interpretation of a rule.

Our manager doesn’t understand it. Pundits don’t understand it. We don’t understand it. Accidental or not, how is the image below not a handball?


Sokratis is leaning into the ball, blocking its path towards goal with his arm or upper shoulder. But once again, it’s down to the interpretation of the referee.

It has to be time for VAR to undermine referees soon, surely? Either that, or a deeper look needs to be taken into the rules, especially new ones, and they should be enforced at a stricter level.

Stop leaving it down to an interpretation of the game and use the thing for what it was invented for.

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