VAR, much like our captain Jordan Henderson, can be largely polarizing. Implemented in an attempt to be a second check for the referees on the ground, there’s arguments that it isn’t impartial or consistent as it is largely controlled by the same referees that need to be checked on the pitch. The other complaint is that it takes away from the pace and continuation of the game, but that’s maybe a more fair argument (not really but we’ll go with it). This fume is also fueled by the fact that no one likes Liverpool winning every game and being at the top of the table with a 16 point gap and a game in hand, but that is also neither here nor there.
VAR came into the equation once again on Saturday as Liverpool faced off against Tottenham Hotspur and the game was temporarily paused as they analyzed Jordan Henderson’s header that lead to Roberto Firmino’s goal. The question was of a potential handball as the ball looked as if it had been propelled somehow by Henderson’s arm after being hit by his head, but was ultimately ruled out and the goal allowed to stand. This led to Liverpool’s 20th win this season and a historic 61 points out of 21 matches played.
Henderson himself wasn’t even aware of what the check was for.
“Was [the check] for me? I thought it just hit me head!” The captain said, speaking to Jamie Redknapp and Sky Sports following the match.
“I’m sick of hearing about [VAR] and talking about it to be honest. The Sheffield United, West Ham one. I think we’re talking about it a little bit too much.
“It isn’t great to be able to wait. I’m sure there were goals today disallowed for different reasons.
”As a player it’s difficult. When you’re waiting 20 or 30 seconds for every single goal it is tough.
”I know we try to get everything right but it does take away that passion and emotion from the game so we need to be careful we don’t take that away, because that’s what football is all about.”
This writer personally doesn’t agree that it takes away the passion of the game, if anything it seems to add more passion and emotion, but I’m also not the one on the pitch so can’t speak to how it might change the momentum for the players. 20-30 seconds wait, though, isn’t all that long comparatively, even as the original results of the “experiment” stated that the average amount of time it takes to make a check is 20 seconds. There was also an average of less than 5 checks per match, which essentially adds up to less than two minutes on the higher end of the spectrum. Players spend that time begging for or fighting foul calls when they could be actually playing the game.
Is VAR a little problematic? Sure. Humans running the system have inherent biases and those biases effect how the system is run and the rules are implemented. Especially when the humans running the system are the ones that the new system were meant to check. Do I have a fix for it? Not really. Does Jordan Henderson? Probably not. The fact is that no one does and this is the first season of the VAR system. Bugs need to be fixed, people need to be trained, and standards need to be solidified.
Hopefully they will be by next season, but to expect it to take any less than 20 seconds to check whether or not a handball was committed or an intentional foul that could lead to a goal for either team isn’t really realistic or fair.