Ranking worst VAR decisions this Premier League season so far after Alejandro Garnacho offside controversy

VAR controversy has reared its ugly head again at the start of the 2023/24 Premier League campaign. Here are some decisions ranked in order of worst to best.

On Tuesday, PGMOL chief Howard Webb and former Liverpool star Michael Owen discussed refereeing decisions using match footage and previously unreleased audio in Sky Sports programme ‘Match Officials: Mic’d Up’.

The series hopes to explain refereeing decisions using match footage and previously unreleased audio.

After the first episode of the show was released, we decided to rank controversial VAR decisions this season, from worst to best.

WORST: Wolves penalty appeal after Man Utd’s Andre Onana collided with striker Sasa Kalajdzic

On what was Andre Onana’s debut, United were 1-0 up heading into the game’s final moments when the goalkeeper collided with Sasa Kalajdzic, making no contact with the ball and wiping out the Wolves forward.

On-field referee Simon Hooper did not award the penalty and, after a VAR check, a goal kick was awarded as VAR declined to even suggest a review of the decision.

PGMOL immediately apologised for not highlighting the issue during the game, while Webb has since admitted VAR should have recommended a review of the collision.

Man City’s Nathan Ake’s goal is allowed after Manuel Akanji adjudged not to have impacted Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno

City’s second goal against Fulham on Saturday saw Nathan Ake find the net from a header, However, replays showed that Manuel Akanji was standing in an offside position, and appeared to cause goalkeeper Bernd Leno to hesitate.

VAR Tony Harrington upheld referee Michael Oliver’s decision of a goal.

But Webb insisted that the goal should not have counted, due to Akanji’s impact on the Fulham goalkeeper. City went on to win the game 5-1.

Any layman would have noted this decision to be wrong. The only reason it’s listed below the Onana collision is because it is likely it didn’t have a major impact on the game’s final score.

Erik ten Hag explains why Jadon Sancho was dropped for Arsenal vs Man Utd

Alexis Mac Allister’s red card vs Bournemouth after challenge on Ryan Christie

Alexis Mac Allister challenged Ryan Christie for a loose bouncing ball but caught the Bournemouth star with his studs. Referee Thomas Bramall produced the red card, a decision VAR stood by.

While Mac Allister caught his opponent, the laws give more consideration to the level of force, rather than the point of contact. Based on that, we shouldn’t be seeing a red card for Mac Allister’s tackle.

Sheffield United defender John Egan penalised for handball against Man City

City were awarded a penalty in the 35th minute when Julian Alvarez tried to cut the ball back into the box and it hit the raised arm of John Egan.

While a penalty was awarded in this case there have since been complaints of VAR inconsistency. For instance, United were annoyed that they didn’t get a penalty at Tottenham Hotspur, with VAR choosing not to penalise Cristian Romero even though he had his arm out because he was close to the ball.

According to the law, a penalty should have been awarded against Egan in this scenario. If a player has their arm above shoulder height they are taking an increased risk of being penalised.

While the decision is technically correct the law seems strange. Where else should Egan have his arm when he’s sliding? Should he chop them off? Should modern footballers have arms at all?

Arsenal’s penalty reversed by VAR after Kai Havertz was challenged by Man Utd’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Kai Havertz drove into the United box and went down as he moved between Casemiro and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot as he deemed the right-back to have tripped the Arsenal midfielder.

However, after consulting the VAR footage, Taylor agreed that Havertz had not been tripped and overturned the penalty call.

This decision was correct given that Havertz initiated the contact from Wan-Bissaka, rather than vice versa.

Virgil van Dijk’s red card for Alexander Isak foul in Newcastle vs Liverpool

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk appeared to bring down Newcastle forward Alexander Isak on the edge of the box. The Dutchman was sent off as there was no covering defender, with VAR upholding the decision.

As noted by Webb, Van Dijk kicked through the foot of Isak, before playing the ball which makes it a foul. Moreover, he denied the Sweden international an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

Alejandro Garnacho’s late goal against Arsenal ruled out for offside

With the scores locked at 1-1, Alejandro Garnacho burst in behind the Arsenal defence after a pass from Casemiro and slotted the ball under Aaron Ramsdale. However, VAR ruled the United youngster offside following the move.

Erik ten Hag suggested after the game that the wrong angle was used for the incident.

However, the United boss’s complaints are misguided, with the technology existing to compensate for the camera not being directly in line with the players. Ten Hag felt the higher tactical camera, which isn’t calibrated for the offside tech at any ground, should have been used.

However, in VAR terms, it wasn’t particularly close given there is a small but visible gap between the offside lines.

BEST: Anass Zaroury’s red card for challenge on Kyle Walker in Burnley vs Man City

Anass Zaroury desperately tried to stop Kyle Walker’s surging run and lunged from behind creating a scissor motion with his legs. Indeed, The Walker looked to have turned his ankle as part of the contact.

VAR eventually upgraded the referee’s yellow to a red card – the correct decision.

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