Micah Richards' VAR Opinion Is The Perfect Example Of Pitfalls Of 'Fan Punditry'

By Gary Connaughton

While yesterday's Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester City was not the potential title decider that it has often been in recent seasons, there is no doubt that the two clubs served up an enthralling clash at Anfield.

The 1-0 scoreline certainly does not reflect the exciting nature of the game.

The visitors dominated possession, but barring a couple of half decent glimpses for Erling Haaland, they did not create all that many clearcut chances. On the other hand, Liverpool counterattacked  brilliantly and crafted a few excellent opportunities before one was eventually converted by Mohamed Salah. In the end they were fully deserving of the three points.

Of course, the outcome could have been very different if one big decision had went Manchester City's way earlier in the game.

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Phil Foden thought he had put his side ahead early in the second half after finishing inside the box, although VAR would tell referee Anthony Taylor to have a look at the pitch-side monitor to review a potential foul in the buildup. After viewing the replay a couple of times, the official adjudged that Erling Haaland had hauled down Fabinho a few moments before the ball ended up in the back of the net.

It seems a fairly straightforward decision, with the big Norwegian striker clearly grabbing the Brazilian's shirt and hauling him to the ground.

However, that did not stop the call being discussed ad nauseam on Sky Sports after the final whistle.

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Micah Richards' interpretation of VAR should be questioned

Despite being a relatively easy decision for the referee to make in the end, it was certainly debated heavily in the studio.

Micah Richards in particular wanted to get across that he felt the official could have, and perhaps should have, let it go. In the process, he seemed to completely overlook the whole point of having VAR as part of the game.

Today there was another big decision from the referee (against Manchester City at Anfield). I thought he should have went with his gut, it wasn't to be.

I'm not using that as an excuse, but when you're here it is electric, these fans and this stadium. Over the last couple of games I've heard it's not been the same, but today it was back to its best.

A former Manchester City player, you could see how upset Richards was with the result.

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That is perhaps understandable, but saying that the referee should have just gone 'with his gut' despite being presented with evidence that his initial decision was wrong is a complete non-argument.

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The entire point of VAR is to change incorrect decisions made by the officials on the pitch, with this incident falling into that category. Suggesting that going with their gut would be a better outcome would make the use of VAR completely pointless.

Richards later doubled down on his opinion that the goal should have been allowed to stand. His claim about the referee's view at the time being the most important one is absolutely nonsensical.

The angle that was most important was the referee's and he has not given it, and he has gone and changed his mind...

If City score first then the game is going to change. Liverpool would go higher up the pitch and make more of a game of it. When that didn't happen, Liverpool got their goal, camped in and defended really well. In the end they deserved the three points.

The whole point of having video replays is to allow referees to see a particular incident from an angle that wasn't possible in real time. Their view at the time can often give a false interpretation of what has occurred.

Jamie Carragher's point that if the decision had been against Liverpool, that his opinion likely would have been different is an important one.

'Fan punditry' is becoming increasingly common on the main Premier League broadcasters in recent times. The likes of Carragher, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and many others have provided numerous examples of such, with Richards' comments yesterday were a perfect illustration of the genre.

While there is a time and place for that in TV coverage, many fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with its presence on our screens. They tune into broadcasts in order to get some insight into the game from those who played it at the top level, which is what makes Monday Night Football such a success. They don't want to sit through biased arguments that are similar to what you would hear down at your local pub every weekend.

Having pundits so closely associated with teams can add to the occasion at times, but it does cross the line when they choose to blatantly ignore the facts in front of them in order to create a certain narrative. Richards was guilty of that yesterday, as many other pundits have been in the recent past.

Surprisingly enough, Danny Murphy (someone who is not exactly known for his stellar punditry) gave a good breakdown of why the VAR process actually worked fairly well on this occasion on Match of the Day 2 last night.

The point they made about the goal being ruled out anyway due to a subsequent foul on Alisson was not even considered on Sky Sports by Richards or the other pundits in the studio.

Some have called for commentators and pundits not to be used on broadcasts when their former teams are featured, although such a step would be a bit too far. We all enjoy seeing Roy Keane vent about Manchester United for example. However, they should be called out when their biases get in the way of analysing the game fairly, either by presenters or the other former players on show.

That would certainly make for a much better viewing experience.

SEE ALSO: Pep Guardiola In Disbelief After Geoff Shreeves Question

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