We're sure you're as tired of it as we are, but the debate around the relevancy and application of VAR in football continues with ferocity as the new Premier League season briefly pauses for the international break.
The divisive video-review system was introduced to the Premier League to aid referees ahead of the 2019-20 season, and has seen some contentious calls made in recent years.
Some have suggested that the delay in verifying whether goals can stand or not has taken some of the joy out of the celebrations, while the continuing poor calls made by referees even with the aid of VAR have frustrated fans and pundits alike.
This week, after the first four weeks of Premier League action came to a close, former referee and PGMOL chief Howard Webb spoke to Michael Owen to break down some of the audio picked up by the referees' microphones while making crucial calls this season.
One particular clip, of the decision to overturn a penalty awarded to Arsenal's Kai Havertz against Manchester United on Sunday, has garnered a polarising reaction from fans, with some unhappy with the leading language used by the VAR officials in recommending an on-field review.
VAR: Element of new ref-mic audio gains polarising reception from fans
In the second-half of Arsenal's dramatic victory over Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, the Gunners were awarded a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor, after Kai Havertz tumbled over Aaron Wan-Bissaka's outstretched right leg in the penalty area.
Fascinating video released by the Premier League's social media team reveals the exact route taken by VAR to ultimately conclude that the decision could be overturned.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 6, 2023
The footage shows VAR official Jarred Gillett immediately doubts the on-field call by referee Anthony Taylor, and he pushes his assistant in the VAR room to find more angles.
As more angles are found, it becomes clear that Wan-Bissaka's initial challenge did not bring Havertz down, with the German instead kicking the back of the United defender's leg and tripping as a result.
Once VAR could confirm that there was no offside, and that there was no contact from the onrushing Casemiro either, they refer Taylor to the pitchside monitor, where he makes the correct call to overturn the penalty.
In this case, the right decision was made, though one element of the decision-making process did not go down well with all fans on social media.
When Taylor is sent to the pitchside monitor, he asks the VAR officials to give him a breakdown of why he is being asked to review his on-field decision. Gillett responds:
What you're going to see is Wan-Bissaka will step across - there's no contact with the right foot, there's minimal contact then from Havertz's left foot as he runs through.
Some fans took issue with the leading language used by the VAR official, given they are only meant to recommend a pitchside review and not attempt to sway the referee's decision.
This should be broadcast so people understand.
But…this is still subjective and the VAR is leading…”minimal contact”, so implicitly suggesting Taylor was wrong. Taylor didn’t make that decision 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/9rWVupNvGR
— CheshireBee (@cheshiregooner) September 6, 2023
I hadn’t realised that they tell the ref, in detail, why they think he’s got it wrong. Little wonder that the decisions are overturned 99% of the time - refs are effectively told to do so (even if they technically withhold the power to disagree.) https://t.co/ZP1exFGsTs
— Gingers for Limpar (@Gingers4Limpar) September 6, 2023
Isn’t the whole point of the ref going to the monitor is to make the decision himself? If the VAR is going to explicitly say that it is a dive, what’s the point of the ref going to the monitor? Might as well make the decision before. Useless. https://t.co/kB2dK8nHGO
— Bharanidharan (@Bharani_gooner) September 6, 2023
I think this is really bad process. The VAR officials only comms should be recommending the review. They should absolutely not be feeding the ref their opinion on the incident. https://t.co/B1OVDzDWrG
— Kick Arse (@kickarseHD) September 6, 2023
There are perhaps some mitigating factors in this particular case.
Referee Taylor himself is the man who asked for an explanation for why he was being asked to review his decision, while it is also justified by the fact that the team of officials clearly got the decision correct.
Nonetheless, it has become common knowledge in football that once a referee is sent to the pitchside monitor the decision will be overturned nine times out of ten, and this clip perhaps gives us an insight into why that is.
We can only hope for more of this kind of VAR footage to emerge as the season goes on, with the audio from the ref mic giving a crucial breakdown of how decisions are made at the highest level.