RIGHT now, Manchester City must feel that the rest of the football world is against them, that the establishment has decided the only way to stop Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering team is to use technology to depose them. And the establishment is London, Tottenham, the FA and the media. Twice VAR has upset City against Spurs and although the result didn’t prove fatal (yet), the ruled-out goal at the Etihad could, ultimately be crucial.
While it’s only August, Liverpool are two points clear of City, and if you think it’s too early to be worried, just remember that City and Liverpool run-up 195 points between them last season and Liverpool lost just once and were one point short of City’s total.
However, you would think City have lost the title, such has was the commotion. City had 30 shots to Spurs’ three and Guardiola’s men played superbly. Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian pointed to Guardiola’s “control freak” habits, studying and studying to look for any edge, exposing the flaws of opponents. Unlike Klopp, Pep does not “thrive on chaos”.
By the spirit of the law, the decision which ruled-out Gabriel Jesus’ goal was correct. Emotionally, it was certainly a disaster, for the City fans, for the players, for Guardiola. We have reached the stage in football where technology is going to override emotion – and the fans, for one, are emotional stakeholders. The ruled-out goal will became an integral part of the game – every game. As one fan in the Liverpool Echo, which introduced a gloat-fest after the game, said: “VAR is taking the spontaneity away…debate the law not the technology.”
Guardiola said City were sad because they didn’t win but said his team “dignifies football”. At the same time, he told the Manchester Evening News that “we have to continue” with VAR, a logical response when you consider the meticulous nature of the City coach.
However, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gündogan was far from happy when speaking to the Daily Express. “It’s hard to take”, he said. “Any time an attacker that commits a handball, intended or not, is now ruled a free kick. And it you’re a defender, it’s fine. It only disadvantages the attacking team. In my opinion it needs to be changed.”
There was worrying news from the International Football Association Board, who said that VAR could take a decade to fully understand, said Football London. Lukas Brud, secretary of IFAB, commented: “The Premier League was observing the development a long time because it’s one of the most important league competitions in the world. They don’t want to be part of an experimental phase and wanted to avoid being a guinea pig.”
BirminghamLive noted that referees are happy with VAR. One officlal commented: “We don’t have to be afraid of killing our careers anymore”.
Meanwhile, SkySports said VAR looks set to dampen euphoric goal celebrations, which is a negative given the already muted atmosphere at many grounds. “That is the fear for match-going fans, but there is a flip side. While City fans were denied a win with the decision, Spurs fans gained a point. They celebrated like their team had scored.”
Sources: Guardian, Express, Sky, BirminghamLive, Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, Football London.