Connect with us


VAR review: Arsenal handball claims, Bruno Fernandes penalty, Scott McTominay red card



The video assistant referee causes controversy every week in the Premier League, but how are decisions made and are they fair?

After each weekend, we go through major incidents to review and explain the process, both in terms of VAR protocol and the rules of the game.

In this week’s VAR review: a string of handball penalty complaints for Arsenal in the comeback win against AFC Bournemouth, as well as a penalty for Manchester United in Liverpool and a red card for Scott McTominay. Plus all the big Premier League decisions over the weekend.

Arsenal 3-2 AFC Bournemouth

Possible penalty: handball by Mepham

What happened: In the 24th minute, Chris Mepham jumped to win a ball in the loop under pressure from Fabio Vieira. He headed it short and the ball hit his arm. The Arsenal players have appealed for a penalty.

VAR decision: no penalty.

VAR review: This was the first of four incredible handball fines from Arsenal, and each appeal falls under a slightly different jurisdiction. This lands on the upper arm and is considered a legal spot to hit the ball. The modern interpretation (the whole arm up to the shoulder was considered handball) is very difficult to apply consistently. The rationale is that the upper arm cannot magnify the silhouette of the body, no matter what position it is in, and therefore should not be considered handball.
The edge is not the bottom of the sleeve, but is described as “in line with the bottom of the armpit”. The IFAB diagram shows how to judge this when a player jumps, but determining the exact point on the arm that touches the surface of the ball, and where the actual boundary line is, is difficult for any referee or VAR to do.

Premier League officials have used the sponsor’s crest or logo on a player’s arm as a point of reference, as it appears in the same spot on all shirts, whether long or short sleeved. If the ball touches this area, it is legal. So Mepham is lucky that the ball goes high enough not to involve the VAR.
That said, had the ball hit further down the arm, it could be argued that Vieira’s elbow would have caused Mepham’s header to miss, resulting in a handball.

Possible punishment: Sensi challenge on Tomiyasu

What happened: In the 43rd minute, Takehiro Tomiyasu went to play a bouncing ball into the Bournemouth box. Marcos Senesi challenged for the ball at the same time but appeared to kick the Arsenal player when he cleared the ball; the game could continue.

VAR decision: no penalty.

VAR review: VAR ruled this to be a case of two players approaching the ball with minimal contact and not enough to warrant a penalty.
It was certainly a 50-50 challenge and both players had the right to go for the ball. But if Tomiyasu got to the ball first, why is Senesi allowed to kick his opponent’s foot to clear the ball?

Undoubtedly, it’s another decision that wouldn’t have been overturned if the referee had granted it and another VAR on another day might have seen it differently.
Possible penalty: ball from Stephens’ hand

What happened: In the 74th minute, Jack Stephens blocked a Bukayo Saka cross. The ball came out of the defender’s arm and bounced against the post. Referee Chris Kavanagh ignored the calls for a penalty.

VAR decision: no penalty.

VAR review: Stephens was extremely lucky. He leans on Saka’s cross and the ball comes out of his arm. Even though his arm is tucked into his body, he is moving his body towards the ball and it would be a handball foul – if he is low on the arm. Again VAR John Brooks ruled it was too high on the arm and therefore legal play on the ball.

In December, Manchester United wanted a penalty against Nottingham Forest under similar circumstances. Remo Freuler leaned over a ball and hit him in the arm, but the referee and VAR decided against awarding a penalty. The Independent Review Panel ruled it a missed intervention and United should have taken a penalty via VAR – but contact with Freuler was inferior to Stephens.

Possible penalty: hand ball by Senesi

What happened: In the 79th minute Martin Odegaard’s shot was blocked by Senesi. Once again there were calls for a penalty for hand ball.

VAR decision: no penalty.

VAR Review: This is the easiest decision of the four for referees. Senesi’s arm is retracted and this doesn’t make his body swell unnaturally, and the shot is from close range. There should be no penalty for this.

Possible sanction: handball by billing

What happened: From the corner resulting from the previous handball touch, the ball rebounded and was saved by Philip Billing under pressure from Gabriel near the line. For the fourth time there have been calls for a handball penalty.

VAR Review: No penalty

Perhaps the most controversial claim. Billing is about to go for the goal line when Gabriel heads for goal and he touches the hand. The header comes from close range and saves the Bournemouth player, his arm is also close to his body.

One would not believe Billing stopped a goal, which would have been a red card foul, as goalkeeper Neto is behind him.

This is probably the only handball that would not have been changed by the VAR had it been awarded by the referee. Some might think that Billing’s arm is in a position that stopped Gabriel’s shot on goal regardless of proximity.

Let’s have your comments…