VAR has sparked all manner of controversy since it made its Premier League debut at the start of the current campaign.
The idea was to put an end to bad calls and stamp out human error, but it has arguably caused more problems than it has solved. Yet some teams have reaped the benefits of VAR this season, while others have been left to curse the advent of modern technology. These are the biggest winners and losers of the season:
The Seagulls are currently hovering precariously above the relegation zone after failing to win a game in 2020. However, they would be much deeper in the mire were it not for the arrival of VAR. Brighton games have seen 11 overturns so far this season, and the majority have gone in their favour. The first decision actually went against Graham Potter’s men, as a goal for Leandro Trossard was ruled out for offside by Dan Burn during a 1-1 draw with West Ham in August.
However, the next six VAR decisions helped them out: Aston Villa had a goal chalked off against them for a foul, they earned a VAR-assisted penalty against Everton, a penalty needed to be retaken by Leicester for encroachment, a David Luiz goal was ruled out for offside, Sheff Utd had two goals ruled out against them in December and then Harry Kane had a goal disallowed in their game on Boxing Day.
Another Dan Burn offside went against them against Bournemouth on December 28, but since then they have benefited from Everton having a goal ruled out for a handball, and a goal Glenn Murray was allowed after an incorrect handball call in a 3-3 draw with West Ham on February 2. In total, Brighton have enjoyed a net gain of seven VAR overturns, more than any other club.
Fellow relegation battlers Crystal Palace have been the second biggest beneficiaries of VAR this season. Their games have seen nine overturns, with seven going in their favour for a net gain of five. Highlights include an 87th minute Jordan Ayew goal being awarded after originally being ruled out for offside in a 2-1 win over West Ham.
They also had the video assistant to thank during a 2-2 draw with Arsenal. First VAR overruled the decision to book Wilfried Zaha for diving and handed the Eagles a penalty instead. Then it ruled out a late Sokratis winner for a foul by Calum Chambers, despite the Arsenal man appearing to be fouled.
Palace also benefited the video assistant dishing out a red card to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during their second game against Arsenal this season. A penalty for a handball against Jario Riedewald was overruled during their stunning 2-2 draw away at Man City too.
The Red Devils have also been able to toast the arrival of VAR in the Premier League. In total they have benefited five times and had one decision go against them, resulting in a net gain of four overturns. An Aubameyang strike was allowed to stand after initially being ruled out for offside in their 1-1 draw earlier in the campaign, but since then it has been plain sailing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
A Sadio Mané goal was ruled out for offside against them, ensuring that Man Utd are the only team to take points off Liverpool this season. Two overturns went for the Red Devils during their 3-1 win against Norwich, and it also earned them a penalty in a famous 2-1 win over Man City. However, they remain 38 points behind the league leaders amid Liverpool’s winter break.
The Blades are the surprise package of the 2019/20 Premier League season and they sit fifth in the table after securing back-to-back victories over Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. However, they could be comfortably nestled in the top four if VAR had not reared its controversial head. Sheff Utd games have seen 10 overturns this season and eight have gone against them, leaving a net deficit of six.
It began with an Oli McBurnie goal being disallowed in a 1-0 defeat against Southampton in September. Since then VAR has continued to go against them. They were notably denied a famous away win against Tottenham when a goal for David McGoldrick was disallowed. John Lundstram was ruled offside in build-up. However, the Blades did finally benefit from VAR when West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass was denied a 90th minute equaliser in their game on January 10. Declan Rice was adjudged to have handled in the build-up in that one.
Daniel Farke’s men are rock bottom of the Premier League table and they look doomed for relegation. They are seven points adrift of safety and they are running out of time to make up the deficit. However, they might be in with a better chance of beating the drop if VAR had not been introduced this season. They have also had a net deficit of six returns this term, with seven going against them and just one in favour of the Canaries. That came at the very start of the season, when Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma had a goal disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper by Olivier Giroud. It was not enough to stop them losing the game.
Since then VAR has simply piled more misery upon the long-suffering Norwich fans. It led to Man Utd being awarded two penalties against Farke’s side in a 3-1 defeat in October. Aubameyang was then given a second chance to convert his missed penalty when they hosted Arsenal, following an encroachment by a defender in the area. He duly slotted it away and Norwich dropped two points. A red card for Chris Basham was rescinded in their defeat to Sheff Utd, and then a Teemu Pukki goal was ruled out for offside in a draw against Spurs.
A Connor Wickham goal was awarded after originally being ruled out for offside in the 85th minute of their 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day. They also had Ben Godfrey sent off for a foul on Callum Wilson, but they managed to hang on for a win. If none of those decisions had occurred, they would have at least seven more points, perhaps more if they had capitalised on Basham’s red cad. That would be enough to carry them out of the relegation zone and up to the giddy heights of 17th in the table.