After another Premier League match dominated and delayed by VAR checks, Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou struck the right note in his assessment of the technology’s limitations and impact on the game.
In striking contrast to Mikel Arteta, who came across like a petulant child when he described the VAR’s decision to award Newcastle’s winning goal as “embarrassing” and “a disgrace” after Arsenal’s defeat at St James’ Park on Saturday, Postecoglou was measured.
“I don’t like it, I don’t like the standing around, I don’t like the whole theatre around waiting for decisions,” the Australian said after his side’s 4-1 defeat to Chelsea. “In my 26 years [in football], I was always prepared to accept the referee’s decisions, good, bad or otherwise, and I’ve had some shockers in my career, let me tell you. I’ve had some go my way as well, but I cop that because I just want the game to be played.”
It is refreshing to hear a manager say he is willing to accept the officials’ calls, and Postecoglou is different from his peers in his railing against VAR because he appears to genuinely care about its impact on the game, rather than his side’s fortunes in specific games.
For him, the technology slows down football and will never be suitable for a game which should be based on speed, fine margins and an element of human error.
Speaking to Postecoglou’s point, Monday night’s game eventually lasted a total of 111 minutes, but the ball was in play for just 48 of those (43 per cent of the match) — the lowest percentage for any Premier League game over the last two seasons.
“It goes against everything I want to work with my team on,” Postecoglou added. “I want to play fast, attacking, high tempo, go-at-it football. If we get a red card, a penalty against us, so what? Let’s cop it, let’s go again. But we have to stand around for two minutes trying to figure out if something is offside or not. Let the linesman make the decision.
"Remember, it used to be the benefit of the doubt to the striker? We all lived with it. The game didn’t collapse, but I’m an old man shouting at the clouds, mate. I’ll cop it for that, but that’s who I am.”
Postecoglou, admittedly, could have few complaints about the VAR’s decisions which went against Spurs on Monday, and perhaps his comments would have been more revealing if the hosts had been on the receiving end of the type of calamity which Liverpool suffered at Spurs in September. To his credit, though, the 58-year-old has been consistent with his views, and his dislike of VAR long predates his arrival in England.
Cristian Romero was lucky to avoid retrospective punishment for a kick at Levi Colwill before he was shown a straight red for a studs-up follow-through on Enzo Fernandez, accompanied by a Chelsea penalty, via the VAR. The officials at Stockley Park also ruled out no few than five goals and checked violent conduct against Udogie and Reece James in a game riddled with stoppages.
“It’s just diminishing the authority of the referee,” Postecoglou added. “You can’t tell me that referees are in control of the game, because they’re not. The control is outside.”