In the latest episode of Match Officials: Mic’d Up, Howard Webb, the chief of the PGMOL, provides analysis on several key incidents in recent matches. One of the incidents discussed is the denial of a penalty to Liverpool against Arsenal when Martin Odegaard handled the ball. Webb explains that while Odegaard’s arm initially goes out, he quickly pulls it back towards his body, making contact with the ball. The VAR reviewed the incident and determined that Odegaard was trying to make himself smaller by retracting his arm, giving him an unfair advantage. Webb agrees that a penalty should have been awarded in this situation.
Webb also discusses a contentious foul in a game between Burnley and Luton. The incident involved a clash between two players, and opinions were divided on whether a foul should have been given. Webb acknowledges that some people believe a foul should have been awarded, but others see it as normal football contact. Webb explains that VAR was brought in to rectify clear and obvious errors, and in this case, the split between the VAR and assistant VAR suggests that it is not a clear-cut decision.
Webb then delves into the subjective nature of VAR decisions and emphasizes the importance of reserving its use for situations that are very clear and do not create as much debate. He acknowledges that achieving perfection is difficult due to the subjective and opinionated nature of football. Webb believes that the VAR intervention in a handball incident during a match was justified, as the player’s arm was in an unnatural position and blocked a shot towards goal.
Another incident highlighted by Webb is a foul committed by Dejan Kulusevski on Danny Welbeck during a corner for Brighton. The referee initially did not see the foul, but VAR intervened and deemed it worthy of a penalty. Webb commends the decisiveness of the officials and praises their clear communication. He explains that VAR helps determine the degree of recklessness and danger in an action, and in this case, the only option was a red card for Kulusevski due to excessive force and danger to the opponent.
Webb concludes by emphasizing that in situations where contact is made to the head, especially in a reckless manner, the outcome of a red card is justifiable. He believes that VAR allowed the referee to assess the incident from multiple angles and make the correct judgment to change the initial yellow card to a red.