Jamie Carragher highlights key VAR issue after Spurs v Liverpool controversy

On Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur‘s 2-2 draw with Liverpool was filled with controversy, and VAR was at the centre of much of it.

Firstly, VAR official Chris Kavanagh elected not to show Harry Kane a red card for a dubious-looking challenge on Andrew Robertson.

Many fans and pundits argued that the England captain should have been sent off for the tackle – including ex-Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg.

Later on in the game, there was another incident. This time around, Robertson was at the centre of the significant decision. He wiped out Emerson Royal with a poor challenge. However, unlike Kane’s tackle, the Scot saw his yellow card upgraded to red after a video review.

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota also had a strong penalty appeal turned down by referee Paul Tierney and VAR.

It was arguably the match of the Premier League season so far – but there was also plenty of controversies.

What did the managers say after full-time?

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp were on the opposite sides of decisions throughout the match.

Conte refused to be drawn on discussing Kane’s red card, but speaking after the full-time whistle, Klopp was furious about several critical decisions that went against the Reds during the 90 minutes of play.

He said: “That [Kane challenge] is definitely a red card. People will say that his leg is in the air, but it’s pure coincidence. Harry cannot judge that; if Robbo’s leg is on the ground, then it’s a broken leg.

“We have a VAR sitting there. If he thinks, ‘Let’s have a look again at the Robertson situation’, that’s fine. That’s what he is there for. What did he do in [Kane] situation?”

On the Jota penalty appeal, Klopp added: “The VAR is there. Where is [Jota] stopping? You just have two players clean the six-yard area with two challenges against one player, and the player is down. I don’t understand that.

“These situations are crucial. They are decisive situations.”

Carragher dissects how VAR needs to improve

In the Sky Sports studio after the match, discussions went on about the position in which VAR currently finds itself.

Jamie Carragher has spoken on previous occasions about VAR and its advantages and disadvantages. Back in November 2020, he said the technology was ruining the enjoyment.

A year on, the former Liverpool defender now believes that VAR is now being used in a better way. However, he explained what he thinks needs to be improved.

Carragher said: “I think we are in a position now with VAR where I think we all were frustrated with it a year or two ago.

“I think it’s in a decent place right now. But it has got to the stage now where we’ve gone almost completely the other way. Last season, it almost meant a little touch on the ankle, people were getting a penalty.

“We’ve come away from that, thankfully. But we’re now at the stage where you almost think, ‘What’s the point of VAR in these penalties?’

“We saw one today with Newcastle, and one today where it’s a blatant penalty. People complain about VAR, but it’s not VAR. It’s who’s controlling VAR. We look at the referee today, and we say that’s not good enough. Chris Kavanagh is on VAR today. That has to be a penalty, and Harry Kane has to be a red card.”

He later added: “The whole point of VAR is to help referees. The referee doesn’t give [the penalty]; he doesn’t see it. He’s in a great position – ok, he’s made a mistake. It happens. It’s happened in real-time.

“The whole point of VAR is to help the referee in that situation. This is the whole point of VAR, and why we brought it in.”

Is VAR better now than in previous seasons?

It is fair to say that throughout the 2021/22 season, public opinion towards the technology has slightly softened compared to previous campaigns. VAR now generally seems more lenient when making big calls, and offsides are no longer as marginal as they once were.

But that’s not to say that questionable decisions haven’t been made. In Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Burnley, VAR ruled that goalkeeper Nick Pope was not fouled in the build-up to Callum Wilson’s winning goal for the Magpies. On balance, the decision looked to be the correct one – although there was still plenty of debate.

As Mike Riley explained back in August, the threshold for referee and VAR intervention is now higher. Throughout the season, we have seen that in action with fewer ‘trivial’ offences being punished by the technology.

There is still room for improvement, though. After the latest set of controversial decisions this weekend, fans will hope that the Premier League can make those improvements soon.

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