VAR: The Empire Strikes Back & Rennes Preview

Let’s get this out of the way first of all. VAR, idolised the night before, found itself as welcome as dog turd you stepped on without realising. Interrupting a last-ditch Manchester United corner, VAR invited the man on the pitch to review the incident.

Said man probably thought this is a waste of time until VAR reminded him of the UEFA briefing he attended. We know he was there because the BT commentator said he was there and saw the ref. The relevance of this is that one of the points made was that jumping to block a shot with your arms away from the body would be treated as deliberately making your body bigger and thus treated as deliberate handball.

So, VAR got it right under that guidance. The referee got it right under that guidance. All is good in the world again.

Whether the guidance is right in the first place is another matter. It’s tremendously difficult to jump without your arms getting flailing; they are effectively in a natural position, offering balance while in the air. However, you can see why UEFA consider it making the body bigger; it does and offers an unfair advantage to the defender. Would I interpret the rules as they have? I haven’t thought about it but there’s a strong case for accepting that.

I’ll add a caveat: so long as it is interpreted consistently…

Rennes Preview: Striking A Balance

Onto more important matters. Arsenal are in Rennes, clearing out their rooms at their four-star hotel rooms having eaten their full English breakfast or their breakfast full of English ingredients. All the comforts of home with every expense spared. Enos’ memorandum is already winging its way to Football Operations: nothing wrong with the players staying in an IBIS hotel – make it happen.

Alexandre Lacazette’s suspension solves one selection headache: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads the line and according to the Spaniard, is still the #1 penalty taker. The next one will be rifled into the net unless he has plenty of ‘chutzpah’ and rocks up with a Panenka.

Emery’s biggest task is balancing the need to progress in this competition with Sunday. Lacazette’s ban solves one problem in that respect. Lucas Torreira’s domestic suspension works similarly; he plays tonight. Given Matteo Guendouzi accompanied the head coach to the press conference, he starts.

Therein is Emery’s choice: balance. In an ideal world, Xhaka is rested along with Koscielny and Monreal. One half-decent player in key areas of the pitch. The trade-off is Mustafi back in the centre of defence but I can live with that for one night only.

Balance is the key for this evening. A host of changes means a dysfunctional team with the key avoiding the disjointed performance that often brought in the past. Essentially, anything to win.

It’s The Time of the Season

Rennes are well-rested thanks to the FFF postponing their fixture. Unlike the “über-winner” in charge at Tottenham, Unai Emery essentially said it is what it is and we get on with it. When I heard Pochettino’s whine that Dortmund had an advantage having played on Friday night, I wondered what message that sent to the players. 3 – 0 up from the first leg, he didn’t have confidence in them to defend that kind of lead.

That’s before you question the mentality of a coach who whines about the situation when his side is 3 – 0 ahead. No wonder none of the big clubs are as enthusiastic about him as the English media. That and the total absence of any trophies from his managerial CV.

Tonight ought to see Denis Suarez play 90 minutes. I understand the lack of match fitness when he arrived from Barcelona but given he trained every day, it that sharpness he must rediscover and the Europa League is the ideal place to do that. If he doesn’t start this evening, the prospects of his joining in the summer suddenly look very dim.

On the opposite flank, I’d expect youth to be given a chance ordinarily but tonight is the ideal moment for Mesut Özil to prove consistency in his form and put himself in contention for a starting place on Sunday. Not that I think he will. That XI will surely be the same which started on Saturday.

Cech; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Elneny, Torreira; Suarez, Aubameyang,Özil

Solid enough to not lose, I think, but also capable of a 2 – 0 win.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

79 thoughts on “VAR: The Empire Strikes Back & Rennes Preview

  1. Michael says:

    VAR is contentious for a whole lot of reasons, however, it has to be good in principle as long as there is the said consistency. I have trouble believing it will be any more than something else to whine/ cheer about in the short term.

    Looking forward to a good match and result tonight.

  2. Pete the Thirst says:

    A professional performance needed from the team tonight without picking up any injuries. United will be drained from that game last night. Sunday is a massive opportunity.

  3. Pete the Thirst says:

    I saw the Utd VAR incident last night. Scandalous penalty award IMO.

    The Utd player tries a speculative shot from 25 yards; ball flying high, wide and handsome over bar; defender gets in way and turns back to ball; defender just inside box; ball deflects off defender’s arm; heads for a fortunate corner; no appeals to ref; ref alerted to situation by cyber-ref; long view of multiple angles in slow motion: penalty.

    Compounding this was the VAR penalty for Porto. The player was never reaching the ball; feels a hand on his shirt; dives: penalty. You could argue that the Porto player could have been sent off for simulation.

    Uefa need to sort this out sharpish or VAR will create a whole new era of cheating and reffing incompetence.

  4. Paulie Walnuts says:

    It didn’t take long for our concerns regarding VAR to be highlighted once again.

    Utd benefited last night but it’s just a matter of time until it bites them on the arse.

    If penalties are to be given for such minor ‘indiscretions’ I can see next season being a penalty-fest in the EPL. I doubt there will be many games without one so I’d make sure our penalty takers are practiced & clinical. Going forward I can see excellent penalty takers being highly sought after regardless of their effectiveness in other areas of the game.

    As for tonight I agree with Yogi’s XI apart from maybe Jenks at rb. We’ll need to improve on our last away Europa performance. Keep it tight please boys.

  5. TIKPO says:

    The rules are what they are. The ball striking a raised arm is a foul and reaching out to hold/pull another player us foul play. Whatever the circumstances! Players should be encouraged to play fair so punishing infringements must be strictly applied– as long as there is no bias in the application.
    The extra days rest didn’t do Dortmund much good did it? Rennes extra rest shouldn’t either. I expect The Arsenal to show class and quality later today. Give us the win lads. You can do it. Just BELIEVE!!

  6. Bill says:

    Great post yogi

    The discussion about VAR in today’s blog confirms much of what I have been arguing the last several days. Even after having the advantage of watching both penalties with multiple slow motion multi angle replays we still have about 1/2 the bloggers who think they are penalties and the other 1/2 who don’t. The rules are nebulous enough that they can be interpreted differently depending on the observers bias and the same thing is true of a majority of calls a ref makes every game. In the case of a ref he might have a suboptimal viewing angle and he only has a split second to make a decision and no matter what he decides there will be a percentage of people who will legitimately believe he screwed up. In this situation its impossible to get consistency even if God was the ref.

  7. Dukey says:

    Can utd hurry up and give the elf the job, the honeymoon is going on too bloody long now.

  8. C says:


    The main problem that I have with VAR is situations like the handball. When you jump, your arms naturally balance you and if the precedence is set that everytime the ball touches hand its a handball, then VAR is actually not working.

    Personally, I think VAR should only be used on black and white decisions(ball over line, offsides, goal kick or corner kick) and determination of a red card(whether one was given such as Torriera or should have been given such as Rose). Everything else, VAR isn’t settling but instead making it worst.

  9. Bill says:

    I am sure a majority of the ManU fans thought it was a penalty while a majority of PSG fans thought it wasn’t a penalty and who ever called it was either incompetent or biased. If the exact same play occurred on the opposite end of the pitch then the ManU and PSG fans opinions would be completely reversed.

  10. YW says:


    In this instance, there was nothing “nebulous” about the ruling. Clear as day, in fact, as UEFA briefed it should be punished as handball. If there are ire and opprobrium, it’s they to whom it must be directed not the VAR/Referee. They just implemented the rules of the competition.

  11. Damon says:

    It really is a poxy kick off time though isn’t it?

    The only option to see all of the game is go straight to the pub and commute home after the game. Normally, not a huge issue, but I have to get back asap tonight. I might catch the second half, if I’m lucky and all goes to plan

  12. consolsbob says:

    The problem with var is that it is still down to the competence and discretion of officials. Black and white decisions should be OK but on what basis are they referred, for example? Will that process be consistent?

    It works in cricket and rugby but thet start with competent officials and a different culture.

    Footballers cheat whenever thay can and officials are incompetent and inconsistent.

  13. victor Fenech says:

    I am past 80 and I have always believed that the ball has to be deliberately played with the hand for a penalty to be awarded, i.e hand to ball, not ball to hand. VAR is telling us something different now.

  14. thrillbo says:

    EPL is going the way of many sports these days… the game is faster, offense is given all the advantages, players are bigger and stronger. However it’s also soft, seriously soft. I’ve been watching highlights from the 90s, not just arsenal but other sports. Players went to war every night and enjoyed it.

    If someone started flopping around the pitch you bet yourself they would get completely bullied by the other squad. It happened in basketball, american eggball, futbol. One of the nice things about ice hockey is that the rules allow players to smash the **** out of each other. Some little fellow on the other team playing soft and diving around? Just go bash his brains into the boards.

    We need a way to punish the divers and floppers. There was an instance in the game the other day when one of the spuds players flopped (pretty sure it was rose) early on. The ref just says get up, but where is the card? Is that not simulation???

    If someone touches you on the back, it’s not a foul. You are allowed to make contact with your man. However if you are a little birch boy like Luis Suarez you will wait for someone’s pinky to touch your back, launch yourself onto the turf, win a penalty and score it. We have to give credit for them scoring the penalties atleast. Suarez would step up and you had no doubt it was going in, other than that he is trash.

  15. thrillbo says:

    Also I get that your arms want to flail upwards when you jump, but. You are a professional defender, it’s not that hard to jump with your arms behind your back. I’m doing it right now and i can still jump (although i’m white so i only have about 10cm of air). If defenders are allowed to keep their arms up, lets have our whole back line jump around with arms stretched out wide when manure line up for a free kick this weekend…

    You can put arms behind your back, jump, and turn your head a bit so you dont get smashed and end up with a broken nose?? I could be wrong, just saying my opinion.

  16. Bill says:


    In this instance, there was nothing “nebulous” about the ruling. Clear as day, in fact, as UEFA briefed it should be punished as handball. If there are ire and opprobrium, it’s they to whom it must be directed not the VAR/Referee. They just implemented the rules of the competition.


    In the main post you said yourself that you were not sure the guidance given to the ref was correct. That indicates the whole concept of what is and is not a handball is nebulous. If UEFA and FIFA and the PL all interpret the handball rule differently then how can the whole concept not be nebulous?

  17. Bill says:

    Any rule which requires the referee to judge a players intent is never going to be judged on any sort of consistent basis. Only God knows the players actual intent. The idea that any referee can read the players mind and consistently and accurately judge the players intent makes absolutely no sense.

  18. Bill says:


    VAR would xalmost instantly end the missed offsides calls. However, The vast majority of decisions in football have some degree of gray area. There was contact in the box but was it enough to be ruled a penalty or was it a dive? Was enough to be a red card r should it be yellow? That’s a huge grey area and those are the sort of calls that generate all of the controversy

  19. thrillbo says:

    Bill I somewhat agree with you. But for me, some cases are pretty damn clear. You can tell in slow motion if the player completely dives, no contact at all. However some people think different on these plays. I’ve heard commentators say the player has ‘the right’ to go down. The f**k? Slimey cheats are trying to go down. Real players will actually stay on their feet in attempt to score.

    I dont know about you guys but getting out there and being physical is part of the fun for me. We spend all day playing nice and getting along with others. The pitch is where all that goes away and you can beat the shit out of your opponent for 90 minutes, but still have respect. If my opponent battles me all match I respect him. If they spend the whole time whinging like a little boy and diving, no respect and now I want to physically injure you.

  20. C says:

    Team news is in:

    Arsenal: Cech, Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Iwobi.

  21. C says:


    No, comfortably on the bench

    Subs: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Ramsey, Nketiah

  22. YW says:

    Bizarre, Damon.

    Liking Emery is keeping the team together but I genuinely question why Suarez was signed. We’ve got 2 more games in March and then six weeks to the end of the season. Tough to make a case for spending €20m for him. Maybe Emery remembered a player and someone different turned up?

  23. YW says:


    The decision is based on the rules as they stand so VAR and ref are off the hook. As I also said, the problem is UEFA. The two are separate issues.

  24. Damon says:


    I can buy a bit of fitness and getting up to EPL speed, but I don’t buy that over this long a period of time. If he needs that much getting up to speed, he’s not going to massively improve us.

    I think you might have the nail on the head with Emery remembering one player and another one turning up. Plus, Barca seem very keen to get him off the books permananently? £20m these days doesn’t buy you much player, imo

    The bench doesn’t offer us much tonight if we’re chasing the game, does it?

  25. thrillbo says:

    Suarez signing seems like Kim Kallstrom mark 2. Ugh. To top it off chuckle bros are in action again tonight. At least Sokratis in in-between the two, keep them from goofing off too much.

    I’ve heard the other team has some pacey wingers, Mustafi might be in for a night? Or will Mhki and Iwobi continue the hard defensive work. I hope we stay nice and tight like against spurs, and pounce quickly to counter. I have a feeling if we try to pass around, spread the pitch, we will have one bad turn over and get Mustafi’d

  26. YW says:

    Don’t diss the Kim; he scored one of the penalties which put us through to the 2014 FA Cup final!

  27. Colts says:

    That pen brought back Fergie time initially, then my thoughts wondered off to the red persie got in Spain. As roc marciano once said “it’s nice to know the right white folks “.

    Anywho, vaguely remember reading about rennes having speed and trickery, they’ll be looking to counter if true and could possibly try to hit us hard from kickoff to super boost their strategy.

    Ya gunna ya…

  28. C says:


    In Sarr and Niang, they have plenty of pace and in Ben Arfa and Grenier the creative know how. From the couple of times I have seen them play, they attack, attack attack and have a shitty defense.

    I don’t remember the actual GF and GA but I think with them they score goals and concede goals.

  29. Colts says:

    Bizarre, Damon.

    Liking Emery is keeping the team together but I genuinely question why Suarez was signed. We’ve got 2 more games in March and then six weeks to the end of the season. Tough to make a case for spending €20m for him. Maybe Emery remembered a player and someone different turned up?

    I see Suarez as insurance, his flexibility allows emery to not Vere to far off the path if say iwobe, Mickey or Ramsey happened to do themselves a badness.

  30. Colts says:


    In Sarr and Niang, they have plenty of pace and in Ben Arfa and Grenier the creative know how. From the couple of times I have seen them play, they attack, attack attack and have a shitty defense.

    I don’t remember the actual GF and GA but I think with them they score goals and concede goals.

    I’m fairly familiar with those names bar sarr. We shouldn’t be taking this lightly…

  31. C says:


    Sarr is an extremely pacy winger who Arsenal have been tracking (and I hope we buy in the summer) who has it all but is still young.

    For perspective, many compare him to Dembele at the same age.

  32. Colts says:


    Thanks, we’ll be priced out of it then I’d imagine, haven’t noticed him yet tbf

  33. Colts says:

    Bammy still feeling the effects of the pen, perhaps we need an upgrade?

  34. C says:

    Well done Sokaritis, you get 2 yellows for the exact same challenge

  35. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Useless! Seriously, what’s the f@#king point!

  36. Colts says:

    I wonder how many windows it will take before this culture of harakiri decreases to a sufficient level.

  37. Colts says:

    Will mustafti up the levels and remain clown juice free?

    Will our best player so far (iwobe) save us?

    Will our super rich wizard open the (dumble) door.

    How many flicks are too many?

    Can a pla…..

  38. Noon Gunner says:

    Stunning display of headless chicken shit.

  39. Noon Gunner says:

    Whatever UE said at half time, it wasn’t very effective.

  40. C says:


    I don’t understand that at all. Maitland-Niles is on the bench, surely he should have come on at half-time for Mhkitaryan.

  41. C says:

    Hasn’t anybody else noticed that their WHOLE attack deems to be targeting Nacho….

  42. consolsbob says:

    Terrible result, absolutely terrible.

  43. Dukey says:

    I fukin hate this fukin God damn shitty coloured fukin kit.!

  44. C says:

    Nacho loses the ball, nobody covers for him and and all 3 subs are jogging back.

  45. Noon Gunner says:

    Monreal and Kolasinac a million miles off station. What is going on??

  46. C says:

    Have to say, it was stupid of Sokaritis to attempt that tackle only mins after being shown yellow for a similar challenge.

  47. Dukey says:

    If Emery had any sense he’d bin that awful jinx kit.

  48. Noon Gunner says:

    Looking again at Monreal’s OG, I cannot imagine what was going through his mind, other than a light, vacant breeze. That and his surrender in a huff that led to their third goal mark this as a real low moment for him. Does Mustafi have a contender for his crown??

  49. G4E says:

    I think we have inherently stupid players in footballing sense……Not all but some.

    I have no doubt that player for player and on paper we would come out on top, but since this is Arsenal and always playing with their head in their Arses we lose against a side like Rennes.

    We still don’t know how to close a game and shut down shop when we are down to 10 men, God we don’t even know how to do it with 15 men if they allow us.

    Hopefully we can beat them at Home, but you never know with this ARSE of a team.

  50. MikeSA says:

    A thought just occurred to me regarding the acquisition of Suarez.

    Bobby Pires was stuck on the bench for the better part of half of his first season with us, and he didn’t turn out too bad.

    I don’t say Suarez will be the same as Pires, but I there is quite a bit of baseless leaping to conclusions that seems to go on in certain sectors.

    Not that long ago there were calls for Mikitaryn to be bulleted – that seems to have changed a touch (apart from some stubborn fucks who blindly refuse to accept they might be wrong on occasion).

  51. Bill says:


    Suarez’ minutes dropped significantly in each of his successive seasons at Barca and this year he dropped off the team almost completely and now he can’t get many minutes with us and ours is not an uber talented squad. Perhaps he is the next Bobby Pires but the evidence we have certainly favors the not good enough theory.

  52. MikeSA says:


    I didn’t claim he would be, but the likes of you are so quick to jump to conclusions I thought it pertinent to mention.

  53. Dalm says:

    What we deserved.
    Dreadful at a player down – giving the ball away

  54. Bill says:


    I would not call it “jumping to conclusion” when there is a reasonably solid body of evidence to support it.

  55. Wailesy says:

    What a fucking joke of a football team we are. No fucking brains. No fucking heart.

  56. Wailesy says:

    To say we’ll do an United and go through is confidence bordering on cockiness. Can anyone see us keeping a clean sheet in the 2nd leg? We’re gone.

  57. G4E says:

    After watching highlights,

    Total Bullshit decision on the sending off. Their player arm was across Sokratis, to the point that Sokratis lost his footing and tripped over the player’s ankle. I think it’s a certain foul for the circumstance that prevented their player from going for a chance, but certainly very harsh for a second yellow, their was no intent to foul.

    Apart from that,

    We are still very Comical in defending, our old players seemed overwhelmed by the situation and we lacked the grit or desire to at least keep it at 1-1.

    We are down to 10 men, defense is wobbling, we should have came out in the 2nd half and made it almost impossible for them to score. Instead we assisted them greatly to score more than once.

    We may beat them at Home, but why this bad result away from Home and making it so hard and nervy at Home?

    Poor Management from Unai, and very bad Management from today’s Field-Idiot, The Referee.


  58. MikeSA says:


    But you do Bill, all the time.

    In this very thread you declared that the previous day’s VAR issues supported your previously stated position, when it very clearly was not the case at all.

    You have very fixed positions that you punt over and over again, and use some of the most diverse data to support and then claim as factual, or “we agreed”, or “we’ve been saying for some time”, etc., when in reality its just your opinion and not necessarily one adopted or accepted by others at all.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next man, but I do know that about myself, I suspect you and others on here don’t.

  59. MikeSA says:

    What we deserved.
    Dreadful at a player down – giving the ball away

    And I’ve just given you an example of why your “large body of evidence” might not support the conclusion you’ve leapt to.

    I’m not claiming that he is the next Pires, but your “reading” of the “facts” would have trashed Bergkamp as well btw.

    It’s not as binary as you are so fond of arguing.

  60. MikeSA says:


    Sorry Dalm, I clicked on the Bill post and somehow yours got pulled in?

    Maybe I just thought I had clicked on the one for Bill?

    Nonetheless, apologies, that wasn’t intended as a response to your post at all.

  61. MikeSA says:

    Sorry Dalm, I clicked on the Bill post and somehow yours got pulled in?

    Maybe I just thought I had clicked on the one for Bill?

    Nonetheless, apologies, that wasn’t intended as a response to your post at all.

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