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The good, the bad and the emotion-sapping VAR – Debating Brighton 1-1 Liverpool

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Liverpool were made to settle for a 1-1 draw at Brighton in a clash which saw a number of talking points emerge, primarily centred around the three little letters of VAR.

As is often the case for football in the modern age, technology took centre-stage as it once again proved decisive in determining the final score.

The Reds were on the wrong end of VAR again as Pascal Gross converted Brighton’s second penalty of the afternoon to steal a point after Diogo Jota‘s strike had looked to be the winner in an eventful 90-minute clash which also saw two goals disallowed and a penalty miss.

With their backs against the wall in terms of injury and increasing fatigue, it was a mixed performance many would have expected from Jurgen Klopp‘s side but frustration lingered after the final whistle.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Tommy Lister (@TLister77) and Keifer MacDonald (@KeiferMacd) to discuss the highs and the lows from Liverpool’s frustrating draw and the emotionally sapping VAR.

The good…

TOMMY: What was good about another incompetent officiating decision costing the champions again? Almost nothing, in all honesty.

It’s never ideal when your ‘keeper is your best player but despite conceding the late penalty Alisson’s performance was one of the few enjoyable things to take away from the game.

Seeing the skipper return to action and take control of the midfield also brought the rarity of a smile to my face on this bleak afternoon, but overall there’s little good to take away from that result.

The overall highlight of the day though has to be Klopp’s eight-minute-long interview in which he again targets the tory broadcasting companies and their selfish schedule that leaves no thought for the real people playing the sport.

KEIFER: There wasn’t too much to be ecstatic about, especially given the manner in which Liverpool ‘dropped’ the two points. Phillips for me was ever so impressive, considering this is only his second ever Premier League start, I thought he handled himself fairly well.

Obviously between himself and Fabinho, there isn’t much pace there, so Brighton had clearly planned to target that at times. But I thought Phillips had a solid game, he’s a very old fashioned centre-back, a player who knows his own strengths and limitations.

His performance along with his debut earlier this campaign against West ham and the inevitable minutes he will pick up as Liverpool continue to protect Joel Matip at all costs should see his market value rise if Liverpool choose to cash in during the summer transfer window. 

But like Tommy, my highlight of the day came after the final whistle, as Klopp took to the BT podium to conduct his post-match duties. He voiced his anger at BT and the fellow TV stakeholders as they continue to put player welfare to the back of their priorities.

We saw him do the same last week after the victory against Leicester and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. It’s about time those involved in football had a say in how it’s run. Players aren’t circus animals that we pay to watch, they’re humans. Humans that are being asked to play one of the most draining sports on the planet three times a week, with little rest in between each outing, purely as a result of millionaires and their greed.

JOANNA: The guys have hit the nail on the head with the boss’ words post-match, you could only sit back and say go on Klopp!

Some good shouts in terms of individual performances there too but I have to say Gini’s was deserving of praise. The guy shouldn’t have been playing such is his game-time in recent weeks and while I was just waiting for an inevitable injury, it didn’t arrive – for him at least – he quietly put in a solid outing going both ways.

Tired legs would have been an easy excuse but he was everywhere he needed to be.

The players speaking out on VAR post-match is also worthy of a nod as it’s about time the key stakeholders are part of the process and listened to accordingly.

The bad…

TOMMY: Fingers have to be pointed in the direction of the players on the pitch. Until Henderson came on, the midfield performed poorly and the defence really struggled to cope with the balls coming over the top.

For large portions of the game, the champions were made to look uncomfortable by Potter’s side. The performance wasn’t good enough and in fairness to Brighton, a point was no less than they deserved.

Milner’s name being added to the ever-growing list of injuries is also a real concern as that now leaves Klopp with just Neco Williams, who does not appear to be ready yet, as his only option at right-back.

KEIFER: I think this part goes without saying, VAR, VAR, VAR. The bane of my life. We’ll talk more about it later, but in the current world climate football should be something we are eagerly looking forward to as a form of release. That isn’t exactly the case at the moment.

It just seems to be sucking the life out of football and it’s very painful for those closest to the game to watch. Stuart Attwell’s decision to award Brighton a stoppage-time penalty was comical. 

Oh and don’t get me started on the lines, they draw. I’ll save that for another day…  

To further dampen the mood, Liverpool again suffered further injuries. It just really was a day to forget. 

JOANNA: Can I just say the entire first-half, the lack of shots on target, another injury and English referees? That encapsulates just about all of it, doesn’t it?

It really was one of those games. It felt inevitable that Brighton would somehow find an equaliser – but as Tommy said, you have to say they deserve credit for their performance.

And you have to feel for Taki and Neco as it felt both were just there to make up the numbers and the circumstances didn’t help either seize the opportunity.

And is VAR sucking the enjoyment out of the game we love, and would you bin it off?

TOMMY: It was overwhelmingly bad at Brighton. I had previously always been pro-VAR but enough is enough. It works alongside officials that do their job properly, but I’d struggle to name all the capable English officials on one hand.

Simply put, it shouldn’t have been a penalty. Every week the discourse after the game remains the same, all we talk about is the poor use or lack of use of the technology. The rules are vague and constantly changed and, worst of all, it just feels as if VAR is just a vacuum of fun.

The sole reason as fans we become hooked on football is because of the excitement of celebrating your team score. VAR is stripping that away from us. We now have to restrain ourselves from celebrating a quality goal (like Salah’s today) on the off chance half his toenail is offside. Scrap it.

KEIFER: I have to agree with Tommy once again. As a regular match goer, VAR has sucked the life out of it for me, more so during the current situation because you’re not there to enjoy the game and get caught up with the emotions. But whilst you’re watching from home and your celebrations are more muted than they would be at Anfield, with VAR added into the equation you find yourself scared to celebrate.

It’s a shame because the referee’s do need help. We’ve all called for it for the last few years after some high profile mistakes. But the implementation of this technology is clearly not fit or fast enough to keep up with the Premier League.

With referee’s still getting decisions wrong when they can see it back on replay, it does really make you think what the whole point of it is. 

I can’t see VAR going anytime soon. But I think it needs tailoring, in terms of when it is used, is it used for everything, or just a clear and obvious mistakes? 

JOANNA: You can certainly see the benefits of VAR if it were used competently when you look at similar review systems across the world of sport.

But English referees, in particular, are not known to be competent and having them act both on the pitch and as adjudicators from a room miles away doesn’t fill you with confidence.

It’s not going to go away and as such, it needs an overhaul. As Hendo noted post-match and both Keifer and Tommy said, it’s confusing at best for everyone and it really does suck the life out of the game in its current form.

Slow-motion replays solve absolutely nothing because you can make anything look ten times worse by doing so, isolate any incident from a set-piece and you’re bound to pick up something if that’s the way we’re going about it.

Toe-nails, armpits and nose hairs aren’t giving anyone an advantage and you do feel the attacker’s need to be given the benefit of the doubt in that instance. For me, it was to stop obvious incidents like Raheem Sterling being called offside at Man City when he was clearly yards onside.

Would I be sad or aggrieved if VAR was to disappear – no. And you feel most would say similar and that in itself says everything you need to know about its place in football currently.

For more news relating to West Ham, visit our sister site WHU Latest Live.

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