Sheffield United: Chris Wilder and the great VAR debate
Last week, before applying the finishing touches to his team's preparations for this match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder joined his counterparts from 19 other Premier League clubs to discuss one of football's burning issues.
The fact they convened a meeting in the first place confirms VAR, despite being hailed as a cure for all evils, is not working quite as it should. After watching another dubious decision by a supposedly foolproof system nearly cost the visitors dear in London, Wilder admitted he was sick of commenting on video referees rather than what happens on the pitch.
Unfortunately for him, Jonthan Moss' debatable grasp of geometry, procedure and computer technology meant events surrounding David McGoldrick's disallowed second-half goal dominated the post-match media conference. Having fallen behind when Heung-Min Son pounced early in the second-half the Republic of Ireland international thought he had dragged United level only for Moss, three minutes after the ball nestled in Spurs' net, to rule John Lundstram was offside. Press box monitors, relaying Moss' deliberations to journalists in real time, suggested the line he had drawn to judge the midfielder's position was not only crooked but misplaced as well.
"We've looked at it and went to a Premier League meeting last week," Wilder, who later saw George Baldock equalise instead, explained. "Where does it get re-set too? Where, in what passage (of play) do you start making a judgement. We attacked down the left hand side as well."
"The length of that stoppage, it doesn't do anyone any good," Wilder added. "They told us it had to be clear and obvious. I'm just glad the second one was given. My heart sank at the time, I don't mind admitting it. But I suppose we've just got to take it."
Although Wilder went on to acknowledge changes need to be made in terms of its application, he remains an advocate of VAR. The trouble is, as he discovered at his get-together with the likes of Sean Dyche and Marco Silva, the coaching profession can not reach a consensus on what these should be. Silva, whose Everton side were beaten by United earlier this term, effectively wants VAR scrapped. The discord between coaches, coupled with doubts about its frame of reference, does not bode well for the future as the governing bodies and PGMOL, which represents referees and officials, attempt to plot a course through the present chaos.
"I'm tired of talking about VAR," Wilder said. "I know Marco at Everton, decisions go against clubs. We have to be careful with it. But it does seem every press conference, it is the major talking point. The main talking point for me was seeing my team go toe to toe with a team that got to the Champions League final last year."
"We're asked our opinions on VAR," he continued. "We debate and look at clips. We don't always agree though."