The biggest talking point after Tottenham Hotspur’s 6-1 win over Rochdale at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday was the Video Assisted Referee, much to the consternation of football fans and pundits. The first half of the match saw a total of eight minutes of review for various VAR-related infractions, and while five minutes of time was added to the end of the half, the effect was one of disjointed, slap-dash disorganization and terrible implementation, regardless of what one thinks of the actual decisions reached.
After the match, which saw the VAR disallow two Tottenham goals in the first half, Mauricio Pochettino expressed doubts about using the new system, which was being trialed ahead of possible implementation in the Premier League next season.
“I think you, the fans and myself, we are all agreed, watching today’s game, I think maybe it’s so early (to implement VAR) next season.
“I am happy because the job is done and we’re in the quarter-final. That was our objective, but the first half was a little bit embarrassing for everyone. I think it’s difficult to keep focus on playing football. I am not sure that that system is going to help. I love football as football was born. That is why we love the game that we know.
“I think we have the best referees in Europe and the world. I think we don’t need too much. I think football is about making mistakes. Like us, we make a mistake, the players make a mistake and the referee can make a mistake.
“I think today everyone was confused and including the referee. I think we are not going to help the football (with VAR) and I think we are going to change the game that we love. That is why I am open to help and try to judge and to analyze and try to make it better. If we are going to use this system we need to be clear what is going to happen in every single action and how.
“I think we can talk a lot about this. I don’t have enough vocabulary to explain how I feel. Maybe another day we need some meetings and I need a good translator next to me. But I think that is the problem. Rather than talking about football we are talking about a machine. That is my worry.”
The disallowed goals didn’t hurt Spurs in the end — they scored five goals in the second half and put Rochdale to the sword — but the match was considered an embarrassment for the technology. The frequent stops for official review meant that the match was played in a series of short bursts, instead of a game of constant movement and action.
Danny Rose, never one to mince words, was extremely vocal about his displeasure of how the VAR was implemented in the match.
“It’s just complete nonsense if you ask me, waiting around not know what’s going on. It’s ridiculous. Ridiculous.
“It was interesting, very frustrating and just confusing more than anything. That’s just overshadowed a good performance by us and a good performance by Rochdale. There’s no word to describe it except frustrating, even though we won 6-1.
“I’ve had a few messages from friends saying it’s a shambles, the VAR. It’s been the same in every round it’s been used. How can you go from a free-flowing football game for 90 minutes to stopping for one or two minutes for a decision?
”I honestly have no idea how to improve it but what I experienced tonight was not good at all. It is what it is and we just have to get on with it.”
VAR is already in use in MLS and has been trialed in a number of different competitions across various club and international competitions, but the FA Cup is the first time that it has been used for matches that involve Premier League clubs.
The biggest frustration appears to be less that Spurs had two goals disallowed — though that certainly rankles some Tottenham supporters — but more the sense that the way it was used allowed the match to descend into chaos and confusion. That, more than anything, is what annoyed Danny Rose, and appears to be the biggest hurdle that the technology has to overcome to make it an accepted part of the game in England.