Mauricio Pochettino had a lot to say after Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park today. The match was a stinker from start to finish, both weird and deeply contentious, with two VAR checks for goals and a freak injury to Everton midfielder Andre Gomes after Son Heung-Min clipped him from behind.
Gomes seemingly broke his ankle just before a collision with Serge Aurier, and match official Martin Atkinson controversially gave Son a red card after first indicating yellow. Gomes was stretchered off the pitch and taken to the hospital, with Son in tears and heartbroken on the field. Son was later consoled by Everton captain Seamus Coleman in the changing room.
After the match, Pochettino made his feelings about the incident plain, but the bulk of his ire was directed not directly at Atkinson, but at VAR, and most critically the decision NOT to review the Son-Gomes incident on the pitch.
“[Son] was devastated but now he’s better. I think the players from Everton came to console him.
“In the moment it was a little bit confusing because no one knew on the pitch when [the injury happened], everyone believed it was a bad tackle. After when everyone watched on TV, [it was clear] the action was very, very bad luck.
“We all feel sorry for Andre and I want to send my best wishes to him and his family. In this tough moment we want to send on behalf of the squad and everyone else our best wishes to recover soon.
“We [have] talk about VAR because VAR needed to check if it was a bad tackle from Sonny and judge the action not judge what happened after, that was very bad luck for Andre. We feel very disappointed with this type of situation with VAR. VAR is to help the referee.
“I’m more confused with the situation. I was talking to the referee and they need help. They need to go check on the screen. They have the screen, why not?
“I think the game was under control for Tottenham and I think we really believed that we would win the game at the end. The problem is [now] we’re playing with one less. We then concede a goal playing with one less and it was very, very tough. It was completely unfair for Sonny and completely unfair for Tottenham.”
Pochettino said that he was not sure whether the club would appeal the card or not.
This is unusually candid talk coming from Pochettino, who has maintained a regular defense of Premier League officials, or if not a defense, has declined to criticize them for calls that go against Spurs. And it’s interesting that even here he’s not really even criticizing Atkinson. Instead, he directs his ire towards the Premier League officials as a unit, especially with regards to the implementation and use of VAR.
The irony is that the Son-Gomes incident was the only controversial moment of the match that did NOT involve VAR... and this time it should have. There were two other major VAR checks during this match — a penalty shout after Son was taken down in Everton’s box that was upheld as a non-penalty by VAR, and a check on a Dele handball that took over three minutes and was eventually ruled incidental.
Both sets of fans were livid about how VAR was used in both situations, and it makes the decision to not use VAR at all with regards to Son’s tackle on Gomes all the more bewildering. This time, Pochettino wasn’t afraid to say so.
“It’s very difficult to understand that this type of situation happened. This type of decision it was clear that it was never the intention of Son to [injure Gomes]. It’s unbelievable that he received a red card. I’m not complaining about the VAR but please we have to use it in the best way. If not, we are creating a big mess and we are changing the spirit of football.
“I was the first or the only coach or manager in the Premier League that was against the VAR. I said after when the VAR was there for the Premier League, I said OK it will help us all. But this type of situation you need help as the referee’s decision was yellow card, and then VAR changed the decision. There are a lot of examples are not clear. When yes? When no? When the referee? When the VAR? It’s creating a big mess. For me, I love [that] the referee is the boss on the pitch and they make mistakes like we make mistakes. I think we need to review everything.”
We don’t know what the fallout over Son’s red card will be yet. Already three former Everton players — Gary Cahill, Louis Saha, and Pat Nevin — have all come out in support of Son and critical of Atkinson changing his card from yellow to red after viewing the injury to Gomes. As of now, he’s banned for the next three matches, possibly longer if the league considers the tackle to be “violent conduct.”
For now, all Spurs fans can do is debate... and wait.