clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool need to get over themselves and focus on rehabilitating a broken VAR

You got football’d. It happens to every club. Move on.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp is apparently On One.™ Liverpool admittedly were the victims of an egregious mistake by VAR that upheld the on-field decision by the officials to wave off a Luis Diaz goal as offside. Initially after the match, Klopp said all the right things — it was a bad call, we’re upset, it shouldn’t have happened, but we need move on.

That’s not what he’s saying today. In the wake of Liverpool releasing a statement saying they intend to ‘escalate’ their protests to the league over the situation, Klopp held a press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Europa League match against Union Saint-Gilloise tomorrow where he suggested that the Premier League should force a replay of the match between Tottenham and Liverpool for sporting integrity reasons.

“I saw the outcome, the goal, and it didn’t count so I wasn’t waiting for the audio and hoping I found out [why it wasn’t given]. It’s really important that as big as football is, that we deal with it in a proper way. All of the people involved, the referee, linesmen, VAR... they didn’t do it on purpose. We should not forget that. It was a mistake, an obvious mistake.

“There should have been solutions for it. Not as manager of Liverpool but more as a football person I think the only outcome should be a replay. It probably won’t happen, the argument is that it would open the gate for everyone to ask for it.

“I think this is unprecedented. I’ve spent 50 years in football and I’m used to wrong decisions, but something like that as far as I can remember has never happened. That’s why I think a replay is right. If it happens again, I think a replay is the right thing to do or the referee [should have] the opportunity to bring both coaches together and say, ‘Sorry, we made a mistake but we can resolve it’. And score the goal.

“In this specific game, we conceded two minutes after. All things depend on each other, it would have been different. So that’s one thing from my view on it.

“I’m not angry with any one of [the officials] at all. You should not go for them, they made a mistake and felt horrible that night I’m 100 per cent sure. That’s enough for me, nobody needs further punishment. We should discuss it on a completely normal basis without emotions.”

This is an incredible and just and borderline unhinged take from the manager of Liverpool Football Club to take what is admittedly an egregiously bad decision by the match officials and call for something as drastic as a replay. It’s mind-blowing. Not only is it wildly disproportionate to the end result, but to force a replay would negate everything that happened after it that Liverpool and Tottenham have agency for, including the two correctly assessed red cards given to Liverpool. (As an aside, Liverpool appealed the red card to Curtis Jones for his tackle on Yves Bissouma, which the league rejected.)

And it’s not just Liverpool fans. I’m seeing all kinds of insane takes, including this one from noted football writer and pundit Tim Vickery who mind-bogglingly suggests that Spurs should voluntarily allow Liverpool to score against them in the return fixture at Anfield to somehow address this miscarriage of justice.

Of course, Liverpool has every right to be upset. We’ve all seen the video now, released by the Premier League, of the VAR officials’ communication breakdown that led to the “check complete” call that wrongfully upheld the call as offside when it should’ve been overturned and given as a goal. The officials, bound by the rules of the game as currently written, were then unable to stop the match and fix it, because a new phase of play had already started. This is objectively hilarious to me, and I will also be the first to admit that Liverpool have a point about how stupid this whole thing is. Were it my club, I’d still be fuming about it.

But I wouldn’t be calling for a replay. The oversized reaction to this single incident speaks to how the implementation of VAR, or at least in English football, has warped people’s brains. VAR was hailed as football’s savior — it was supposed to get every call correct, such that we’d never have to argue about match official decisions ever again. See? Technology will liberate us from the fallible meat-stuff that leads to wrong calls. This player is clearly offside, or that player obviously committed a red card offense, it’s right there on camera. The system works!

That’s obviously not how it works. VAR is a tool used by humans, and humans make mistakes even with newer, cooler, high-tech tools at their disposal. What happened to Luis Diaz and Liverpool was an obvious mistake, one that should’ve been caught and corrected. It wasn’t, because match officials are humans who make mistakes. It’s not about justice, or about perfection. It’s about embracing the fact that no system is, or ever will be, perfect. Replaying the Tottenham-Liverpool match would not only be an overcorrection, but would set a precedent for who knows how many replayed football matches due to “mistakes” made by match officials.

So Liverpool should be mad. But you know what, I’m still fuming about the wrongfully-attributed handball on Moussa Sissoko in the 2019 Champions League final that changed the course of the entire match. Spurs were rightfully upset about that too but didn’t see fit to demand that UEFA replay the match because they lost. (That rule, it should be noted, has since been changed, which is small comfort, but still a positive outcome.)

And that should be the what Liverpool should be doing now — focus their energies on fixing the system, pushing for substantial and meaningful change to how VAR and officiating works in English football so that incidents like this are less likely to happen again. Perhaps that’s implementation of a semi-automated offside system like what debuted in the Women’s World Cup this past summer and in the Champions League. Or a more transparent way for supporters to hear from the match officials and understand their reasoning for various calls. I would absolutely support that, as would I think the vast majority of football fans. The way VAR is implemented at present is broken, and it needs a comprehensive overhaul or things like this will happen again.

A replay doesn’t solve the problem, and it’s time Liverpool stops fixating on a single result. They got football’d. A lot of teams do, every season! It’s happened to Spurs, many times! Not a week goes by that pundits, fans, and players don’t incessantly argue about calls made by officials — including VAR — that change the outcome of matches. This one is many times more egregious, but at its core, no different. It’s time Liverpool and their supporters get over themselves and focus on things they can actually change instead of whining that the system has treated their club, and only their club, unfairly.