GW19 Stats – Better With Var

Premier League GW19 – Thursday 26th December 2019

There’s no doubt that the decision to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VAR) into the Premier League was controversial and although it was meant to help the officials on the pitch, you only get the feeling that it has perhaps made things worse.

Disallowed goals by the smallest of margins and subsequent frustration both at home or at the ground, has seen fans consider walking away from the game for good and leave the beautiful game behind.

That’s because there is a belief that VAR is killing in the game and although it is obvious there are some major teething problems, perhaps we need to look at this from a more fundamental point of view and it is one, which also asks a very pertinent question?

Are We Seeing More Or Less Goals With VAR?

On the basis of last season, there were a total of 1,072 goals scored and none of them with a hint of VAR approval, which means that on average there were 2.82 goals scored per game. However, how does that match up with the 2019/20 campaign?

Now before I reveal the answer, you must remember that this comes with a rather large caveat and that is, the true measure of VAR’s success will only be at the end of this season. The reason for this, is that the two sample sizes will be the same and this will give us the fairest comparison of all.

That said, the Premier League has actually seen more average goals per game with VAR this season, at a figure of 2.83 goals per season. This is taken after 177 matches (at time of writing and 502 goals have been scored – Riyad Mahrez with the 500th goal of the season)

Of course, we need to be careful to herald VAR because the sample size is less than half of what we are comparing against. However, it does make for an interesting discussion point. While although we have seen a small increase, we do need to also consider an external factor.

That being the absolute maulings that both Watford and Southampton received, as they conceded eight and nine goals to Manchester City and Leicester respectively – something that undoubtedly bumps up the average tally for this season.

If you were to normalise those thrashings to a more respectable 3-0 loss, the average goal per game ratio would be a shade less this season. But with that said, if we start changing the outcomes of matches, then we are only skewing our data.

It has seemed that more goals are getting chalked off for the pettiest of reasons and even acts such as encroachment seem to be making a comeback. Although there is a case for the goal count to be even higher, is this balanced out the other way?

Are we seeing goals that may not have stood last season, then being allowed, therefore VAR is showing it can actually be a benefit to the game and more importantly show that it is working for its primary use.

Ultimately the introduction of VAR, was one that was meant to help the officials and although no-one has an issue with that, it is the way the technology is being utilised and if anything, making its use harder than it needs to be.

With the threshold for change being so high, it has meant the use of the pitchside monitor has been removed and if that is to be the case, why have the monitor in the first place? Either make use of it or just remove it altogether.

This halfway house logic, is probably the biggest bugbear of them all and you do get the feeling that the monitor will finally be used next season, due to the negative feedback that VAR has received throughout the campaign.

That may add an additional stoppage to the game, but if the referee went to the monitor a lot sooner, then you wouldn’t need four minutes of indecision from someone who may have a different opinion to the man in the middle.

Yes the implementation of VAR has been far from perfect, but you have to admit that the technology is more help than hindrance and when you consider that sports like Cricket and Rugby have taken years to fine tune their own technologies, a little patience might eventually end up being a greater virtue.

Tottenham Fan. Football Writer, Podcaster and Statistician.

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