Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he is in favour of using Video Assistant Referees (VAR) despite two penalty decisions going against his team with the system being used in the Blues’ 0-0 draw with Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
According to BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty, Conte said: “I am very positive about VAR because when there is a big doubt during the game it is right the referee and the other referee watch the video to check and make the best decision. I think everyone wants less mistakes during the game and I think this could be very positive for sure.”
Referee Martin Atkinson turned to VAR on four occasions during the stalemate, two of which were penalty claims for Chelsea; a coming together between Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Victor Moses, and Danny Welbeck’s tackle on Cesc Fabregas in the final moments of the game.
Upon consultation of VAR, Atkinson decided neither incident warranted a penalty.
Although Conte was positive about the system in his press conference—perhaps having had the chance to review the footage himself—his reaction at the time to the latter penalty claim was markedly different, per Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella:
Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella
Conte unhappy about the Fabregas penalty decision. VAR doesn’t end football controversy. #CHEARS #CFC
The Italian’s one criticism related to VAR was that not enough time was added on to make up for the time spent reviewing the footage: “You have to improve and understand that when you start to use VAR you then need to add more extra time. When there are doubts about two situations in the game then the extra time is seven, eight or nine minutes.”
According to ESPN FC’s Liam Twomey, the use of VAR to review Welbeck’s challenge on Fabregas also caused some confusion in the press box:
Liam Twomey @liam_twomey
No penalty after consultation – though I can’t even be 100% sure that’s what he was checking. We’re all in the dark #cfc
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also gave his take on VAR, per McNulty:
“It was interesting. It was a cause of anxiety as it took a bit of time to make the second decision with Welbeck and Fabregas, but overall it worked well. But between the penalty action or penalty not action, with the time taken it would have been strange to come back to the penalty.”
The match marked the second time VAR technology has been used in English football, having debuted in Brighton & Hove Albion’s FA Cup third-round win over Crystal Palace, and it has also been used throughout the season in Serie A and the Bundesliga.
Though some teething problems in its implementation are to be expected, and some incidents remain divisive even with the benefit of replays, VAR should lead to more correct decisions being made and thus far that has been borne out in its limited uses.
As times goes on, officials will likely become more adept at using the system and as a result reduce any confusion among supporters or the media and the time taken to make decisions.