Mikel Arteta's VAR rant examined
Arsenal hid a dreaded “vote of confidence” in Mikel Arteta within their statement backing his rant against the VAR decisions at Newcastle. Concerned board members and senior executives decided overnight on Saturday that it was wrong to leave the Gunners’ boss as the lone voice questioning the validity of Newcastle’s goal in the 1-0 win – along with a number of other marginal decisions.
With the first rumblings of pressure falling on the Spaniard’s shoulders after nearly four years in charge, the VAR issue was seen as the ideal way to show the continued solidarity Arteta has with the club as a whole.
A late draw against Chelsea disguised how Arsenal had been outplayed for much of the match at the Emirates and defeat against another Champions League rival Newcastle so soon after Arsenal were dumped out of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday has put an unwanted spotlight on how Arteta will deal with a rare down-turn in results.
The frustration of having three very tight decisions in the build up to Newcastle’s goal all go against his side – whether the ball went out of play, the possibility of a foul and a question of offside – led to some strong language from Arteta. In various post-match interviews he used words such as “not acceptable”, “embarrassing”, “a disgrace”.
In the cold light of day, those in the background at the north London club were concerned at the social media noise emanating from Arteta’s robust comments. And with results on the field going against the team this week, they wanted to ensure Arteta did not look like an isolated figure.
More important than the specifics of the VAR calls in question, this was an opportunity for the club to show backing for their manager at the first suggestion of a downturn in fortunes. Luckily, there is an undercurrent of more worthy causes against the way the new technology is being implemented which such a message taps into.
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Liverpool’s entirely justifiable concerns about their treatment at Spurs led the way and an earlier apology from Howard Webb to Wolves about a penalty incident involving United goalkeeper Andre Onana. This was on top of 10 letters of apology that were written the previous season by Webb’s predecessor Mike Riley.
Newcastle’s goal against Arsenal may have been anything but the perfect example, but it is clear something needs to be done to improve the implementation of VAR throughout the Premier League. So Arsenal have been applauded behind the scenes by other Premier League clubs for taking a stance. At the Emirates, though, undoubtedly the main concern is to keep their manager feeling supported and loved – and no amount of social media abuse is going to knock that off the top of the agenda.
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