Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville clash in lively debate over VAR after Aston Villa are denied late equaliser at West Ham
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville clashed over VAR in a lively on-air discussion after Ollie Watkins had a stoppage-time goal disallowed for offside in Aston Villa’s 2-1 defeat at West Ham on Monday night.
The former Brentford forward, who had earlier missed a second-half penalty, side-footed the ball home to secure what would have been a deserved point for Dean Smith’s men.
However, following a two-and-a-half minute deliberation Watkins was adjusted to be beyond the last Hammers defender, Angelo Ogbonna, and the effort was chalked off.
Speaking after the game, Carragher admitted he was a ‘big advocate’ of VAR before it was introduced in the Premier League, but says that is now not the case due to its detrimental impact on fans across England.
He said on Monday Night Football: “The offside decision… obviously when you do the lines you do the lines. You actually look at how long these shirts are.. would that have made a difference? You have to make them shorter in some ways.
“He’s [Watkins] actually getting grabbled by the defender [Ogbonna] – he’s trying to get off him.
“The fact he’s trying to get off him means that he’s offside. That’s the frustrating thing now with VAR.
“It’s going off the shirt now because the handball rule has been changed. But you’re looking at it and it actually could be a penalty.
“He’s actually stopping him moving as he’s got to use his arms and then his arm is offside. There was a similar one with [Patrick] Bamford for Leeds against Crystal Palace a few weeks ago.
“I think it’s frustrating for football fans that we’re losing goals from situations like that.
“I was a massive fan of VAR before it came in. And what I mean by that is I think the people who brought VAR in weren’t trying to ruin the game, they were trying to improve and help the game.
“I almost didn’t say anything about it at the start and was almost defending it because there was bound to be teething problems and that was normal, but give it a chance.
“I just think now we’re at the stage with VAR that there are good things and bad things, but the majority of the people in this country I don’t think haven’t bought [into] VAR. I don’t think people are enjoying the football as much.
“I tell you what the biggest thing for me with VAR is that I almost felt sad watching a game. When Scotland won the shoot-out [against Serbia] the goalkeeper [David Marshall] makes a huge save.
“It was possibly the biggest moment of his career and massive for Scotland getting to a [major] tournament, but he couldn’t celebrate at the time!
“He had to stop and wait and look at the officials thinking ‘please God make sure my foot hasn’t come off that line’. He couldn’t celebrate that moment and I think that’s a big thing with supporters now.
“I was a big advocate of VAR, but if I could go back or certainly use it in a different way I think I would, no doubt.”
Meanwhile, Manchester United legend Neville still wants VAR to be used, but believes some of the laws must be changed as a matter of priority to appease disgruntled fans.
“I was for VAR and I’m still for it,” Neville said. “I’m against a couple of the rule changes. I don’t think the offside rule is clear enough.
“The new handball rule, which, to be fair we’ve all been against, has created more problems for the game.
“I think that with offside, do we want accurate decisions? Yes. Footballers and coaches, for 25, 30, 40 years have complained about referees and a lack of accuracy.
“These referees are not good enough, they can’t keep up with the game. So, we brought VAR in for the correct reasons because the game is so quick, and we want accuracy with so much at stake.
“What I would say is it does need refining and it does need to be improved.
“The biggest problem I have with it at the moment, and I am against the grain, is the fans hate it. I have a problem with it because ultimately the game should be about enjoyment for the fans.
“I am for it, but I’m aware the fans hate it, and that is my concern. I want accuracy. I played football at the top and I whinged for years about referees, so I want accuracy.”
Villa boss Smith said he could not understand the late VAR decision given against his side.
“The goal Ollie has scored at the end, they’ve given it offside for his arm, but the only reason his arm is out there is because he’s getting fouled,” Smith said.
“So he either scores or it’s a penalty. I still don’t understand that. I’m ok if it’s a red line and he says it’s offside because that’s the rule.
“But if his arm is up there because he’s getting fouled then that’s a penalty.”
On the other hand, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice admitted he was grateful to VAR after Watkins’ late effort was ruled out.
Rice said that the longer the delay during the VAR decision-making process, the more likely it is for an offside decision to go against the side who appear to have scored.
“I’ve got to be,” Rice told Sky Sports. “Matty Targett has whipped in a great cross and luckily enough Ollie Watkins is offside, it’s small margins.
“Angelo [Ogbonna] was saying it was a foul, I didn’t really see a foul, so to get the offside, and obviously so late on, it was probably an equaliser, so to come away with the three points, we’ve got to be happy.
“When a VAR decision is made quickly you know it’s going to be goal, so the longer we were stood around on the pitch, we knew it was going to be offside.”
Rice would, however, like to see some changes made to VAR ahead of the 2021/2022 campaign.
“To be honest the lads are pretty laid back about it,” he added. “Some weeks we get decisions and some weeks we don’t.
“The Liverpool game at the weekend – [James] Milner came out and said it needs a change and I think there does need to be some tweaks to it.
“I think there needs to be change going into next season because I don’t think they’re going to change it this season.”