As of Sunday morning, Arsenal’s breathless 3-2 win over Bournemouth earlier in the afternoon will be remembered for left-footed belter Reiss Nelson, who volleyed into the top corner in the 97th minute.
Phillip Billing may be given a footnote for starting the competition with the second-fastest goal Premier League History. But Marcos Senesi’s header, Thomas Partey’s tap-in and Ben White’s equalizer will already fade into the background.
However, had Nelson not struck such a sweet strike, Arsenal fans might have been walking away from the Emirates Stadium with just a point, questioning interference – or lack thereof – from VAR once again.
Just three weeks ago, the VAR acting on Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Brentford failed to detect that Christian Norgaard had strayed before the visitors equalised. While none of the non-decisions against Bournemouth were bad enough to cost John Brooks his job, a fate befell Lee Mason afterwards. Brentford The debacle, they certainly were controversial.
Here’s everything there is to know about the four different handball appeals that Arsenal waved against Bournemouth.
Arsenal fell behind to Billing’s opener within ten seconds but dominated possession and territory thereafter. Bournemouth did well to blunt their hosts in the first half but were helped by a kindness from VAR after half an hour.
Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham leapt at Fabio Vieira for a header but missed the ball, falling on his outstretched arm inside the penalty box before being quickly cleared.
as per latest rules of the gamewhich clearly underlines that any part of the arm below the armpit cannot be used, the ball landed on an illegal part of Mepham’s body.
The defender may have made his body “unnaturally large”, but VAR clearly held that the position of his hand “results in or is justified by the movement of the player’s body for that specific position”. Essentially, the jumping action knocks his arm out of the spot where the ball hit him.
Senesi put Bournemouth 2–0 up after half-time but Thomas Partey and Ben White pulled Arsenal level with 20 minutes to play. Shortly after the equaliser, Bukayo Saka made a remarkable display of sneaking skills towards the byline, sending the ball back into the six-yard crowd box.
Jack Stephens was at the front of the queue. The Bournemouth central centre-back deflected Saka’s cutback onto the post but appeared to be leaning towards the ball with his hand. Saka immediately appealed for a penalty, slapping his own limb hard in the direction of the referee, but neither the officials on the pitch nor their video-aided colleagues paid much attention.
The incident – which may not have been investigated by VAR – is more complicated as the ball hit the T-shirt line of Stephens’ arm, just in question as to whether it could be considered a handball.
Furthermore, Stephens shifts his entire weight towards the ball rather than his elbows out and so could make a reasonable argument that he did not make himself “unnaturally large”. Either way, Stephens didn’t have to state his case as Saka’s appeals fell on deaf ears.
armory Bournemouth continued to apply the pressure, registering 30 shots until the final whistle – the most of any team in any Premier League match this season. Two of those efforts were blocked in quick succession by the arms of the Bournemouth defenders.
Martin Odegaard was responsible for 11 of Arsenal’s attempts, five of which hit a Bournemouth defender before reaching the net. Senesi, as the image above on the left shows, fired one of these efforts away from goal with his right hand.
This is perhaps the most egregious overlooked decision for Arsenal as the defender apparently makes his body “unnaturally large” in an attempt to stop Odegaard from scoring. VAR may have held that it was not a clear and obvious error, but Arsenal will surely be arguing that Nelson didn’t make a save for the Gunners at the death.
Gabriel Magalhas scored a second try in the 80th minute. Forward for a corner, the deceptively exuberant centre-back fired a header towards goal, which was literally cleared away by Billing. There is nothing in the laws that allows for self-preservation, which may have been in Billing’s mind with a ball flying towards his face, but the Dane would have escaped punishment by being close to Gabriel’s initial effort .
In the end, VAR inaction didn’t cost Arsenal on Saturday afternoon – this time.