It doesn’t seem like long ago that we last faced Bournemouth. I guess that is because it wasn’t that long ago. We faced every other team in the Premier League before we met them, but just a few weeks later here we go again. At least we are spared a third meeting in a month thanks to the fact that Wigan beat them comfortably in the FA Cup third round on Wednesday night, which means that we face a trip to the north-west in round four.
The video assistant refereeing system (VAR) has been much in the news recently after it is beginning to be trialled in some FA Cup matches. When I wrote my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford a couple of years ago I devoted some of the pages within it to championing the VAR as so many decisions seemed to be going against us in that final season at our old ground. If the system had been in operation we may have even finished high enough to qualify for the Champions League, but seeing our performances in the lesser European competition then perhaps it was a good thing!
But no, I am strongly in favour of a system that increases the chances of eliminating errors by officials. The system isn’t perfect and won’t rectify all their mistakes, but it will help. It seems to me in this initial trial period that those people like myself who are in favour reckon it is doing a good job so far, whereas those not in favour do not. Similarly those managers who are benefiting from the decisions are in favour, and those on the receiving end are not. Our own Karren Brady came out in her Sun column most definitely against. It would be interesting to know her reaction if we were relegated by one point this season and then think back to the end of our visit to Bournemouth.
You will remember that we had three points wrapped up in the fourth minute of added on time when Bournemouth scored an offside goal that was also handball. The VAR system would have ruled out the goal (as would any sensible referee who would have done the same after the assistant raised his flag) but inexplicably the goal stood and we are now two points worse off than we would have been.
That means we go into this game five points clear of the drop zone on 25 points, and just one ahead of today’s opponents. If there was any justice then we would be on 27 and they would be on 23. Of course those in opposition to the VAR cite as one of their reasons that poor decisions even themselves out over the course of a season. Of course they do not, but in today’s game I am looking forward to the offside goal scored with an arm by the team in claret and blue that is allowed to stand.