Time for this week's VAR thread.

We need to start by going through defensive handball again, and how it has developed across leagues in the last few years, because quite simply this isn't going anyway.

Also, a key section on use of the pitchside monitor.

Long one today.....
Defensive handball was given a "soft" change at the 2018 World Cup, making the rules far stricter.

It led to 9 penalties for handball in that tournament, including in the final given against Croatia.

This change was then written into the LOTG for 2019-20.
However, many leagues adopted the FIFA interpretation of defensive handball immediately, which led to a spike in handball decisions.

This rise cannot be simply attributed to the introduction of VAR, as the Bundesliga and Serie A used VAR in 2017-18.
Looking at this chart, you can see the rise in handball pens from the use of the FIFA interpretation in 2018 in some leagues, and in 2019-20 when it was written into the Laws of the Game.

Compare that to the number of penalties for handball awarded in the Premier League.
During this time, the Premier League continued with its own interpretation of defensive handball, deciding against toeing the line with FIFA/the IFAB.

We saw a modest rise, over two seasons, from a low figure of 6 in 2017-18.
So here we are in 2020-21, FIFA has taken control and insists leagues apply laws to the letter.

FIFA wants uniformity across leagues and competitions.

And that means the change to defensive handball in England is going to be like being smacked round the head with a club.
There is no easy way through this. At present, it's a small sample size through 18 games in the Premier League.

But we're on course to have a similar tally as seen in Italy, in the 50s and a handball penalty every seven matches.

That's a similar ratio as the 2018 World Cup.
I have spoken to people involved in refereeing, most notably in the Bundesliga, and it has been confirmed the three handball penalties given in the Premier League (Koch, Lindelof, Doherty) would all be given in Germany.

So, why did Germany see its numbers FALL last season?
The interpretation of handball didn't change in Germany. It is believed that the players have adapted their behaviour, to position their bodies and act in a certain way to avoid contact with the ball.

I know the PGMOL hope this will happen in the PL too.
Let's look at the wording of Law 12, and get into the nuance of its interpretation in practice, as FIFA/the IFAB intends.

You can see why people are struggling to understand it.

The highlighted text seems to suggest it's impossible for handball from a deflection.
However, the key words are now highlighted in red. "Except for the above offences".

That means the first handball offences listed are king. If they happen, the rest does not matter.
With the Matt Doherty decision, the ball came off the heel of a teammate and onto his outstretched arm.

Many couldn't believe this was given due to that deflection, but if you now look at the blue section, part of the key text, deflection off another player isn't relevant.
The over-riding issue with the wording of the law is that the sections in blue and yellow appear, to any layman reading them, in conflict with each other.

A fan of either club can pick a clause to fit their argument.

Key above all else is the position of the arm.
Here's a handball in Spain from the weekend, at the start of the video.

It's very similar, in terms of arm position, to the Trent Alexander-Arnold handball vs. Man City that wasn't given last season.

Spain is second only to Italy on handball pens.
So what of Italy, which had 57 handball penalties out of a record-breaking total of 187 spot kicks last season?

Referees' chief Nicola Rizzoli has admitted "some penalties were too soft" and wants defenders to play "without having their arms clamped to their side like penguins."
Rizzoli added "if the arm cannot not be retracted, it cannot be punishable with a penalty".

He used the example of Marten de Roon’s handball in Juventus vs. Atalanta towards the end of last season as a decision which won't be given this season.

2 mins:
On Sunday, we got the first example of what Rizzoli was getting at. Last season, this Bonucci handball would be a penalty. But now, due to close proximity, it was not awarded.

This, of course, is one example and we have to see how it develops generally. https://twitter.com/MaxBrainymage/status/1307802450309640192?s=20
To conclude on defensive handball, it is going to take a LOT of getting used to in the Premier League. It's a massive change.

But sadly the FIFA/the IFAB interpretation does mean there will be a lot more pens. We will have to see just how many that is.
On position of the arm for handball, we are obviously going to have some decisions which are borderline and cause debate.

But if Gabriel is scoring with the top of his arm one week, he cannot give a penalty away for the same the following week.

Same for Chris Wood.
Onto the use of pitchside monitors. I said two things at the start of the season:

1) They would not be a magic wand for VAR
2) Don't expect them to be used on all decisions

The monitors are not there for the ref to double check, they are there for clear and obvious mistakes.
So in terms of the red card decision for John Egan vs. Aston Villa, you have to think of it this way:

>Is there any clear evidence that this should not be a red card?

And not:

>Is there any clear evidence that this should be a red card?

There's a key difference there.
If the referee has given the red card, we are not looking for evidence to prove it's a red.

We are looking for evidence that the ref has definitely got it wrong.

Managers are saying the ref "should go over and check" are not grasping the VAR process (like it or not).
The monitor isn't there for the ref to make sure he has got things right, which is why it won't be used six times a game.

The monitor is there for the referee to check he's got it wrong, and if the VAR doesn't believe there's a clear and obvious error it won't be used.
We have already had Slaven Bilic and Chris Wilder, plus many pundits, say the ref must go and have a look himself.

Simple fact: If a decision is correct in law there is no need for a ref to use the monitor to confirm a decision. That is not the point of the system.
Some asked if Matt Targett should have been sent off, as last man and he wasn't making a genuine attempt to win the ball (which cancels double jeopardy).

For the nuance of this law, you need to think "was it a deliberate attempt to play the man" for a red. This was just clumsy.
That's long enough for this week, pretty sure there will be loads more questions to come....

PS: I hate defensive handball too so don't shoot the messenger.
So from my understanding, this is the logic of the wording of the handball law:

Arms only make the body *naturally* bigger when by the side, because it's how your arms sit.

If your arms are away from the body, that makes the body unnaturally bigger than it actually is.
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