In three weeks the curtain will be drawn on the 2022/23 Premier League season.
In truth the Premier League is living up to it’s billing as one of the most unpredictable league in the world. Despite Manchester City’s domineering of the league in the past six seasons, winning four league titles and at the verge of a fifth title, third in a row, it is still too close to call on which club, City or Arsenal that will claim the title on May 28.
Reinforcing this unpredictability is Arsenal, not tipped as a Top Four contender before the league kicked off in August, but surprisingly, are challenging for the title. Newcastle were never tipped to make the Top Four, but with three weeks left, playing Champions League next season is almost a certainty for them. Results of league games on Monday also reinforced this unpredictability status. If not, how does one explain Everton, a team at the throes of relegation for almost all season, thrashing Brighton 5-1 at the AME stadium and for the time being out of the relegation waters or Fulham hitting Leicester 5-3 in their desperate bid to exit relegation zone.
But this is unlike what obtains in Serie A where Nigerian Victor Osimhen powered Napoli to the Scudetto for the first time in 33 years penultimate Thursday and their third league win. Napoli won the title with 80 points with five games left for play.
In Spain, Barcelona 13 points lead with five games left means they are just a win away from dethroning third placed Real Madrid with 68 points. Atletico Madrid are second with 69 points. In France, Paris Saint Germain are seating on knife-edge in Ligue 1. The perennial champions are on top of the table with 78 points to second place Lens on 72 points with four games left in the season. PSG need two more wins to retain the title. For the first time in many seasons, the certainty of Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga is dependent on Borussia Dortmund faltering on the way. Having played same number of games, Bayern top Borussia with a point with five games left for play.
With the Premier League season barreling toward its dramatic conclusion, with 35 out of 38 rounds officially played, the margin for error is as razor thin as ever as clubs battle to put precious points on the board.
Arsenal can do mathematics — they’re a point adrift of Manchester City, but with a far worse goal difference and having played one more match — and will know the title race is out of their hands. But they’re showing they also know that it’s not over, that Manchester City have to play six games in 19 days — three of them on the road in the league, one of them against Real Madrid, home — and that anything can happen. And if it does, they want to be there. This explains their 2-0 defeat of Newcastle at St James Park on Sunday, their bid to remain in the title race. The victory that put them in the title race means that Premier League race is not yet done and dusted.
However, truth is that the Premier League would have been done and dusted if not for Video Assistant Referee decisions that were against the Gunners. Essentially, it was introduced to give referees more resources to make correct decisions in the big moments.
The VAR is used to decide whether a goal should stand or be ruled out because of potential violations, offsides, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity.
The question is how many points has VAR cost Arsenal this season? The Gunners might have been denied about 11 points, if VAR decisions have not gone against them.
Aaron Catterson-ReidFootball Trends Writer, believes thatArsenal have every right to feel aggrieved after torrid VAR blunder cost them all three points against Brentford at the Emirates.
Imn his analysis of some of the decidions that were against the Gunners, he noted that Arsenal’s 3-1loss to Manchester United, their first loss of the season could have easily gone very different for the visitors, if Gabriel martinelli goal had not been ruled out for infringement.
Martinelli thought he had broken the deadlock inside the first quarter of an hour, racing in behind the United backline before slotting the ball past an onrushing David de Gea. However, VAR urged the referee to go and check the onfield monitor before the goal was disallowed for a soft foul by Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard on United playmaker Christian Eriksen.
To add insult to injury, back in December ESPN picked out the incident as one of six VAR calls, which were incorrect during the first half of the season.
The next time Arsenal dropped points was in late October, held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton. Again, they were left frustrated by the officiating. Granit Xhaka opened the scoring during the early exchanges and the Gunners could have had the opportunity to make it 2-0 from the penalty spot if referee Robert Jones had deemed Duje Caleta-Car’s wrestling on Gabriel Jesus to be a foul.
Former Premier League referee Keith Hackett claimed that it was a clear foul on Arsenal’s No.9, calling Caleta-Car’s physical approach ‘grappling.’ Speaking to Football Insider, Hackett said: “That’s a penalty kick for me.
“That photograph says it all. You cannot, as a defender, grab your arms around like that. Then we say, why has that not been penalised? Come on referees, this is grappling.”
The first time Arsenal dropped points at the Emirates Stadium this season came at the hands of Newcastle United. The two sides played out a fairly dull 0-0 draw but again, the Gunners were disappointed by the refereeing on that day.
The Magpies has defended superbly on the day, although defender Dan Burn appeared to have pulled Gabriel Magalhaes’ shirt in the box when the Brazilian international was attempting to get on the end of a set-piece. Burn’s shirt pull quite clearly stops the former Lille centre-back from getting on the end of the cross but referee Andy Madley was unmoved and VAR chose not to interfere.
The ball then struck the arm of Newcastle winger Jacob Murphy in injury time but Madley and VAR again deemed it to not be a penalty, a decision that was probably spot on considering how close Granit Xhaka was to Murphy when attempting to cross the ball into the box. However, Arteta did not see it that way.
Everton are the latest side to hand Arsenal a loss, securing a 1-0 victory in Sean Dyche’s first match as manager following Frank Lampard’s dismissal. The Toffees dominated their encounter, no doubt outplaying the north London outfit at Goodison Park before James Tarkowski headed in the only goal of the game, converting a Dwight McNeil cross on the hour mark.
Still, the Gunners were frustrated by the decision to not award them a penalty on the day. Again, the aforementioned Gabriel was at the thick of it when Everton striker Neal Maupay appeared to bring down the Brazilian inside the 18-yard box.
VAR on the day John Brooks clearly acknowledged there was contact and took some time reviewing the coming together before eventually deciding it wasn’t enough of a clear and obvious error to award the spot-kick. However, as per The Mirror, Brooks wouldn’t have overturned the call if on-field official David Coote initially awarded a penalty.
The defeat was even more disappointing for Arsenal when television replays showed that Everton were incorrectly awarded the corner that they eventually scored from as the final touch actually came off of Alex Iwobi, not Gunners defender Ben White.
Perhaps the most controversial incident of them all occurred during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Brentford. The north Londoners broke the deadlock when January signing Leandro Trossard poked home Bukayo Saka’s low cross in the 66th minute.
Bees striker Ivan Toney then netted an equaliser just eight minutes later, although it has since been revealed that VAR Lee Mason forgot to draw the relevant offside lines in the build-up to the goal. Midfielder Christian Norgaard, who assisted Toney, was in fact offside – a blunder that resulted in the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) contacting Arsenal and explaining the significant error.
What Arteta said: “I just looked at it back and it is offside. We’ll probably be given an explanation later in the week but today we haven’t got any.
“Looking at the images, you have to apply certain principles in defending and you do that by sticking to the rules and suddenly you apply different rules then you have to change your principles.
“So tell us before because then you don’t hold the line that high because you’re always going to have an advantage if you get blocked.
“It’s too late, the goal was allowed, we dropped two points.”
Imagine if these VAR decision have been correctly made, Arsenal will not be trailing Manchester City with a point but will be 10 points ahead of the Cityzens, and with Arsenal having three games left to play, while City have four, it would be a case of Arsenal just winning two more games and the title will be theirs for the first time in 19 years. But as it is, only time will tell.
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