VAR expert explains why Tomas Soucek’s controversial goal vs Arsenal was allowed to stand

A VAR expert has explained why West Ham United’s controversial opener against Arsenal was not disallowed by the officials.

Arsenal suffered a damaging 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham on Thursday night, missing the chance to return to the top of the Premier League.

Tomas Soucek gave David Moyes’ side the lead in the 13th minute, tucking home a smart cut-back from England international Jarrod Bowen.

However, the goal has since been the subject of yet another controversy involving VAR, after it appeared the ball may have gone out of play prior to Bowen crossing it into the box.

Following a three-and-a-half-minute check by VAR, officials were informed the footage was not conclusive to disallow the goal, with Mikel Arteta later describing the situation as a ‘shame’ in his post-match interviews.

Speaking in his latest VAR review for ESPN, editor Dale Johnson has explained why the opener stood for West Ham.

“Yet again Arsenal suffered from the view of the ball being obscured by a player, meaning that VAR Craig Pawson could not be sure the whole of the ball was over the goal-line,” wrote Johnson.

“For Newcastle United’s winner against Arsenal earlier this season, the ball wasn’t in view on the goal-line camera and was then hidden on a possible offside against goal-scorer Anthony Gordon.

“This time, it was Bowen’s leg which was covering the line and blocking the view of the ball. While the probability is that the whole of the ball had crossed the line, the VAR had no proof of this.”

Speaking on a possible fix to avoid similar situations arising in the future, Johnson added: “There’s no easy solution, and it’s not something that could be fixed simply by adding more cameras as there’s always the chance the ball could be occluded by multiple players.

“Indeed, in the Bowen situation Oleksandr Zinchenko is on the line inside the goal, so even having a camera on both sides of the pitch wouldn’t guarantee a decision was possible.

“Hawk-eye in tennis only judges on predictive elements of where the ball will bounce, as it cannot be out of play when in the air.”

Speaking after the defeat to West Ham, Arteta admitted he did not see whether the ball had gone out before Soucek’s opener and instead blamed his team’s wastefulness for the defeat.

“I haven’t seen it, they only thing they [the officials] said was the image was not conclusive,” said Arteta in his post-match press conference.

“It’s just a shame that the technology that we have is not that clear that we can say it’s out of play. It’s done, it’s gone and there’s nothing we can do about it now.

“So what we have to do is without that, win the game, and with the situations we had today, we had more than enough.”


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