The 2022-23 Premier League season is reaching its climax, but there have been plenty of VAR controversies across the campaign. Which clubs have been the winners and losers from the influence of the video referee?
From the crucial VAR call that robbed Arsenal of an opening goal at Manchester United, to Manchester City‘s scrubbed out strike away to Liverpool, there have been some pivotal decisions made at crucial times which can change games.
Like last season, we’re looking at all VAR decisions across the Premier League, and seeing how they might have affected the outcome of matches.
It’s not just about the number of times a team gets a favourable VAR call or about how many goals are affected. What’s more important is when these VAR decisions take place and, crucially, whether that impact would ultimately have changed the final score.
We’re not saying the VAR decisions were wrong — we’re just looking at what might have happened if the video assistant didn’t exist and the original decisions stood.
ESPN brings you the VAR Effect Table. We’ve taken all 84 VAR overturns in the Premier League so far and calculated how they might have influenced matches. We’ll continue to track VAR throughout the season and find out who the true winners and losers are.
How we work out the VAR Effect Table
We take only the first VAR overturn in each game, because the calculation considers that any subsequent VAR incident wouldn’t have happened because the whole direction of the game has been altered. (Think of it like a Marvel timeline, or the plot of any time travel movie.)
The VAR decision is then reversed to the original on-field call — so if a goal is disallowed for offside, it’s given as a goal.
If a penalty has been cancelled, it is considered to have been awarded and scored, unless the team in question has a penalty-conversion record below 50% over the season. For instance, Crystal Palace have failed to score from the penalty spot, missing both spot kicks. If below 50%, a penalty may be judged to have been missed.
If a team has been awarded a goal through a penalty or an incorrect offside through VAR, the goal is disallowed.
We then take into account a series of factors before settling on a predicted outcome:
Team form: Results in the previous six matches give an indication of how a team has been playing generally.
Time of incident: For instance, if an incident happens late in the game, it’s less likely that the scoreline would change again after this point.
xG at time of incident: This allows us to take into account which team has been creating the better chances and is in the ascendancy.
Team strength: As well as form, a team’s general strength plays a part. This takes into account league position, and a team’s goal-scoring and defensive records across the season.
Impact of incident: For example, a red card decision being reversed may change the outcome of a match.
These results have then been used to modify the table and work out what impact VAR has had on teams’ positions this season.
The table shows each team’s position after the amended results, with the arrows indicating if their league position is better or worse without VAR. Not all teams have played the same number of games due to postponements.
The big losers without VAR
Two teams in particular can consider themselves grateful for the video assistant referee: Aston Villa and Liverpool both lose six points without match-changing VAR calls going in their favour, twice as many points as the next club in the list.
For Liverpool, their six-point deduction takes them down from sixth place to ninth, with the gap to the Champions League places 13 points with just 12 games left in their schedule. The key VAR decisions mostly came early in the season.
Only three clubs have had more VAR interventions in their favour (7), with just Fulham having had as many goals for the opposition ruled out (4); not one VAR intervention has cost Liverpool points.
In October, Phil Foden had a goal disallowed at Anfield when Erling Haaland was adjudged to have fouled Fabinho in the buildup. That strike would have given Man City the lead, and instead Liverpool went on to win the match 1-0. The VAR table gives City the victory, a swing of three points.
The other three incidents see draws turn to defeats for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Liverpool were 2-0 down against Brighton at Anfield when VAR helped give Mohamed Salah a goal which had been disallowed for offside; the game finished 3-3 but our table gives a Brighton 2-1 win. In September, Conor Coady thought he had bagged a late winner in the goalless draw in the Merseyside derby until the offside lines came out. More recently at Anfield in January, Chelsea had a goal disallowed for offside against Kai Havertz when the game was goalless; that draw becomes a Liverpool loss too.
Villa stay in 11th place, as in the real-life table there’s a huge 11-point gap to the 12th-placed club. That’s now three points, though they remain firmly safe in midtable.
Villa have had four VAR calls in their favour, with three of those leading to improved results. Their gains all come in 2023; first Emiliano Buendia had a goal awarded for an incorrect offside against Leeds United in a game which they won 2-1. Two weeks later, Southampton‘s James Ward-Prowse had a goal disallowed for a foul in the buildup that would have given Saints the lead, in a match Villa went on to win 1-0. And earlier this month, in the narrow win at home to Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha had a goal chalked off for offside. All three games become draws.
The biggest losers by league position are Crystal Palace, dropping them seven places from 12th into 19th as the bottom of the table is so tight, even though they drop three points. West Ham United had a late penalty decision overturned before Palace went on to score a late winner, and Newcastle United had a winning goal disallowed for a foul.
Brentford, who have had the most goals awarded (3) through VAR but have also had three disallowed, are three points worse off but remain unchanged in eighth. Key results are a win against Leeds becoming a draw, and a draw at Nottingham Forest now a loss.
Champions League hopefuls Newcastle United lose two points — and drop to sixth in the table. The Magpies have been one of the most active clubs, with 10 VAR overturns. They’ve lost points through VAR thanks to the disallowed goal against Palace, but have gained far more from decisions in their favour against Bournemouth, Fulham and Wolves.
Manchester United remain in the Champions League places, but are now fourth with Erik ten Hag’s team one point worse off. Their 3-1 win at home to Arsenal becomes a loss; the game was 0-0 when Gabriel Martinelli had a goal ruled out for a foul in the buildup by Martin Odegaard, a decision which is confirmed as an incorrect VAR intervention. The Gunners are predicted to have gone on to win that game after scoring the first goal. United also had Casemiro sent off in the first half of a 0-0 draw against Southampton earlier this month; with 11 men that becomes a victory.
Chelsea lose a point but stay 12th. While the decision cost them victory at Liverpool, two incidents in games against West Ham gave them a net gain through VAR. The Hammers had a late equaliser ruled out at Stamford Bridge, and a probable late winner disallowed for offside in the home game.
Nottingham Forest are the only other team to lose a point, down one place into 17th and out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
The big winners without VAR
Arsenal are eight points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, but once VAR calls are stripped out that is now six points. Both clubs gain without VAR, it’s just that City have been more adversely affected than the Gunners.
While Arsenal’s loss at the hands of Man United becomes a 2-1 victory, giving them three points, the 1-0 win at Leeds United is a draw after an injury-time penalty to the home side was cancelled; a net gain of one point without VAR. Arsenal have had more goals ruled out thanks to VAR (4) than any other club. It this doesn’t factor in when VAR has gone wrong for Arsenal, such as when Lee Mason missed a player in an offside position in the buildup to Brentford’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City team get three additional points, courtesy of the loss to Liverpool becoming a victory.
There’s an improvement for managerless Tottenham Hotspur, who move above Man United into third in the table; Spurs are two points better off. They have been involved in eight overturns, though only one affect a result: the cancelled penalty at West Ham, in a game which finished as a 1-1 draw.
The biggest winners without VAR with five points gained are West Ham, who climb out of the relegation zone and move up five places to 13th. Rather than being in the bottom three, the Hammers now have a four-point cushion from the drop zone and can look over their shoulders rather than trying to find an escape route.
Though West Ham lose two points due to decisions against Leeds and Spurs, they gain one each from games at Chelsea and Forest which become draws. And West Ham’s 2-1 home loss to Palace, when they had a late penalty cancelled when the score was still 1-1, becomes a victory; as does the home draw against Chelsea when they had a late goal disallowed.
This doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Hammers have been awarded four penalties through VAR, the most in the league, but have managed to miss two of them. So while no club has had more VAR overturns in their favour (8), they haven’t been able to take full advantage of them.
Brighton & Hove Albion move to the brink of the Champions League places, up two spots to fifth — that’s four points better off, which leaves them three from the top four with a game in hand. As well as the draw at Liverpool becoming a victory, the draw away to Palace — when the VAR drew the offside lines in the wrong place to disallow a Pervis Estupinan goal — is also a win. The Seagulls have the worst net score for decisions, with only one in their favour and seven against (-6).
Like West Ham, Leeds‘ battle against relegation looks completely different without VAR. With a gain of three points, Leeds are up two places into 14th with a four-point cushion to the bottom three. Leeds have conceded four goals through VAR, more than any other team. As well as the gained draw against Arsenal, they are given a win at home to West Ham and draws from defeats at Aston Villa and Brentford. Leeds did get a crucial VAR call in their favour just before the international break, with defender Jonny sent off as Wolverhampton Wanderers piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser; without the red card, this game goes down as a draw.
Everton also improve at the foot of the table with a net gain of two points.