The battle for the Premier League title has been fierce this season, with champions Manchester City just one point ahead of Liverpool.
But take away the VAR (video assistant referee) decisions and the pendulum swings – with Jürgen Klopp’s men two points better off their title rivals and into first place.
This season we look at all VAR decisions in the Premier League and see how they could have affected the outcome of matches.
It’s not just about the number of times a team gets a favorable VAR call or the number of goals scored. More importantly, when these VAR decisions happened, how they could have changed the course of the game and, crucially, whether that impact would have ultimately changed the final score.
ESPN brings you the VAR effect table† We’ve made all 94 Premier League VAR decisions so far this season and calculated how they would have changed the outcome of matches. We will continue to follow VAR throughout the season and find out who the real winners and losers are.
– JUMP TO: The winners without VAR | The losers without VAR
How we work out the VAR effect table
We only take the first VAR reversal in each game, as the calculation assumes that a subsequent VAR incident would not have occurred because the whole direction of the game has changed. (Think of it like a Marvel timeline or the plot of a time travel movie.)
The VAR decision is then reversed to the original on-field decision — so if a goal is disallowed for offside, it is awarded as a goal.
If a penalty is canceled it will be deemed awarded and scored unless the team in question has a penalty conversion record of less than 50% during the season. For example, Arsenal have missed three of their five penalties so far this season, with West Ham (2 out of 5) being the only other club to have missed more than one. If less than 50%, a penalty may be considered missed.
If a team has scored a goal from a penalty or a foul offside through the VAR, the goal is disallowed.
We then consider a series of factors before determining a predicted outcome:
Team form: Results in the previous six matches provide an indication of how a team has played overall.
Time of occurrence: For example, if an incident occurs late in the game, the score is less likely to change after this point.
xG at the time of the incident: This allows us to take into account which team has created the better chances and is emerging.
Team strength: In addition to form, a team’s overall strength plays a role. This takes into account league position and a team’s goals and defensive records throughout the season.
Impact of the incident: For example, if a red card decision is reversed, the outcome of a match may change.
These results were then used to adjust the table and work out the impact VAR has had on teams’ positions this season.
The table shows the position of each team after the modified results, with the arrows indicating whether their league position is better or worse without VAR. It is worth noting that not all teams have played the same number of matches at this time due to COVID-related postponements.
The big winners without VAR
Liverpool climb to the top of the Premier League table, although their win is just one point (although there is a net gain of two on Man City), and only two results are affected by VAR decisions.
Jurgen Klopp’s men did lose a point at the start of the season when the calculation said the Reds would have lost at home to Chelsea but before the VAR penalty and Reece James red card for hands on the goal line. They went on to win two when their 2-2 draw at home to Burnley was calculated as a 4-0 win, as Sadio Mane had a goal ruled out for handball by VAR when the score was already 2-0 to Liverpool.
For comparison, Manchester City generally drop a point. The 0-0 home draw to Southampton is now a 1-0 defeat after VAR withdrew a penalty and red card against Kyle Walker. However, the loss at home to Crystal Palace is recalculated as a 2-1 win; City trailed 1-0 when Gabriel Jesus with half an hour to play was disallowed for offside against Phil Foden.
City’s most talked-about VAR moment was in their away game at Arsenal in January. The Gunners were leading 1-0 just after half-time when VAR City gave a penalty that duly eliminated Riyad Mahrez and Pep Guardiola’s team took a 2-1 victory. City’s victory is a defeat without VAR.
Newcastle United are by far the biggest winners without VAR, in terms of points earned and places increased. Eddie Howe’s team, once one of the favorites for relegation, skyrocketed four places to the top half of the table after seeing their point tally increase by five. Examples of VAR decisions to go against them include a stoppage time VAR penalty for Southampton when the Magpies were leading 2-1, and a goal awarded to Harry Kane in a match that the Magpies lost 3- 2 lost to Tottenham Hotspur.
Everton may also feel hard through with VAR, as they climb away from the drop zone. With four extra points, the gap to the third underline doubles from three to six points. That said, they may have the VAR to thank for the red card that Allan vs. Newcastle were shown, leading them to a 1-0 success in stoppage time.
Brentford and Burnley get two extra points without VAR, while Arsenal† Leicester† Brighton and Norwich only one point advantage.
The big losers without VAR
Manchester United can only lose a point without VAR, but combined with the point that Arsenal have secured, the Red Devils are slipping even further behind the race for Champions League football.
The gap with the Gunners grows to six points, while Arsenal have a game in hand as they strive to return to the top of European football.
Man United lost one point after VAR saved them from a late defeat at home to Everton for offside, while Brighton were shown a red card from the VAR when 1-0 in the 53rd minute at Old Trafford with a higher xG at the time – – who win becomes draw, meaning United had scored two points. One decision that went against them was the disallowed goal at Burnley when the score was 1-1, which cost them two points.
The biggest losers in terms of points are Watford† Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton, who have all lost three points gained all season thanks to VAR. Southampton has been hit hardest in the league, dropping three places to 14th.
Watford lost at Everton when Joshua King’s goal was disallowed due to a false offside flag. It turned out to be crucial, as the Hornets won the game 5-2. The table without VAR sees Watford’s hopes of staying on dwindle, with an eight point lead over Leeds United in fourth place, while at the real table they are just three points from safety.
Leeds losing two points with VAR, bringing it closer to the relegation spots.
Aston Villa and Crystal Palace drop a point while Chelsea† Tottenham and West Ham see their records unchanged by VAR.