No-one watched Arsenal lose 4-1 to Manchester City and gave VAR even a passing consideration. Yet the national newspapers cannot let it go.

Runar eclipse

The story atop The Sun’s website at 10am on Wednesday rather missed the point somewhat:

‘ARSENAL goalkeeper Alex Runarsson deleted his Twitter account after last night’s clash with Man City’

Poor bloke. But it feels a bit like you’re missing a ‘because he was targeted with social media abuse’ between ‘account’ and ‘after’ there. He didn’t delete it because he had a bad game. He deleted it because people were pr*cks about it.

Thankfully, the headline was changed in time for the lunchtime traffic surge:

‘Arsenal keeper Alex Runarsson deletes Twitter account after social media abuse following Man City gaffe’

Better.

Account ability

The same cannot be said for the Daily Mirror…

‘Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Runarsson deletes Twitter account after Man City nightmare’

…or Football.London:

‘Arsenal goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson deletes Twitter account after mistake against Man City’

It’s unhelpful. It’s inaccurate. And it’s important to reflect the actual situation: abuse forced him off social media, not mishandling a Riyad Mahrez free-kick.

Spurred on

Darren Lewis piles in on Arsenal for the Daily Mirror:

‘This Carabao Cup quarter-final went the way most games do at the Emirates this season – to the visitors.’

In the Premier League, Arsenal have won as many home games as Manchester United and lost as many home games as Leicester.

‘The Gunners right now are the nightclub back in the day that used to be the hottest ticket in town. People get excited these days about the action at the other place up the road.’

Are you talking about the team with one point from their last three Premier League games here or has Mediawatch finally gone mad?

Tottenham are obviously better than Arsenal right now but they have actually scored nine goals in six matches this month compared to the Gunners’ 11 in seven. The moral of this story is that neither nightclub is particularly ‘hot’ or ‘exciting’ right now.

Blushes the envelope

The biggest newspaper in the country is aghast at Phil Foden’s goal for Manchester City being allowed to stand on Tuesday.

‘TV replays showed that the young England star was half a yard offside when he was played in but without VAR to intervene there was no-one to spare the blushes of linesman Stuart Burt’ – Mark Irwin, The Sun.

How incredibly embarrassing for him not to have been certain enough to make this incredibly marginal call from the other side of the pitch.

Phil Foden appeared to be offside as he made it Man City 3-1 Arsenal.

VAR is not used in the Carabao Cup 🤷‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/SdEYg70DHE

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 22, 2020

If only there was someone to ‘spare the blushes’ of Irwin as he goes on to describe actual Brazilian person Gabriel Martinelli as ‘the 19-year-old Argentine’ elsewhere in his match report. Shame VAR couldn’t intervene there.

Clearly and obviously silly

‘The double whammy was complete when Phil Foden dinked over Runnarsson to make it 3-1 and effectively end Arsenal’s already slim hopes… only for replays to show the England youngster was clearly offside’ – Josh Graham, The Sun.

That still image above does not even show Foden to be ‘clearly offside’ – from that angle no-one can say with absolute certainty that no part of Shkodran Mustafi’s body is ahead of Foden.

Then you factor in that the decision had to be made in real-time and you really do start to wonder quite what people are expecting.

‘Pesky VAR. You never know what you have until it’s gone.’

Indeed. And one of the main reasons we have it in the first place is because close incidents like these are described in terms such as ‘clearly offside’ and worth ‘blushes’ from the officials instead of being accepted as simply part of the game.

If Foden really was offside, it was marginal and probably didn’t affect the actual result, so stop being childish and drop the obsession with poring over referee calls that could genuinely go either way.

Mail order

The absence of VAR is also mentioned by most writers for the situation involving Fernandinho and Dani Ceballos, the latter falling to the ground after an apparent altercation with the former in the City penalty area.

As Matt Barlow writes in the Daily Mail:

‘City seemed ready to run away with it and Arsenal’s desperation was summed up by Dani Ceballos throwing himself onto the floor when barely touched on the face by Fernandinho as they jostled for space at a corner.

‘Unlike in the Premier League, there was no VAR in operation and referee Stuart Attwell was quite rightly not interested in the play-acting from Ceballos.’

How does the MailOnline reflect this act of ‘desperation’? What is their take on Ceballos ‘play-acting’ after being ‘barely touched’?

‘Fernandinho escapes punishment for SLAPPING Dani Ceballos in the face during Manchester City’s 4-1 Carabao Cup quarter-final win against Arsenal’

Congratulations on both having your cake and eating it. And to the national newspapers for complaining about VAR every game since its inception and then trying to stoke controversy over perceived refereeing mistakes as soon as it isn’t there. Silly sods.

Jota pad

The Liverpool Echo headline of ‘Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo makes Diogo Jota transfer admission following Liverpool move’ promises something fairly big.

Is this ‘transfer admission’ that Michael Edwards is an unstoppable force of nature? Let’s find out from the actual quote itself.

“No, not surprised at all. The quality and the talent and the dedication that Diogo has is amazing. I’m pleased Diogo is having an impact on Liverpool. I think he is in the right place at the right moment of his career so I wish him all the best. At the same time we thank him for all the good things he made for Wolves.”

Nope. No idea.

Rod to nowhere

‘Why Jose Mourinho cannot play Joe Rodon in Tottenham’s Carabao Cup tie against Stoke City’ – Football.London.

Is it because he is cup-tied?

It takes eight paragraphs for them to clarify but yes, it is shockingly because he is cup-tied. And that absolutely demands a 447-word explanation.

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