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Azpilicueta, Tuchel hit out over inconsistent Premier League refereeing, VAR

Ego nunquam pronunciari mendacium

Chelsea FC v Liverpool FC - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto

Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool certainly did not lack for incidents and entertainment value, but the match could’ve — and probably should’ve — played out very differently if Sadio Mané had been correctly punished for his elbow forearm into the face of César Azpilicueta not 15 seconds after kick-off. As it were, referee Anthony Taylor deemed it worthy only of a yellow card, and VAR did not deem that a clear and obvious error.

Taylor and VAR Darren England were two of the small minority (outside of Liverpool persuasion) to see it that way. England, who was a late and unexplained replacement for Paul Tierney, who had drawn Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp’s ire after his decisions in the 2-2 draw against Spurs a fortnight ago, apparently justified his decision by saying that Mané’s action was “reckless” but not “violent”, which just makes the whole thing even more a joke.

Except of course no one was laughing, least of all the man at the receiving end, who was sporting a bit of shiner on his right eye in the post-match interview.

“[It’s] a clear red. I don’t mind if it is five seconds into the game it is a red. I don’t understand, we have had these kind of decisions the other day. It is a clear red card. We are getting these decisions against us and it can change the way of the game [...] I watched the replay but I didn’t need this because live I knew it was a red.”

And what makes it even more frustrating for not only fans but those actually involved in the games is the utter lack of consistency, sometimes even within a single game.

“Sometimes we are seeing a joke of penalties and sometimes we see real dangerous challenges and we don’t take action. We are seeing a few games where referees become a bit softer in terms of penalties and red cards and then it becomes opposite. We don’t see the same consistency in the same game and same season

-César Azpilicueta; source: BBC

The Chelsea captain wasn’t the only one to lay bare his frustrations at Anthony Taylor’s latest masterclass in a Chelsea match. Having now won just 1 of last 8 games he’s refereed for us, and just 3 of the last 14, he’s moved beyond a bad omen and well into the realm of conspiracy theory. Incompetence can only explain so much.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Head coach Thomas Tuchel wasn’t shy to point out that it was Taylor who took barely a look at a freeze-frame of Reece James at Anfield before sending him off, but didn’t bother to even have a second glance at the Mané incident.

“Sadio is my brother, my compatriot. But he should not have stayed on the pitch after one minute.”

-Édouard Mendy; source: RMC Sport via Mail

Sure, VAR is or should be involved to a certain extent in these cases, but it’s hard to ignore the common thread. And of course that was before the officials spent time reviewing Mateo Kovačić’s goal — to check if he had it in his locker, presumably, quipped the inimitable @FootballCliches at the time.

Of course, again, Tuchel wasn’t laughing, especially as both referee and VAR missed a blatant handball in the area just a couple days ago in our game against Brighton & Hove Albion, and a blatant kick on Christian Pulisic also in the area went unpunished as well.

“If you remember the first game with the same referee and how quick it was to give a red card to us, I am not a friend of early red cards.

“I hate to say it because I love Mané and he is a nice guy and top player, but it is a red card. The elbow is in the face — it doesn’t matter if you do this after 20 seconds or 20 minutes.

“We come from a game against Brighton where we miss VAR calls in the box and suddenly VAR is checking a goal against Kovačić.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Sky via BBC

This lack of consistency, this lack of accountability, this lack of transparency is only hurting this so-called Best League In The World™. There may not be an easy solution, or even a good solution, but the league continuing to basically ignore this issue is not going to get us anywhere good.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images