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Jordan Pickford would be sent off if challenge on Van Dijk was this season

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Had the new VAR offside protocols been in place last October, the Virgil van Dijk incident would have played out differently and seen Jordan Pickford receive the red card he deserved.

We all remember the moment well, maybe too well as it sent the season into an entirely new trajectory.

Van Dijk is looking to keep the ball alive with just seven minutes on the clock at Goodison Park back in October but is then recklessly, at best, taken out by Pickford.

The challenge went unpunished as VAR sought only to identify if the Dutchman was offside in the preceding move and failed to take a closer look at what came next.

Michael Oliver, who was in command of the game that day, conceded a mistake was made as “we could still have given offside and sent Pickford off.”

But had the very same incident occurred in the upcoming season, an entirely different set of events would have unfolded due to the changes to VAR’s ruling of offside.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Everton's Mason Holgate reacts after fouling Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • New offside interpretation for 2021/22 uses ‘thicker’ lines
  • Benefit of doubt now to attacker, meaning Van Dijk would have been deemed onside this season
  • A penalty would have been awarded and Pickford sent off
  • If the two ‘thicker’ lines touch in offside review, it will be considered onside

The upcoming season is to see marginal offside rulings move back to handing “the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player” as the Premier League adjusts to technology that cannot make an accurate call on the previous one-millimetre line.

ESPN‘s Dale Johnson expertly explained that “no player will be offside unless there’s a clear result” and so if the two ‘thicker’ lines touch, it will be considered onside with the attacker to be handed an approximate five-centimetre reprieve.

So how would that have altered the Van Dijk incident?

Well, the marginal call that tied Van Dijk’s arm with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s foot would now see the No. 4 considered to be onside and as such would make what came next ‘live’ play.

Meaning, a penalty would have been awarded to Liverpool, which Oliver explained would have been the case had the initial ruling been onside, and a red card most definitely handed to Pickford as a review of the entire passage of play would have taken place.

It means little to Liverpool now, but it’s a clear illustration of the changes to come, ones that had they been in place earlier would have tempered the obvious frustration and anger from the Reds camp with the appropriate punishment duly dished out.

There will be no escaping marginal calls as only a new offside point has been created, but that the benefit will now be with the attacker is a welcome change.


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