New rules and new technology were supposed to reduce the number of controversial incidents in the Premier League, but players and managers appeared to be just as frustrated with refereeing decisions after a number of incidents on Saturday.
It led to an exasperated Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne questioning whether there have been too many law changes in football in recent years, leaving everyone to be unsure of where they stand.
“I’ve been playing professional football for 12 years and for nine years there were no rule changes, the past three years there have been a lot. I don’t know why; football is such a nice game,” he told Sky Sports.
City defender Aymeric Laporte thought he had equalised in the first half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but it was ruled out when replays showed team-mate Gabriel Jesus had controlled the ball with his hand in the build-up.
De Bruyne, though, thought it was a goal according to the latest regulations, brought in at the start of this season, as he felt the ball had hit Jesus’ upper arm.
“I don’t know the rules any more, honestly,” he added. “I thought that if it hits above the arm, it is not handball any more with the law changes.”
What rules have changed in football?
The handball law was tightened at the start of this season, with the International Football Association Board (Ifab) defining the boundary between the shoulder and the arm as the bottom of the armpit.
The Premier League also decided to take a much stricter approach to handball decisions, in line with the rules changes introduced in Europe the previous campaign.
They are just two of a number of rule changes, tweaks or innovations in the last six years, including:
- The bringing in of goalline technology
- The introduction of video assistant referees
- Penalties being re-taken if a goalkeeper encroaches off their line
- The assistant referee’s flag staying down for marginal offside offences until the passage of play has passed
- More reliance on the referee’s review area, to analyse decisions using the TV monitor
- Players now able to kick the ball in any direction at kick-off, with the kicker permitted to be in the opposition’s half of the pitch
‘I don’t know what a penalty is now’
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith also expressed his confusion at the latest rules after his side were denied a penalty in stoppage time as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Brighton.
Villa were initially awarded the spot-kick when Trezeguet was caught by Solly March in the area. However, referee Michael Oliver reversed the decision after viewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, with replays showing the Brighton man had got a touch on the ball.
“I don’t know what a penalty is now. We could all hear the contact inside the ground,” said Smith.
“If VAR thinks it’s not a penalty then just tell the referee it’s not a penalty. It wasn’t given, so we have to take it on the chin.”
Speaking on Match of the Day, former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer backed the officials’ decision.