Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen expects the number of penalties awarded to soar in the Premier League when VAR is introduced next season.
Vertonghen helped Spurs to a 1-0 win over Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday – Son Heung-min blasting home 12 minutes from time at a raucous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
But much of the post-match conversation was dominated by the latest VAR debate, after referee Bjorn Kuipers reviewed replays of Raheem Sterling’s shot striking Danny Rose’s arm and gave City a 13th-minute spot-kick.
Hugo Lloris sprung to his left to keep out Sergio Aguero’s tame attempt from 12 yards and Vertonghen reflected upon a sequence of events that seems likely to jar on such occasions for some time.
“No one expected it, they didn’t even appeal for it, so it was extremely weird to concede a penalty like this,” the Belgium international said.
“That’s VAR. In a way it’s good. I’m not always a fan but at the end everyone will benefit from it.”
— Jan Vertonghen (@JanVertonghen) April 9, 2019
Mauricio Pochettino told a post-match news conference he fears VAR will turn football into a “different sport” and fretted over its impact upon the “spirit of the game”.
Although Vertonghen did not take such a doom-laden tone, he certainly appears to share plenty of common ground with his manager.
“It takes a lot away from the game, I think. But like I said, at the end it will give you more,” he said.
“If we got a penalty in this way I would be very happy. Football is always a very emotional game, and VAR is changing that a bit.”
It is also changing the way experienced defenders like Vertonghen think their way through matches, especially with the Premier League set to fall into line with Europe’s other major leagues and embrace the technology from 2019-20 onwards.
“So many things look like a penalty in slow-motion. I think we have to change the way we defend,” he explained.
“We are not pulling people down but even a small touch, if you watch it 20 times in slow motion, it will give so many more penalties.
“I think you’ll see in the stats in the next few years in the Premier League, you will see at least 20, 30, 40 more penalties.”
Vertonghen added: “I think we all need to adapt. The players, the referees and how they should think as a player sometimes. Sometimes you can’t do anything else than put your body on the line.
“We were talking about defending corners or free-kicks – you can’t even touch anyone. Before it was quite physical, but in a fair way. But now you are too scared to get close to someone.”
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