Mikel Arteta had cause to both curse and applaud VAR on Sunday as the technology proved central to a dramatic, controversy packed, afternoon at Leeds where the excellent Bukayo Saka scored the only goal to ensure Arsenal remain top of the Premier League.
A brief power cut at Elland Road coinciding with the scheduled 2pm kick‑off prompted an electricity surge which severed all links to the technology linking match officials to, among other things, VAR feeds from Stockley Park.
After only 23 seconds the match was halted and Arteta joined his Leeds counterpart Jesse Marsch in taking his players off the pitch. When the game finally got under way again 40 minutes later both VAR and goalline technology were up and running once more and the former proved much needed.
“That delay was worth it,” a relieved Arteta said after his side had registered a highly impressive nine victories in 10 Premier League games, leaving them four points clear of second‑placed Manchester City. “Without it I don’t know what would have happened.
“It’s always hectic at Leeds but we found a way to win. And this was a special win. We made too many mistakes, failed to close the game in the first half but credit to Leeds in the second half. They were really, really good but I love the resilience, the fight, the character and the courage my team showed. We found a way to win.”
With the score 1-0, a VAR review prompted a Leeds penalty after William Saliba handled in the area but Bamford, who had earlier had a goal disallowed for a foul in the build‑up, missed the resultant penalty.
When, sometimes later, the Leeds centre‑forward pushed Gabriel to the ground the Arsenal defender responded with a retaliatory kick and Chris Kavanagh, the referee, awarded another penalty and a red card only for an ensuing VAR review to overturn both decisions, downgrading Garbriel’s card to a yellow. “I think the decision was clear,” Arteta said. “ I don’t think there can be any complaints.”
Indeed the albeit downcast Jesse Marsch, whose Leeds side have now gone six games without a win, seemed fairly sanguine. “It was such a crazy game,” he said. “I’m disappointed and a bit frustrated.
“Tactically and performance wise we were the better team, we pushed the tempo so high and it makes the score seem very cruel. It is cruel but we must get better in front of goal. We’ve had a number of games were we’ve been on top and been the better team but we haven’t got the goals.
“But Patrick Bamford’s coming back from injury and he’s looking physically strong now so I have to stay calm and patient – which I hate. I hate being patient but I can see the progress that’s being made and at some point it’s got to turn into results (wins). It’s difficult though.”
On an afternoon of technical hitches in Yorkshire, Hull’s 2-0 Championship defeat at home against Birmingham was also delayed, in this case for 20 minutes after it emerged the goalposts needed to be readjusted and HawkEye goalline technology recalibrated. The action restarted only after groundsmen had sawed the uprights down to size.