New VAR data will not surprise Liverpool and it makes glaring Man City omission

Jürgen Klopp the manager of Liverpool FC argues with referee Michael Oliver after the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City at Anfield on March 10, 2024 in Liverpool, England.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Liverpool supporters would argue that their side’s 2023/24 league campaign was seriously affected by mistakes made by referees and their video assistants at Stockley Park. Newly released data shows that Reds fans would be right in their thinking.

But they still may not agree entirely with the findings, which have been published by ESPN. It has revealed the 31 VAR decisions which the Premier League’s Key Match Incidents Panel (a group of former players and coaches) deemed to be errors this season.

Liverpool was on the wrong end of four of them, the joint-most in the division along with Brighton and Nottingham Forest. However, those clubs both had at least one each which went in their favor, leaving the Reds with a net error difference of -4, the worst in the Premier League.

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The first player to suffer a VAR mistake in the opinion of the panel was Alexis Mac Allister. He was sent off in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth, and although the red card was later rescinded, that should have occurred during the match.

Nobody will need reminding of the next blunder, for which Luis Díaz was the victim. He had a goal ruled out for offside by the assistant referee at Tottenham in September, yet the VAR was satisfied that this decision was incorrect. It was a pity there was then a communication breakdown, wasn’t it? Poorly done, boys, bad process.

Three months later, the Reds were hampered by another big game blunder. On this occasion, Martin Ødegaard handled the ball in the Arsenal penalty area, but no spot kick was awarded. In the next match, at Burnley, Darwin Núñez was wrongly penalised for a foul in a move leading to a ‘goal’ for Cody Gakpo.

In the space of 18 matches, Liverpool had suffered more with VAR mistakes than any team did across the whole season. ESPN claim the Reds would not have earned more points had the errors not happened based on its assessment, yet two occurred in a pair of matches from which they took just one point.

While four VAR errors is the official verdict, fans have long memories and will inevitably point to other incidents. Most notable among them was Jérémy Doku's stoppage time challenge on Mac Allister in the box during the 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Anfield.

“I think it’s a clear penalty," the Argentine said after the game. "I cannot say much more. I think the ref did a very good job throughout the game, but I think he made a mistake in the last decision." Football is filled with ‘what if’ moments but if a spot kick had been awarded and converted, Liverpool would have been four points ahead of eventual champions City with 10 games to go.

In terms of which video assistant referees blundered most, Jürgen Klopp could offer a guess and he would be proved correct. He once told Paul Tierney that he was the only referee with whom he had a problem, and the Wigan-born official made four VAR errors this season, the joint-most along with Stuart Attwell.

They were each responsible for one in a Reds match this term, against Bournemouth and Burnley respectively. Darren England was responsible for the Tottenham howler, and among VARs with at least 11 matches, he had the worst errors per game rate. To complete the set, David Coote was in the wrong in the clash with the Gunners.

The Premier League’s KMI Panel claim VAR errors reduced this season when compared with 2022/23. Klopp and Liverpool’s supporters would beg to differ.