Is Wenger's Law Flawed?
One area that has received continuous criticism is VAR’s controversial approach to offside law. Whilst other areas such as ‘penalty decisions’ require the referee to have made a clear and obvious error, the offside law has differed with an almost microscopic approach, trying to use high tech lines and software to identify the difference between two players. This has inevitably created an environment where the attacking team seemingly receive a disadvantage, compared to the attacking team.
This disadvantage has been obvious in such occasions such as Teemu Pukki’s offside goal against Tottenham in late December. A goal that from the outside was a wonderfully timed run that exposed the space between two centre backs. What actually occurred was one of VAR’s most controversial ruling’s, with VAR deciding that Pukki’s armpit was ahead of the Tottenham centre backs foot and so the goal was disallowed. This caused outrage with what seemingly was a great run, well timed a good angle across the centre back pairing and a well-deserved goal. The question from here being asked by football fans and coaches is how can this be fixed?
What has proposed by Arsene Wenger who is now working as a FIFA executive is to only rule a player offside, when there is clear day light between the attacking and defensive player. This very popular idea will be brought to IFAB the rules body that decide on the laws that govern the game of football. When IFAB take a vote on this they will need a majority of 5 out of 8 votes, this body made up of 4 Home nation vote, and 4 FIFA votes, will decide if this legislation goes in place for June 1st in time for the European Championship.
The idea is the main has been very popular, a move that will promote goal scoring, allowing centre forwards to expose the space left in behind defences and really provide the goal scoring advantage we have all craved during the introduction of VAR. The idea in the main is a positive one, football is an entertainment business, and the drive for better officiating shouldn’t limit the amount of goals scored within a game, neither should it create situations where hair line decisions are mulled over for 4 minutes, when it is clear and obvious to everyone, that the outcome is not clear and obvious. But is this decision that clear, will this really create an advantage to the attacking players, or will this just change the way the game is played.
With the attacking player receiving such a clear advantage under this newly proposed law change, will we not see a change to the way the game is played. With teams such as Liverpool and Manchester City playing with extremely high attacking lines, looking to compact the space between their lines to counter-press the opponent, compact the midfield and dominate the opponent in their half, will the risk of the day light rule now force these teams to drop and protect the space behind.
This will inevitably happen when stereotypically quicker attacking players and able to get a body length advantage on their traditionally larger and less mobile counterparts. Coaches will see this threat and look to adapt. The easiest way to adapt to this will be to drop deeper, create a block and look to counter attack against the opponent. This could potentially limit attacking opportunities with the most dominant sides now dropping deeper creating a more defensive approach to the game where sides such as Liverpool and Manchester City adapt their playing style.
This may also lead to teams such as Atletico Madrid, a team comfortable defending for long periods in a block of two 4’s and hitting the opponent on the break or scoring from set pieces becoming more prevalent, more tried and more successful instead of the high intensity counter-pressing and intense pressing philosophy we currently see from our most aesthetic teams.
In conclusion although this may seem as a huge swing in the favour of the attacking team, it is probably very important to recognise that the game may adapt to ensure that imbalance that has swung towards the attacking team swings back towards the natural, but as a result will we see less goals and less entertainment because of this.