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Much-maligned VAR gets Arsenal red card absolutely right (video)

Referee Paul Tierney shows Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (far left) a red card after VAR review on Saturday. (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Hey look, a VAR decision we can (hopefully) all agree on.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was sent off from Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in the 67th minute for a nasty challenge on Palace’s Max Meyer.

Aubameyang was initially booked for his late stab at the ball, but the video assistant referee intervened and upgraded the yellow to a red:

Aubameyang was late and he’s fortunate Meyer’s ankle is still intact. No, potential outcomes shouldn’t be the outright basis for legislation, but any sensible viewing of that challenge renders red card appeals rather frivolous.

VAR has been under fire since the start of its maiden voyage in the Premier League this season. We’ve called for its refinement. We’ve also called for its dissolution. The flashpoint incidents have involved offside calls, with cards getting scant treatment.

Credit where it’s due, however. The system got Aubameyang’s red card right, and Arsenal was fortunate to pluck a point from this match, especially after Jordan Ayew’s equalizer that preceded the incident. The notorious “clear and obvious” criteria applies to cards too, and that was clearly more than a yellow card.

The best way to think of VAR working here is to compare it to the NFL, which automatically reviews turnovers, among other things, and can change those calls in the process. Aubameyang received a yellow card, VAR was automatically triggered, and after another look it was upgraded to a red card. Sorry everyone, that is football.

And that performance, pre-red card at least, was Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. Structured, more free flowing and dangerous, Aubameyang scored the opener to cap a great build-up in the first half:

If Arsenal wanted it to, that goal (and perhaps a victory) would’ve been the story of the day, and Aubameyang wouldn’t possibly miss the next three matches barring appeal.

It’s not VAR’s fault we’re talking about something else.

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