While Manchester City carried their winning form into 2022, the equally familiar debate around VAR controversy also continued in the first game of the new year.
Arsenal assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale called for more consistency in referees going to the pitchside monitor after the 2-1 defeat by league leaders City on Saturday.
The hosts thought referee Stuart Attwell should have viewed the monitor after Martin Odegaard went down in a challenge with City goalkeeper Ederson in the first half.
A check took place but Attwell was not told to consult the screen because VAR could not definitively say that Ederson did not get a touch on the ball.
Instead, Attwell stayed with the on-field decision and awarded a corner.
After waving away a foul by Granit Xhaka on Bernardo Silva after the break, Attwell was referred to the monitor and overturned his initial decision to award a penalty.
In this case, VAR felt that Xhaka stepping across Silva was enough to award a penalty and recommended the referee take another look.
Arsenal were more irked at what they felt was inconsistent use of the monitor rather than whether or not they should have had a penalty.
“It is a penalty but I am looking for consistency,” Stuivenberg – standing in for Mike Arteta, who tested positive for Covid-19 – told Match of the Day about the Odegaard incident.
“We have VAR in place so why not check yourself as a referee? That did not happen so it is disappointing.”
Arsenal goalkeeper Ramsdale said: “I am basing it on both penalties – the inconsistency of going to the screen, the referee might have ruled it out straight away when he looked at it.
“But it is the fact he went to look at it. Both in real time he said no penalty, but he only gets told to look at one. Theirs was soft but he gets told to look and has given it.
“I am at the other end of the pitch for our penalty shout. The goalkeeper comes out with his foot and he either catches him or the ball. The Bernardo one, he stood him up and it is got given.
“Penalties are penalties, but for us it is getting told to look at the screen.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said: “Bernardo Silva’s is a penalty. With Martin Odegaard, I took a shower and came here so did not see it [on the replay].”
Former Everton midfielder Leon Osman said Attwell got the big decisions right.
“I didn’t think that was a penalty kick. I thought Ederson got just enough of the ball,” he said on Final Score.
“And then the Bernardo Silva and and Xhaka coming together, I thought there was a clip of the knee, there was a shirt pull.
“Yes, he probably went down a little bit soft at the end, but it was enough to be a penalty.”