It was poor form. That’s what it always is.
But let’s take a page out of Marvel’s book and play a spirited game of ‘What If…?’
I put forth that it was not just poor form, ’twas lack of VAR intervention that downed The Cherries.
The date: 17th June.
The Year: 2020.
The Game: Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United.
Final Score: 0–0
That’s how it went in our universe. And it proved to be an important point for the home side as they would survive on the final day by a single, solitary point.
A point they picked up at this game, when they perhaps shouldn’t have done.
You see in this game, which was the first of Project Restart, Sheffield United had the ball over the line. It wasn’t ruled out for offside, it wasn’t chalked off for a foul, it just… Wasn’t given.
I’m not saying it wasn’t hard to spot with the naked eye, but in a day when technology can determine what really happened, it should have been picked up.
There aren’t may photos that provide a great angle- Oh wait, yes there are.
Whether or not the ball has crossed the line is one of the easiest things to deduce these days because the referee’s little special watch goes off letting him know that it has indeed crossed. Cameras around the goal were used and they have been largely, massively unfailing.
Until the 17th June, 2020.
Simply, the referee’s watch did not go off. Michael Oliver could only go by what hawkeye told him, and they said ‘no goal’.
Now, we can clearly see that it was a goal, but at the time, hawkeye claimed that every camera was obstructed, be it by the goalkeeper, the upright, the defenders, or the attackers.
Six cameras all blocked off.
This probably means it was the only place Villa could have fucked up where no-one saw it.
But everyone saw it.
Apart from hawkeye.
Hey, he’s in Marvel.
So how does this affect Bournemouth?
Well, as I said, Villa survived (in 17th) by a single point, and they had that point on Bournemouth, who were relegated in 18th. The latter had the better goal difference, mind, if only just.
Now, we can’t possibly predict what would have happened with the rest of the season or even the rest of the game if Sheffield United’s ghost-goal was given, but if we do change just that one result by giving the goal, Sheffield United walk out 0–1 winners.
The Blades still finish 9th, now level on points with Arsenal above them, and Villa lose a point, as well as another -1 on the goal difference. This leaves them on 34 points with a -27 goal difference at the end of the season.
So while the original table looked like this:-
17. Aston Villa — GD: -26 — Pts: 35
18. Bournemouth — GD: -25 — Pts: 34
19. Watford — GD: -28 — Pts: 34
The ‘What If…?’ table looks like this:-
17. Bournemouth— GD: -25 — Pts: 34
18. Aston Villa — GD: -27 — Pts: 34
19. Watford — GD: -28 — Pts: 34
Three sides level on points, but Bournemouth survive by two goals.
And just because it wasn’t Frank Lampard in the World Cup against Germany (still a travesty), it wasn’t as egregious an error.
Who’s to say what might have happened if Bournemouth remained a Premier League side?
Would Eddie Howe have stayed on as Bournemouth coach?
Would Arnaut Danjuma have had his breakout season at Premier League level, commanding an even higher fee when he departed? Or would he have been robbed of a breakout season by a manager unwilling to take a chance at such a high level?
While it looked as if a few players were set to leave anyways, would Callum Wilson and Josh King have stayed on? If the former did, Newcastle would have been robbed of a bagsman, potentially spelling disaster for them in 20/21.
Would Jack Grealish have left?
Without the cash to snap up all the signatures of Cash and Watkins and Martinez and Traore, would they have gone elsewhere? Would Martinez have forced his way in at Arsenal? He did seem dead set on leaving anyways, so he’d have probably ended up at Southampton or somet. Would Watkins hold off to help Brentford for another season? Putting off The Bees bringing in Ivan Toney?
What I’m trying to say is that if this perfect storm of VAR fuckery didn’t happen, Newcastle would have been relegated in 20/21.
But the stars were aligned, the cameras were obstucted, and Bournemouth were relegated from the Premier League.
At the end of the day, both Villa and Bournemouth had poor seasons, and while the game is one of tight margins, degrees of luck are most certainly involved.
On this day, the first day back, a very big slice of it went to Villa. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What if Sheffield United’s ghost-goal against Aston Villa counted?
Keep it streets ahead,