Arsenal made a brilliant start to their Premier League clash with Aston Villa on Friday night.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Gunners had come crashing back down to Earth after their Tottenham Hotspur win with back-to-back draws against Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace.
But the potential banana skin of a home clash with Aston Villa proved to be one that they traversed with admirable poise and nimbleness. Well, certainly in terms of the opening 45 minutes.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
That’s because Mikel Arteta’s men put a real dent in the visitors as Thomas Partey ended his long wait for a Premier League goal by directing a soft header past Emiliano Martinez’s grasp.
And that 1-0 scoreline looked to be the way that things remained when Craig Pawson appeared to blow the half-time whistle. However, VAR proceeded to pump the brakes on the 15-minute interval.
That’s because the technology pulled back the events to a tackle on Alexandre Lacazette by Matt Targett with Arsenal duly winning a penalty that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up to take.
Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Arsenal win controversial penalty
Then, just when everyone thought that the drama was over, Aubameyang proceeded to see his spot-kick saved by former Arsenal man Martinez, though he did manage to convert the rebound.
All in all, it made for a chaotic few minutes in which fans hotly debated whether a penalty should have been given in the first place with many thinking that Targett was harshly punished.
However, with VAR thinking otherwise, we implore you to make up your own minds by watching the Lacazette incident as well as Aubameyang’s subsequent goal down below:
Had the HT whistle gone?
Initial reports suggested that Pawson had indeed blown the half-time whistle, but it later emerged that the signal mistaken by so many as a call for the interval was actually for the VAR review.
ESPN reporter and VAR expert Dale Johnson clarified the situation on Twitter by explaining: “Unlike Brighton vs. Man Utd, Arsenal penalty wasn’t awarded after whistle for half had gone.
“Referee Craig Pawson stopped play in a neutral area before HT whistle to review, per protocol. That’s why Aubameyang could score rebound. If HT blown, play stops at save.
“Craig Pawson blows once to stop play in a neutral area. He does not “blow for half-time” as we all know referees do with a series of whistles.
“He then whistles a couple of times for attention and beckons them to stay on the field, indicating there is a review.”
Fortune favours Arsenal
Either way, it certainly made for dramatic scenes at Emirates Stadium and one in which Arsenal put themselves well on their way to a sixth consecutive Premier League game without defeat.
Mikel Arteta certainly isn’t out of the woods in terms of the criticism that he receives from certain sections of the Arsenal faithful, but it’s clear that he’s at least stopped the rot in north London.
And if it takes some VAR drama to achieve that then so be it because the Premier League just wouldn’t be the same without the occasional moment of controversy and downright confusion.