It is impossible – nor is it desirable – to completely remove human error from sport. VAR’s truth is in the eye of the beholder. Players making mistakes to cause or miss goals is what football is based on. A Coach will always be accused of doing something wrong, no matter how much or little he changes his team from match to match. Errors, and the avoidance of them, are what make sport possible. It’s also why there are so many debate shows, podcasts, Twitter feeds and blogs like this one, because we don’t all agree on what is right.
The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee technology has until now been an issue of pace, but this weekend we got the first real taste of controversy. Luca Pairetto really didn’t fancy trotting over to look at a monitor on the side of the pitch, so if his assistants in the booth did radio down urging him to take another glance at the footage, he wasn’t much inclined to try. It’s difficult to see how Etrit Berisha grabbing Gil Dias by the ankle could’ve been a more obvious penalty, yet it was ignored and Atalanta went on to get that last-gasp equaliser. Fiorentina were understandably furious, as this is precisely the kind of human error that was meant to be eradicated this season.
Juventus director general Beppe Marotta is fond of referring to the “great imponderable elements” in sport, those incidents that cannot be predicted. Arkadiusz Milik will know exactly what he means, having damaged the ACL on his other knee one year on from the first massive setback. Simone Inzaghi lost most of his defence midway through the defeat to Napoli midweek, but corralled his Lazio to crush sorry Hellas Verona anyway. How this makeshift side will fare against sterner opposition is another matter.
Torino could not predict Daniele Baselli would commit two stupid and entirely avoidable fouls in the opening 25 minutes of the Derby della Mole. The first was debatable, but if you are already on a yellow card, you cannot in good conscience fling yourself sideways at an opponent and expect to get away with it. There’s a difference between human error and outright idiocy. Juventus march on with maximum points, but are still yet to be genuinely tested. Napoli at least have been forced to comeback from a goal down and prove their character, something that never happened in previous seasons.
Milan have faced only two tricky fixtures this term and lost both of them badly. The same fans who were already preparing Scudetto parties are now turning the knives on Vincenzo Montella, as if he is the sole figure to blame. This is a completely new squad, one that only really started playing together a couple of weeks ago and needs time to gel. It’s true, using 11 different line-ups in 11 competitive games this season is not a good sign, but Montella is inevitably at the tinkering stage. It also doesn’t take a genius to see Suso is wasted in a more central role and Cristian Zapata will never be a reliable defender, but mistakes are made so you can learn from them. Let Montella and Milan learn before wiping everything out to start again.
It seems the attitude of some Rossoneri supporters has rubbed off on the team: having a big name is no guarantee of success. You must earn every point and every tackle, just like Sampdoria did. Inter have scored more goals in the final 15 minutes than any other side this season, but a statistic like that cannot just be luck. Luciano Spalletti’s men do not give up and keep pushing for the result, even if they didn’t particularly deserve it, because this isn’t a sport based on merit. It’s about not making too many errors and pouncing on opposition mistakes.
Football is a fickle business. Just as Milanisti turned on Montella, the same critical Roma fans are now on board the Eusebio Di Francesco train. At least he can’t be accused of over-tinkering, with his 4-3-3 system set in stone like some Ancient Roman monument, but the Giallorossi are starting to get into the swing of things.
Next weekend it’s Milan v Roma and we’ll see who is jumping on or off the bandwagon. A Giallorossi victory would be devastating for Montella’s hopes of convincing an impatient fanbase, a Rossoneri success emboldening those who say EDF only beats minnows. Of course, one or even six games are not enough to judge a project, but that won’t stop them anyway. It’s a very old, very human error.