Why Anthony Gordon's goal for Newcastle was allowed to stand against Arsenal

  • Anthony Gordon scored the only goal of the game in Newcastle's 1-0 win over Arsenal
  • Three separate incidents were scrutinised by VAR during a lengthy check
  • A lack of conclusive evidence was cited by the officials at Stockley Park
There were many points of confusion and controversy surrounding Anthony Gordon's goal for Newcastle
There were many points of confusion and controversy surrounding Anthony Gordon's goal for Newcastle / Stu Forster/GettyImages

"I feel sick."

Mikel Arteta did nothing to disguise his disgust with the VAR officials from Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday evening. The beaten manager carried his fury from the flash interview immediately after the final whistle into the post-match press conference, seething that the decision to let Anthony Gordon's goal stand was "unacceptable", "embarrassing" and "a disgrace".

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe, unsurprisingly, offered a different viewpoint. "It looked a good goal to me."

Here's a breakdown of why the match officials agreed with Newcastle's manager - and the uncertainty that turned Arteta's stomach.

Why was Anthony Gordon's goal for Newcastle was allowed to stand against Arsenal?

There are three distinct stages to the only goal of a fiery game played in the first chill of November. Let's take it step by step.

Did the ball go out of play?

Arsenal just about managed to defend the first wave of Newcastle pressure in the 63rd minute but Joe Willock - a former Gunner - didn't give up on the attack, haring across to the byline where he was adjudged to have kept the ball in play while expertly hurdling the corner flag.

The Premier League added four additional cameras to each top-flight stadium over the summer after some glaring blindspots were identified while making offside decisions last season. However, there still weren't enough electronic eyes in St James' Park to conclusively determine whether the entire ball had crossed the line.

Some freeze frames from the match showed green grass between the ball and the white line. But this particular decision is not determined by a point of contact; the ball is still judged to be within the confines of the pitch if any part of it is hanging over the line. This niche aspect of Law 9 was thrust into the spotlight in Japan's clash with Spain at the last Men's World Cup.

While beIN Sports may claim to have conclusive proof that the ball did not stray entirely beyond the white rectangle, VAR had to stick with the on-field decision as the officials in Stockley Park were not provided with a definitive bird's eye view of the incident.

Did Joelinton foul Gabriel?

Joelinton, Gabriel
Joelinton (left) gets close and personal with Gabriel / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Much like Marmite, Brexit or Arsenal's away kit, the tussle between Joelinton and Gabriel at the back post is hotly divisive.

There is little doubt that Newcastle's Brazilian - mere seconds after being moved into the frontline by Howe - had two hands on Gabriel's back. Whether there was enough force to constitute a foul, which has to be "careless, reckless or excessive" per Law 12, is up for intense debate.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya - who unconvincingly flapped underneath Willock's cross even though aerial claims were widely touted as one of his strongest attributes - took a dim view of the contact. "After going to the dressing room, looking back at the goal, it's a big foul on Gabi," Raya claimed. "He's pushing him with two hands on his back when he's about to clear the ball."

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown agreed on BBC's Match of the Day - again, club allegiances are hard to overlook - but Gary Neville was adamant no foul took place. Commentating live on Sky Sports, Neville quickly decided: "Gabriel might be whining about a push in the back, but there's nothing in that for me."

The question of whether Joelinton handled the ball while jostling with Gabriel was also raised. The Brazilian couldn't really be accused of deliberately touching the ball with his fist or making his body bigger and since he wasn't the one that thumped it into the net - which would have removed the question of intent - VAR moved on to check one last sticking point.

Was Anthony Gordon offside?

Just to ensure that the entire rulebook was thoroughly thumbed through, VAR also inspected a possible offside against Gordon.

Raya - in his failed attempts to intercept Willock's delivery - strayed in front of Gordon and, crucially, his teammate Gabriel. For a player to be onside, they either have to be behind the ball or have at least two opponents closer to the opposition's goal. The frozen VAR image shows that Gordon is between Raya and Gabriel but what clouds the entire decision-making process in uncertainly is again a lack of camera angles.

With the setup available to VAR on Saturday, there was no way to judge when Joelinton last touched the ball - and so when to freeze the image. What's more, the ball was entirely obscured, ensuring that the officials could not establish where Gordon was in relation to the ball. Once again, a lack of conclusive evidence forced VAR to stick with the on-pitch decision.

Luis Diaz's controversially disallowed goal for Liverpool against Tottenham Hotspur in September prompted questions as to why the Premier League do not employ semi-automated offsides. With the aid of 12 specially dedicated cameras, this technology collects 29 data points on a player's body 50 times every second and deploys a sensor in the ball. The World Cup and Champions League both take advantage of the tech.

It's impossible to categorically declare that the more sophisticated system would have made a different decision had it been used at St James' Park, but it would certainly have given the VAR officials more information.