Javi Gracia and Pep Guardiola have called on the game’s lawmakers to clarify the offside rule after claiming the introduction of Video Assistant Referees in the Premier League next season will not be enough in itself to end the confusion it frequently sparks.
Raheem Sterling’s first goal in Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday should not have stood after referee Paul Tierney appeared to overrule his assistant, Adrian Holmes, who had correctly flagged for offside.
Sterling was in an offside position when his City team-mate Sergio Aguero directed the ball towards him and, as the England forward shaped to shoot with his right foot, a challenge from the Watford defender, Daryl Janmaat, resulted in the ball deflecting off Sterling’s left leg and past Ben Foster.
Since Sterling was challenging Janmaat for the ball in close proximity, he was deemed to have become involved in active play and, as such, should have been ruled offside.
The incident follows a similarly controversial offside call for Harry Kane’s penalty for Spurs against Arsenal a week earlier and both Gracia and Guardiola agreed that the International Football Association Board (Ifab) needed to end the confusion around the interpretation of offside.
“I don’t think the VAR is the solution,” Gracia, the Watford manager, said. “I think the solution is first of all to have the rules made clear. The VAR I’m sure can help the referees to make less mistakes but first of all we have to know the rules and to know if it’s offside or not offside this play.”