Mike Dean Paul Merson Sky Sports VAR Argument

Forget Arsenal vs Man City, Mike Dean vs Paul Merson is the box office bout of the weekend

It’s the story that never runs out of legs. Just when you think the dust has settled, up pops a new opportunity to argue the toss about Luis Diaz’s wrongly disallowed goal against Tottenham.

Confusion reigned when we weren’t given the usual offside lines in the broadcast coverage of the match. Those who argued that the Colombian clearly looked onside were shouted down as conspiracy theorists and luddites who don’t understand the technology can’t get it wrong.

To be fair, there was nothing wrong with the technology. The pitchside cameras and replay assistants did as they were supposed to, only for the video assistant referee to communicate the opposite of what he wanted to the match official.

Confirmation of this shortly after the final whistle, complete with the increasingly en-vogue PGMOL apology, birthed a discourse that failed to simmer down for almost a week. Just when you thought we could move on to something else, out came the audio. ‘Well done boys, good process’ instantly entered the football lexicon. Then came Jurgen Klopp’s assertion that the right thing would be for a replay.

Come Saturday, a whole seven days later, and a whole round of new Premier League fixtures – including Arsenal versus Manchester City – surely, surely we could turn our attention to something else?

Think again. Enter Mike Dean. The Hulk Hogan of the football officiating world.

Dean has already got himself into hot water this season, barely out of retirement and into the world of media work, when he admitted that he admitted to avoiding a VAR call last season to spare his “mate” Anthony Taylor “more grief” in what was a particularly terse match.

And there we have it. Expect Dean to throw his old colleagues under the bus? No chance. Dean is a company man. Sky Sports’ answer to Peter Walton. And so we were always going to get a mealy-mouthed explanation of the events at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last weekend.

Dean’s mention of restarting the game “for the sake of it” sent Paul Merson dizzy.

For the sake of it?

For the sake of it!?

For the sake of it!?

Dean was doing what you might expect and explaining the laws and protocol from his perspective as a former referee.

He explained the Premier League’s reasoning for not simply being able to stop the game and rectify an error. All perfectly sound and logical. Bringing things back – even once, in exceptional circumstances – could open a whole can of worms.

It’s a role he played to perfection.

But so too did Merson, voicing so many fans’ frustrations at the inadequacies of how the game is officiated. And the Kafkaesque lunacy of not being able to rectify an error seconds after it’s been identified.

Forget Arsenal against Manchester City. An exasperated Merse shouting the odds at Mike Dean will surely be the highlight of the weekend.

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