Kai Havertz: VAR Handball Rules After Arsenal’s Equaliser vs Aston Villa Is Disallowed

Kai Havertz: VAR Handball Rules After Arsenal’s Equaliser vs Aston Villa Is Disallowed

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
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  • Arsenal were left reeling with anger after Kai Havertz's goal vs Aston Villa was disallowed
  • The former Chelsea man thought he had cancelled out John McGinn's early opener
  • We take a look at the interpretation of handball rules in the attacking phases of football

Kai Havertz was denied another uplifting moment for Arsenal after his late equaliser against Aston Villa was agonisingly disallowed on December 9.

The German forward thought he had rescued a point for the Gunners after a feisty encounter in Birmingham, only for the centre referee, Jarred Gillet, to call for a foul against him immediately.

Kai Havertz, Aston Villa vs Arsenal, English Premier League, handball rules, Mikel Arteta
Arsenal forward Kai Havertz appears to handle the ball before scoring against Aston Villa on December 9. Photo by Justin Tallis.
Source: Getty Images

What was the Havertz incident?

The Video Assistant Referee(VAR) rubberstamped the decision.

At the start of stoppage time, Arsenal skipper Martin Odegaard swung the ball into the area, contested by Havertz and Villa's defender Matty Cash.

Goalkeeper Emi Martinez was also involved before Havertz poked the ball inside the net. Replays show that the ball struck Cash's shoulder before ricocheting off Havertz's right arm.

When it comes to handball rules, questions of whether the arm was in a natural position or whether the handball was intentional or not have always been floated around as the referees make the decision.

It has always been a contentious interpretation as whatever might seem intentional to referee A might not be as deliberate to referee B.

Handball rules in attacking phase

However, the above interpretations don't work when a player handles the ball before scoring himself. The Premier League revised its handball rules ahead of the 2021/2022 season where they, stated that;

"If an attacking player’s accidental handball immediately precedes another player scoring, the goal will now be awarded, when last season it was likely to have been ruled out.
However, a player will still be penalised if he commits an accidental handball immediately before scoring himself.
Please note that a player still cannot score a goal with their arm, even if it is accidental."

Going by this clause, the VAR was correct to rule out the goal despite Mikel Arteta's frustrations after the game. The Spanish head coach, who watched the game from the stands, declined to comment.

"Clear and obvious, that's what I mean. That's my opinion. That's all I can say," he said, as quoted by the Independent.

Why Havertz's goal vs Liverpool was disallowed

Interestingly, this is not the first time a Havertz's goal has been ruled out under similar circumstances. During his Chelsea days, he scored against Liverpool in Bruno Saltor's only game in charge after Graham Potter had been sacked.

He had failed to get it past Alison at the first chance, with the rebound hitting his arm on the way in. As Sports Brief reported then, his arm was in a natural position, but as the rules dictate, a player cannot score with his arm, however accidental or naturally positioned the arm is.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
Mikel Arteta