Sun. Oct 25th, 2020

Man Utd

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Tottenham defender Eric Dier admits handball rule has him on edge ahead of Man Utd clash

5 min read

Eric Dier will go into Sunday’s clash with Manchester United full of fear. Not of having to deal with the combined talents of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

Instead, the England defender’s concern will be about football’s rule book, specifically the new handball rule which penalises almost any touch of the arm, even if the player has no intention to handle the ball.

Dier was caught out last week when he jumped, his eyes turned away from the action, and inadvertently struck the ball with his outstretched arm, an action which at one time would have been deemed accidental.

Andy Carroll's header hit Eric Dier's right arm at point-blank range for the harshest of penalties

Andy Carroll’s header hit Eric Dier’s right arm at point-blank range for the harshest of penalties

Even Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, who benefited from the last-minute penalty awarded against Dier, was aghast. And though the Premier League has been allowed some leeway in softening their interpretation, Dier’s ‘handball’ would still be an offence.

‘You are terrified in and around the box with the new rule,’ said Dier. ‘You don’t feel free to act, to try to play in a normal way. Sometimes it’s difficult because it’s something that can come back to bite you and is still an opinion.

‘When it comes to my incident, the fact that everyone seems to be of the same opinion, which is a rarity in football, makes it clear that things aren’t right. If the opposition manager is saying after the game that he doesn’t think it’s a penalty, which is also a rarity, it’s very clear.

‘Everyone within the game seems to be on the same page with it, whether it’s with a team or against a team, so it’s obviously not right.

‘And if you isolate my incident, there are many factors to it, but one thing that isn’t talked so much about my incident is that, if you watch it, Jamaal Lascelles pushes me in my back and that’s what actually causes my arm to then be raised even more, even though you need your arms to jump. Andy Carroll is one of the best players in the air and watch how he uses his arms to jump. You need your arms to jump and the fact I was also pushed was what exaggerated my arm’s movement forward.

‘But regardless of that, I’m less than a metre away from him, my head is in the other direction, I have absolutely zero control of my arm and zero intention of touching the ball with my arm. We were told all the rules in a video meeting at the beginning of the season but there are conflicting rules that make no sense.

Dier was understandably upset by the decision in a game where Tottenham looked to have won

Dier was understandably upset by the decision in a game where Tottenham looked to have won

‘If you’re too close, if you’re in close proximity and the ball hits your arm it’s not a handball. If it hits a certain part of your arm it’s not a handball, and if your arm is in a certain position it is a handball. For me it’s very clear: is it intentional? Is an arm in a position it shouldn’t be? Those are the two questions you need to ask in any handball situation.’

And while VAR is not to blame specifically for the handball law, the fact that offences can be scrutinised so closely has amplified the impact of the law, which was in operation worldwide last season but is only now being implemented in the Premier League.

Dier said: ‘My stance on VAR as a player has always been that for anything that is factual I want VAR. So goal technology, the offside rule, I want VAR. But anything that is of an opinion, I’d rather not have it. I’d rather live with the human error of the referee.

Tottenham's Dier said he is scared to play ahead of facing Manchester United on Sunday

Tottenham’s Dier said he is scared to play ahead of facing Manchester United on Sunday

‘I can accept a referee making a judgment and sometimes getting it wrong. I can’t accept it being wrong when VAR is involved. But even with VAR, when it comes to tackles, handballs, 50 per cent agree with it and 50 don’t, most of the time. So I prefer just to get on with the game and live with the referees’ decisions in the moment.’

Dier, who recently received a four-match ban from the FA after entering the crowd to protect his family from abuse last season, revealed that England manager Gareth Southgate had supported him after the charge.

‘The support he gave me during the incident with the FA, I’m extremely grateful for that,’ said Dier. ‘I didn’t even have to ask him, he came to me and said that if I needed anything, he was there for me.

Dier said VAR is only beneficial when it used for anything that is factual and not of opinion

Dier said VAR is only beneficial when it used for anything that is factual and not of opinion

‘I’ve always been extremely grateful for the way he has treated me and I’ve always repaid him with that respect in the same way. Even at the World Cup, where I think I played all the qualifying games leading up to it and then not to start, I was extremely disappointed.

‘But his honesty and the way he handles those situations I respect a lot. We’ve always had a very good working relationship as well since he was with England Under 21s.

‘With him and my manager here [Jose Mourinho], I know that if I’m not performing, I won’t be selected.

‘It’s a ruthless sport and it’s up to me to perform no matter what your relationship is with the people around you. It’s up to you to perform and I have to keep doing that.’

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