The end of offside at the tip of the shoe .. How will Arsene Wenger change football?

On April 1, 2011, the English newspaper “The Sun” published a story saying that some zoos in Britain and the United States of America began training gorillas to use iPads in an attempt to keep them happy and test their attention and intuition. (1)

Of course, you did not expect this to be an April Fool’s Day. In fact, only a few of the newspaper’s readers expected it, perhaps because the lie was not so believable, which is the prerequisite for any successful lie; To blur the line between fact and fiction.

The most important reason why so many believed the newspaper’s story was the fact that the world was only a few months away from this lie becoming a reality. In September of the same year, the Milwaukee Municipal Zoo in Wisconsin had already begun the experiment; When park officials began testing the abilities of some species of monkeys, such as the Orang Utan, to deal with tablets, specifically using the Skype program to communicate with the rest of the monkeys in the park (2), then they called this initiative a name that plays on alliteration The verbal difference between the word monkeys and the abbreviation of the word applications is “Apps for Apes”.

stupid technology

Now try to imagine how the editor of “The Sun” felt when he found out about it only a few months later. He must have felt a degree of foolishness, perhaps because the joke had turned against him, and what he considered impossible had already happened, and, in fact, it is indeed questionable; If there are decades-old experiences that tell us that some species of monkeys can understand images, symbols and letters and distinguish between them, what prevents them from dealing with a tablet computer? The newspaper readers who believed April Fools’ Day did not deserve the ridicule.

Something similar happened when the first footage of the offside calculation using Video Assistant Referee, usually abbreviated to “VAR”, surfaced; Someone must have joked at the time that a player who wears size 46 shoes will be more likely to be offside than others, and we must have laughed at this joke, and then months later we found out that this is what is really going to happen.

Did we feel stupid later? Perhaps this is what happened to some, but to most, and unlike the editor of The Sun, there were good reasons for feeling that the technology itself was stupid, as it was impossible to convince anyone that the accuracy of the video assistant referee could reach this degree, especially when the difference is A few centimeters cannot be seen with the naked eye.

At that moment, an important confusion occurred which we are still stuck in until this moment; Some could not differentiate between the fact that the referees – specifically the Premier League referees – had exaggerated the matter to an illogical degree, and this is completely true, and actually provoked, and the fact that these errors and exaggerations were necessary at the same time, simply because it is the only way to develop the technology and avoid its defects in The future, just like any new technology in any other field, is not logical to expect that it will provide a final, categorical, and definitive solution to all problems as soon as they are issued.

What some felt at the time was logical, and most importantly, it was true with the practical scientific experience. In August 2019, for example, the English newspaper “Daily Mail” published a report explaining that it is theoretically and practically impossible to calculate the intrusion on centimeter differences, for the simple reason that the tools you use Technology, ie cameras, are not equipped for this. (3)

Laser precision, James Bond and other things

The theory here is not complicated; The law of the game requires that the offside be counted at the first meeting of the passer’s foot with the ball, meaning that if De Bruyne is trying to shoot a through to Mahrez, for example, the camera must stop at the first contact between his foot and the ball and decide then whether the Algerian is offside or not. Simple idea, isn’t it?

The problem is that an image where De Bruyne’s foot first contacts the ball can be difficult to capture accurately. First, because the quality of the image is negatively affected the closer we get, and secondly, because the correct frame may fall between two consecutive frames. The video you’re watching for any match is a series of frames that make you feel like it’s continually moving, and these are real cameras as you know, different from those in James Bond movies, where you can zoom in to infinity without losing its sharpness and quality Just because the hero asked for it.

The second reason is that these cameras film what is happening at a speed of 50 frames per second, that is, the time difference between each frame and the next is 0.02 seconds, and because the devil often lies in the details, this small difference was what inspired the Premier League rulers to exaggerate the accuracy , what difference can 0.02 seconds make? The answer is “every difference is possible”.

In one of the cases, for example, the video referee decided that Raheem Sterling was an intruder by 2.4 cm, and in the same case, the speed of the English wing was about 23.4 km / h, meaning that the error rate here if the referee had chosen the incorrect tire would have been up to 13 cm cut it Sterling in those diabolical 0.02 seconds that don’t seem to matter at all.

The result here is that the video referee calculates offside at 2.4 cm, while the error coefficient may be 13 cm, and may even reach more than that, depending on the player’s running speed and the distance he is able to cover during that 0.02 seconds. The equation is mathematically unsuccessful from the ground up, and the technique may be valid for discerning infiltrates with greater accuracy from the eyes of the assistant, but it is definitely not ready to calculate infiltrations with centimeter accuracy. It’s like trying to tell the exact time without a minute hand.

Paradoxically, this is not the only problem; Attempting to identify the real offside moment is a completely human process that does not depend on advanced automated technology such as goal line technology, where there is a machine that is not kidding that performs calculations from start to finish, the problem is also that this process takes a long time, up to a few minutes .

Wenger.. Arsene Wenger

In the 2020-2021 season, for example, the total of the decisions of the arena referee modified by the video assistant referee was about 61, and almost a quarter (13 cases) were goals that were canceled due to infiltration. It’s certainly not catastrophic, simply because not all of these thirteen goals are subject to the same error, but if there is one that can be fixed, why not? (4)

Probably, that was the moment when Arsene Wenger decided to intervene, and to understand the legendary French coach’s proposal you have to look at it in its entirety. The first part depends on the use of a modern technology that has been introduced in recent years called Limb Tracking, and some call it “Skeletal Tracking”, which, as its name sounds, converts ordinary television broadcasts into a digital image that can be artificially intelligent. Read it and get acquainted with its details, by tracking the movement of the players’ limbs and showing them in the form of structures. (5)

Johann Holzmueller, an expert in football technology, gave a lecture at FIFA explaining how the technology works, as it relies on 10-12 cameras installed on the field, and these cameras capture 29 information from the player’s movement with each frame. The surprise here is that these cameras operate at the same current defective speed, that is, 50 frames per second, but the difference here is that converting the broadcast into a digital image allows artificial intelligence to fill in the spaces between the frames, meaning that if the player’s hand was heading up at a certain speed in the frame first, then appearing somewhere in the second frame, the AI ​​can predict where it is in between.

They call it Semi-Automated Offside. The process itself is completely automated, but as a transitional stage, every decision made by the machine is up to the video referee to confirm it before informing the arena referee, and in the view of Pier Luigi Collina, the legendary Italian referee and head of the current FIFA referees committee, the technology has succeeded in reducing errors significantly. (6)

This technology also overcomes the difficulties that video referees face when trying to draw 3D lines on a 2D image, as it always happens. With the new modifications, artificial intelligence is able to make a simulated model of the stadium in three dimensions, and avoid the possibility of error in drawing the lines by close to 100. %.

The most exciting thing about this proposal is the fact that football could go back to a pre-VAR era, that is, without long pauses and moments of doubt and waiting, and at the same time, with better quality and much lower potential for error, since all of the above are calculated in milliseconds By artificial intelligence, and therefore there is no concern here about raising the flag early or late, as the decision will precede the development of the attack in the overwhelming proportion of cases.

shoe size technology

This is all wonderful and beautiful, but, unfortunately, it is of little use, because no matter how advanced we use tools, and no matter how much we leave the decision to the machine, the damn shoe-tip dilemma will always be there. Will we still count intrusions at distances like 2.4 centimeters with the only difference being that the machine will make the decision?

Here comes the second part of Wenger’s proposal, and for this we told you that it is not separate from the first, as the French proposes to amend the offside law so that the player does not count as an infiltrator if any part of any member can touch the ball from him – legally – on the same line with the defender at the moment of first contact With the ball from the passer. This is a very long and cumbersome statement, so let’s simplify it; This means any part of the player’s body except the arms, specifically his legs and feet, unless he is running like cartoon characters of course, and then we may add his head to the above. (7)

This would give the attackers a clear advantage, of course; Realistically, the game will still be based on the same minute details, and the defender will still look at the attacker’s feet and adjust their positioning based on their position, but it will give the attackers an extra tens of centimeters which can be the difference between their feet and head positions during the starting position.

In a way, this makes sense; The scoring from the rebounds has become more rare in recent years due to the increase in the physical capabilities of the defenders, and their speed has increased with time to the point that they reward the attackers in sprints and can overcome even the difference made by the striker in the first seconds before receiving the ball. The idea of ​​piling players in front of the goal and then throwing the ball into the spaces of the fast wing is no longer as effective as it was before.

It’s not 100% perfect, and it never will be, but what we are sure of is that technologies like this make us all feel stupid, not because orangutans actually use tablets, but because they make us wonder how many tournaments and matches would have changed if they were Techniques like this exist in the past, and how many trophies our team has won or been denied due to mistakes like that. Was a lot of it like April Fools’ Day?



  1. April Lies that turned into reality! – abc news
  2. The ability at the zoo is starting to use apps on tablets – The Seattle Times
  3. The Great Video Referee Debate; The technique is not ready for calculating offside at distances such as 2.4 cm because the error coefficient is 13 cm – The Daily Mail
  4. How did the video referee decisions affect the Premier League clubs in 2021-2022? – ESPN
  5. Semi-automated offside has arrived..FIFA believes it will change football for the better – ESPN
  6. Wenger’s drastic changes to the laws; Offside Adjustments, Self-Taking Free Kicks, Replacing Throw-in for Free Kicks – ESPN
  7. Wenger’s proposals to amend the offside law give preference to offensive play – The Evening Standard
  8. Arsene Wenger: “Soon… the offside decisions will be made by machines!” – Goal

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