How the new offside law could impact Aston Villa's defence

In April, Premier League clubs voted unanimously to introduce semi-automatic offside technology (SAOT) for next season. The decision has split opinion, as ever, and this piece will look at how its introduction could influence changes to Villa's style of play.
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Despite the vote, Premier League chiefs have already claimed that the new system will not be ready to use from the start of the season and a start date after the autumn international breaks is more likely.

This is because those in charge want to ensure, fully, that the system doesn't have any glitches and therefore the extra time will allow the system to be completely error proof by the time it is rolled out. As reported by Tom Collomosse and Sam Brookes (The Mail), a Premier League spokesman said:

"The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters."

Premier League Spokesman

It is believed, after initital rounds of testing, that the technology will reduce VAR delays by around 30 seconds. With that news, plus the praise that was provided when this technology was used at the Qatar World Cup two years ago, fans will be much happier. Delays in the stadium due to VAR are incredibly frustrating and makes for a poor and unhappy atmosphere.

Chelsea FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
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Therefore, assuming that the semi-automated offsides will be introduced at some stage next season we need to investigate how Villa might be affected by its introduction.

It is well known that under Unai Emery the Aston Villa defence have played a very high defensive line. As a result, Villa were top of the charts last season for the number of times the opposition were flagged offside. In the table below, Villa's offside figures are compared to the other four teams that made up the top 5 this season.

Teams to catch opposition offside (2023/24)

Number of times (whole season)

Number of times (Average per game)

Aston Villa



Tottenham Hotspur



Manchester City









Despite the obvious success with Emery's high line in terms of the number of times they catch the opposition offside, it has also seen it's failings this season. Particularly when the team has been rotated and the chemistry along the back line isn't as strong, Villa have been caught out and conceded goals. Evidence to this in recent history would be the two-legged affair against Olympiacos in the Europa Conference League semi-final where the Greek outfit sprung the offside trap several times due to the Villa back line not being well connected enough.

Ayoub El Kaabi
Aston Villa v Olympiacos FC: Semi-final First Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

There have also been times where opposition forwards have ran through as Villa appeal for an offside and stick the ball in the net before a VAR intervention deemed the player of be very fractionally offside. With the new technology of semi-automated offsides, Villa are unlikely to continue to get away with it in the same scenarios. The use of such technology means a higher number of dedicated cameras, 12 to be precise, are used around the stadium to track almost 30 data points of each player. The technology is much more accurate and much quicker, meaning the inaccuracy of VAR's current line drawing system will be irradicated. If the Premier League use the same system as seen at the World Cup, a sensor placed in the ball itself will be sending data 500 times a second to produce incredibly accurate results. Once a decision is quickly reached, it is likely the 3D animation will be shown on the big screens for fans to view.

Johannes Holzmuller
Referees Media Day - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 / Christopher Lee/GettyImages

Therefore, gone potentially are the days of Wesley's heel making him offside at Burnley, or someone's elbow or shoulder/sleeve length the reason for being on or offside. The VAR offside decision to date has been inaccurate and it is likely to stop now.

So, with Villa playing so high up the pitch off the ball what will they do to ensure they don't get caught out by this new technology. Emery could decide to scrap the high line altogether and drop the defence much deeper out of possession. This would almost erase any possibility of offside but potentially allow teams more freedom across Villa's midfield.

This could support the possibility of three centre backs to see Konsa, Mings and Torres together with two wing-backs effectively making up the midfield. Should that happen, Villa would perhaps need to really condense their middle of the park with more numbers in order to win the ball back. At the moment, Villa often win the ball back as a result of teams being offside and starting with a dead ball in possession.

Otherwise, Villa could continue to play the same high line might need to consider the individuals they play at centre back. Should Villa continue this way and teams do race through we would need to consider having greater pace in that position in order to recover in defence. Pau Torres is a superb player on the ball but is not blessed with pace. Mings certainly does have pace, but he may not come back the same player he was following his ACL injury.

Either way, it will certainly give Unai Emery and his coaching team a problem to solve. Villa conceded a high number of goals this season and they will be very keen to reduce the number of chances the opposition have per game.