Tottenham centre-half, Jan Vertonghen, fears defenders are being forced to relearn their craft as the video assistant referee (VAR) takes its grip on football.
Vertonghen is predicting a huge increase in the numbers of penalties when the system is introduced to the Premier League next season.
‘So many things look like a penalty in slow-motion,’ said the 31-year-old Belgium international. ‘Everything looks like a penalty now. I think we have to change the way we defend.
‘We are not pulling people down but even a small touch, if you watch it 20 times in slow motion, it will give so many more penalties.
‘We were talking about defending corners or free-kicks. You can’t even touch anyone. Before it was quite physical in a fair way, but now you are too scared to get close to someone.
‘I think you will see in the stats in the next few years in the Premier League, and you will see at least 20, 30 or 40 more penalties.’
Spurs were stung by the VAR in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final against Manchester City on Tuesday when Danny Rose slid in an attempt to block a shot from Raheem Sterling and the ball struck him on the elbow.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers was alerted by his video assistant, reviewed the incident on the pitchside screen and awarded City a penalty, which was taken by Sergio Aguero and saved by Hugo Lloris.
‘They didn’t even appeal for it,’ said Vertonghen. ‘So it was extremely weird to concede a penalty like this.
‘That’s VAR. In a way it’s good. I’m not always a fan. It takes a lot away from the game, I think, but at the end it will give you more and everyone will benefit from it.
‘If we got a penalty in this way I would be very happy. Football is always a very emotional game, and VAR is changing that a bit.’
Many former players turned pundits have criticised the protocol to award penalties for handball offences such as Rose’s against City and Presnel Kimpembe’s for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester United in the last-16 stage of the Champions League.
The officials are following guidance to award handball if the player’s arms are outside his body and therefore making his body into a larger obstruction.
Ex-players, however, insist it is physically impossible to always keep your arms tucked into the body when moving quickly to try and block a shot or a cross.
‘We all need to adapt,’ said Vertonghen. ‘The players, the referees and how they think as a player sometimes.
‘Sometimes you can’t do anything else than put your body on the line, and I don’t even know the answer, but it’s important that referees think as a football player sometimes.’