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Ref preview: Arsenal v WHU. Atkinson; appalling judgement, worse than random in his decision making

Arsenal v West Ham United – Sunday 9 August – The Referee Preview

By Andrew Crawshaw

Well at last proper competitive football and I will again look at the Match Officials, what Arsenal’s history is with them and attempt to predict what they will do during the game.

For Sunday the Officials are

  • Referee – Martin Atkinson
  • Assistants – S Child and S Burt
  • Fourth Official – M Oliver

Mr Atkinson is one of the most senior referees in England, this will be his 266th Premier League game and he has had FIFA Accreditation since 2006, indeed he is a FIFA Elite referee.

Martin Atkinson is no stranger to us, last season he was our man in charge on three occasions, four times in 2013/14 and three times in 2012/13.

Mssrs. Child and Burt are both experienced linesmen and I noted nothing untoward in their performances last year.

How were his decisions in his three games for us last year?

Correct Calls Wrong Calls in Favour of…
Arsenal Opponent
Normal Important Normal Important Normal Important
Chelsea v Arsenal 25 7 0 4 11 13
Arsenal v QPR 29 9 0 1 3 4
Spurs v Arsenal 32 11 1 1 11 8
Totals 86 27 1 6 25 25
% of total calls (170) 50.59% 15.88% 0.59% 3.53% 14.71% 14.71%
66.47% Wrong 33.53%

Normal calls (fouls, goal kicks, corners, throw-ins etc): he got 86 correct out of 112 (76.7% certainly nowhere the 98.5% correct figure claimed by the PGMO).

Of the remaining  26 wrong calls 25 were called against Arsenals so a pretty biased performance.

Big calls (yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals) were another case altogether.

Only 47% were correct.  Any of us could toss a coin and expect to get 50% correct for a trained professional to be worse than that is totally and utterly unacceptable.  Of those calls he got wrong were more than 4 to 1 in favour of our opponents.

If we look at his performance compared with the other referees we get the following list.  First game of the season and the PGMO give us the worst referee from last year!

Referee Correct total Wrong total
Moss 83.17% 16.83%
Pawson 80.82% 19.18%
Clattenberg 78.85% 21.15%
Oliver 78.18% 21.82%
Dowd 73.44% 26.56%
Taylor 72.88% 27.12%
Friend 70.59% 29.41%
Marinner 70.42% 29.58%
Jones 70.00% 30.00%
East 67.92% 32.08%
Dean 67.37% 32.63%
Atkinson 66.47% 33.53%

Looking in more detail at the three games last season

Untold’s Unacceptable Referee Review: Chelsea – Arsenal

This was a totally one-sided piece of refereeing where Mr Atkinson decided the outcome of the match.

Oscar should have had a yellow card in Minute 6, Cahill should have had a straight red in Minute 20 for an awful challenge on Alexis, a tackle that looked to have the intent to seriously injure our player.  At the same time there was an off-the ball incident where Ivanovic deliberately elbowed Özil in the back another straight red card.

Atkinson did nothing against Oscar or Ivanovic and only gave Cahill a yellow card.

Later on a stone wall penalty for Arsenal not given when Fabregas raised his hand to head height to deflect a shot for a corner.  His overall weighted performance score was 44.7%.

Untold Ref Review: Arsenal – QPR

A match with lots of big decisions.  He got the first one right in Minute 7 with a penalty for a clear foul by Traore on Alexis, the second one in Minute 23 he got wrong, should have been a second penalty to Arsenal for a foul by Onuoha on Welbeck but nothing given.

Ferdinand got a correct yellow for a professional foul.  In the second half Giroud was correctly given a red card for reacting to a non-given foul on him by Onuoha.  In the aftermath Ferdinand gragged Giroud by the neck in an aggressive way and should also have been sent off but wasn’t.

In Minute 75 Mertesacker is kicked in the QPR penalty area by Fer another penalty ignored by the referee.  Minute 77, QPR are awarded a penalty by Santa Claus (sorry Mr Atkinson) for a dive by Hoilet.

In Min 90 QPR should have had a penalty when Gibbs tripped Zamora.  Overall a weighted performance score of 70%. and of the 8 wrong decisions 7 were against Arsenal.

Ref Review Tottenham – Arsenal

The first big talking point was the Özil goal – was he offside or not.  In real time it was impossible to say, he looked level, on the replay perhaps half of his foot was in front of the defender so had video review been available the goal wouldn’t have stood.  Without that technology the linesman was quite correct in giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacker.

The next ‘biggie’ was a scissors tackle by Mason on Özil, should have been a yellow card but nothing given.

Two penalty claims by Arsenal for handball both correctly declined by Atkinson.  Then two outrageous tumbles by Spurs players to fool Atkinson into Yellow cards for Arsenal players neither of which were justified.

In Minute 59 Rose should have had a straight red for a deliberate stamp on Giroud’s achilles.  Needless to say with Atkinson this wasn’t even a foul.  A non-given yellow to Dembele for a professional foul on Ramsey again not even regarded as a foul.  Overall weighted score 60% and 90% of all wrong decisions were against Arsenal.  A normal day at the office one could say for Mr Atkinson.

Was he any better in 2013/14?

Ref Review: Arsenal – Liverpool 76% Ovrerall Weighted score, bias in favour of Liverpool 90%, 9 of 12 Big decisions were correct, the ones that were wrong were all in favour of Liverpool, an Arsenal penalty, a Liverpool player not given a yellow card and an Arsenal player being given one when it wasn’t justified.

A referee review Martin City – Arsenal. An utterly unacceptable referee 63% Overall weighted, bias in favour of City 100% – yes every one of 21 wrong decisions! 12 of 17 Big calls were correct but two of these should have been Arsenal goals and one was a wrongly awarded City goal.  An utterly atrocious piece of refereeing.

Match Review: Anthony Taylor – Sunderland v Arsenal (0 – 1) [09/02/2013] 58% Overall Weighted score, bias in favour of Sunderland 89%, 8 of 13 correct Big calls, including a missed straight red card and second yellow card for Sunderland players.

Everton and a bit of Chelsea – Arsenal 3-0

Not a full review, I’m afraid (I can’t find it in the Untold Archives) [I think I went down the pub to try to regain my composure – Tony] but some pertinent comments from Walter in his post-game summary.  Poor challenges from Everton players being ignored for the most part, nothing allowed from Arsenal, a goal ruled out for offside which should have stood.  Atkinson not to blame for our loss but certainly was on his normal Chelsea form.

The answer to the question above is “No in 2013/14 he was no better than last season.” Terrible competence numbers and even worse anti-Arsenal bias.

And in 2012/13?

Match Review: Martin Atkinson – Arsenal Vs Chelsea (1 – 2) [29/09/2012] 71% Overall weighted, bias in favour of Chelsea 93%, 7 Big calls right out of 15

Match Review: Martin Atkinson – Chelsea Vs Arsenal (2 – 1) [20/01/2013] 62% Overall weighted, bias in favour of Chelsea 90%, 3 Big calls right out of 13

Match Review: Martin Atkinson – Arsenal Vs Aston Villa (2 – 1) [23/02/2013] 85% Overall weighted, No significant bias (52/47) in favour of Arsenal All 6 Big calls correct.

He was appalling in the two matches involving Chelsea but gave an excellent display of refereeing in the Aston Villa game – If only he were like that every time!


  1. For a referee trusted by the august body FIFA to be in charge of any football match anywhere in the world his performances in Arsenal are simply not acceptable.  In his last 10 games he has looked like a competent referee only once.
  2. Mr Atkinson displays appalling judgement when it comes to poor challenges and it is, I fear, only a matter of time before a player is seriously injured on his watch.
  3. He also is very poor when it comes to serious decisions, only 47% were correct last year in Arsenal matches, that’s worse than tossing a coin which would return 50% correct over time.
  4. Were I his boss I would be looking to sit down with him and agree a re-education programme to return his performance to an acceptable level and wouldn’t let him anywhere an Arsenal game until that happened.
  5. I don’t hold out any hopes that his present bosses have implemented any such action so I expect him to continue in his usual fashion so look out for :-
  • Serious fouls on Arsenal players to go unpunished
  • Dives from West Ham players earning free kicks, penalties and bookings for Arsenal playersPhantom fouls being awarded to allow West Ham time to regroup if they are in trouble
  • Inappropriate use (or non-use) of the advantage rule
  • A bias of 4 to 1 (or higher) against Arsenal on all wrong decisions
  • A weighted overall performance figure below the 70% minimum acceptable level
  • Arsenal to be denied at least one penalty that should have been awarded
  • Arsenal players being carded for the most trivial (or made up) reasons

The one positive point to note is that we are playing West Ham and not Chelsea.  Atkinson in charge of a Chelsea game tilts the playing field to an impossible degree, with most other teams we can normally get a result despite his worst efforts.

From the anniversaries files (full list of today’s anniversaries on the home page)

8 August 2011: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain signed from Southampton for £12m.  He had played 36 games for Southampton in the 2010/11 season.

8 August 2013: Gervinho sold to AS Roma after merciless barracking by the anti-Wengerians – descendents of the detested boo-boys.  He played 46 league games with Arsenal in two seasons.


Up next: Arsenal v State Aid Utd – the preview.

15 comments to Ref preview: Arsenal v WHU. Atkinson; appalling judgement, worse than random in his decision making

  • nicky

    “I fear it is only a matter of time before a player is seriously injured on his watch”.
    Such a serious indictment of a match official cannot be allowed to continue without action at the highest level. After tomorrow’s game and dependent on Atkinson’s performance, Arsenal FC should consider taking appropriate action at club level direct with the FA.

  • Rich

    On recent evidence, I put him ahead, by a fair bit, of Taylor.

    Not giving a red for the foul on Sanchez was absolutely dismal. Such a bad challenge, and he was right on top of it with a perfect view. Inexplicable that any normal decent ref would not see that as a red. Any normal, decent ref would enjoy punishing someone who made such a shocking challenge.

    And that wasn’t even the best bit of insight into Atkinson’s ways throughout the season. In the cup semi, I noticed him actually turn his head away deliberately just as a Reading player was giving Koscielny an off-the ball elbow.

    Atkinson’s referee instincts, which are actually pretty good and serve him well in unimportant league matches or in European competition, told him something might happen as the player came towards Kos, but then he remembered he didn’t actually want to see something like that so turned his head just as it happened to look at another part of the pitch.

    He’s a menace to us. He lets the opposition know they can get away with plenty early in a match and the opposition tend to react to it. I never watched a repeat of the Reading semi, but on the day I felt our players were in much more danger than they should be thanks to Atkinson.

    His appointment, hot on the heels of Taylor, seems ominous.

  • bjtgooner

    With his record I would think Atkinson would have extreme difficulty convincing anyone that he was not trying to stitch Arsenal up, match after match.

    Why do the media continue to protect this totally unsatisfactory incompetence?

  • TailGunner

    There used to be a blog ( can’t remember what it was called) that reported on referees performances in every single Premier League match. It wasn’t very thorough as it collected most of it’s data from TV hi-lites programs, but one season they collated it all and came to the conclusion that if Arsenal had been given all the correct decisions and not received the incorrect ones we would have won the Premier League. I think Arsène even quoted it once.
    It would be a massive undertaking (if even possible) for an independent blogger to view every single match in its entirety and review the decisions, but it’s the sort of thing the FA or PGMOL do week in week out.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Mr Atkinson and his assistants including th 4th official will have no any other choise other than to concur with the legal nous of refereeing the Premier League game between Arsenal and the West Hammers taking place at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in a lunch time kick off, as he Mr Atkinson and his collegues stepped on the Emirates Stadium playing pitch. So, we need not to worry over what Mr Atkinson might negatively do against Arsenal. He won’t be negative against the Gunners but positive to them. Would he not?

  • TailGunner


    In an alternative reality perhaps

  • finsbury

    Tbf Riley’s crows often give the impression that they have been ingesting mushrooms (47% correct…)

  • collins elechi

    Comment removed

  • jake

    Atkinson oh shit oh well maybe we won’t go undefeated this season:)

  • Bjt gooner – they do it because they pay the Premier League for the right to publish their fixtures. If they then raise “unfortunate” issues as they are ludicrously called, they are liable to find that they won’t get the right to publish the fixtures next season. You won’t ever see a fixture list on Untold.

  • Mick

    The site was called Debatable Decisions. No longer around I am afraid, but it was useful because it had no allegiance to Arsenal in any way, so tended to be ignored by those who claimed that Walters reviews were worthless because they would always be biased. Its findings were pretty much confirmation of the conclusions reached by Walters reviews.

  • Steve0

    Not sure why offside decisions are included in Atkinson’s review, as they aren’t his decision

  • Steve0, because the referee is the final arbiter.

  • Gord

    Also, on a free kick close to the attacking box, it is common for the linesperson to be watching the goal line and the referee to be watching for offside. There can be other situations where the referee is also watching for offside.

  • TailGunner

    Yes, that was it. Debatable Decisions. Thanks for the info.