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October 2016
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When Saturday Comes the enquiry line is switched off.

By Tony Attwood

A recent article by Harry Pearson in When Saturday Comes came with the headline “If you think referees can ‘ruin’ matches, perhaps you’re not watching them right”.

Much of the article isn’t about referees or refereeing as such but towards the end it does get there, and asks, “Why everybody in English professional football these days is so obsessed with refereeing decisions is another matter.”   Another matter that is, from the ones that have been discussed earlier in the article.

And the writer continues it is “One which deserves some scrutiny.”

Unfortunately that “scrutiny” is then missing – which is why I suspect the Guardian chose this article for publication.  Scrutiny however not what we get – so I thought I would offer some.

Harry Pearson writes a little about watching “South Shields defeat Team Northumbria in a wind as remorseless as Garth Crooks pursuing the end of a sentence,” and for that I have to admire and congratulate him.  Supporting lower league teams and making fun of Garth Crooks are both things I am very much in favour of, and the former is something that I wish all Arsenal fans would do when they can’t get to a game at the Ems.

Now what Harry Pearson doesn’t tell us is who it is that he supports, so I am not too clear if this game was one that is typical of what he watches – that is to say he supports either South Shields or Team Northumbria – or whether he was just taking a day out from the hurly burly of a game in the higher parts of the pyramid.   The page about him to which I am directed by various links won’t tell me, but I suspect it is the former.  He spends much of his time with lower league football – and more power to him for that.

But if Mr Pearson is primarily watching football from the lower leagues then he is not going to be subjected to the whim and fancies of the PGMO which is what we direct so much time to here.

So when he says, “it dawned on me that though I’ve been to 25 games this season not a single one of them has been “ruined by the referee”,” I can understand his confusion – given that I guess he has never come across Untold.   Occasionally I potter along to watch Corby Town, this season of the National League north, (next season probably in the Southern League, following relegation this season), and yes, I can’t think of any games that have been seriously impeded by the ref.

However as the author says,

“Yet I knew for certain that when I got home that evening and switched on 5 Live it would be one fan after another telling Robbie Savage that “The referee today was a joke” or “That ref has probably cost us the title” or “That offside flag could lose us £45m”. Savage, of course, will concur, saying that: “The ref has tried to make a name for himself….”

“I put the difference between my experience and that of the 606 brigade to the bloke standing next to me at Coach Lane. He said he felt the same way as I did. We concluded that there were only two possible explanations: 1) The match officials at step five and six of the English non-League pyramid are the best in the country and utterly infallible; 2) Paying £6 to watch a match leaves you less prone to paranoia and wild delusion. I’m still undecided on which of them is right.”

All very jolly of course, but sadly there is a third option, and that is that there is something funny going on in the Premier League vis a vis referees.

Now I know it has become fashionable for people to write to Untold laughing and sneering at anyone who dares suggest that refereeing decisions in the PL are odd.  We publish a few of these comments but mostly they go straight into the junk box because they break the fundamental rule that we have imposed: that some sort of reasoning is given to back up an opinion.  Sneering and saying something is just “obvious” never gets a debate moving anywhere of interest.

Which takes us back to logical deduction – the subject of my earlier piece.

Refereeing for the Premier League is run in a way that is utterly different from refereeing in any other top leagues in Europe, and different from refereeing in (for example) the non-league football that Harry Pearson regularly, and I occasionally, see.

It is run by a highly secretive body that has no web site, and offers no discussions about its activities with anyone.  It hands out on average on press release a year, and then will not put up anyone for radio or TV interviews to discuss what it has said.

It used to produce statistics that seemed extraordinary, in that they reflected an accuracy level among referees that the referees working with the Referee Decisions web site could not reproduce at all, and which were much higher than the statistics given by other leagues.

But as it is highly secretive in all that it does, no question can  ever be asked of it.

It employs a small number of referees so that the same referee can be involved with a particular team, many times in a season – which adds to the danger if there were to be a ref who has been “influenced”.

It requires its referees to sign a “no discussion” contract for when they leave the PGMO.  In return the ex-referees are given £50,000.

It allows referees in the PL to re-interpret rules laid down by the International Football Association Board which are more strictly applied in the rest of Europe, and does this without any explanation other than one ref who let slip that “players prefer it this way”.

Now all these things strike me as not only unusual within the European context, but also singularly odd.  And the oddness is enhanced by the fact that because PGMO is so secretive no question can be asked.   What’s more for reasons best known to themselves the media rarely broach the subject.  That again is curious, for there is a real issue here, even if one were not to think some referee decisions are strange.  The fact that the PGMO acts as it does is odd and worthy of note.

So what logical deduction asks in response to this is “Why?”   Why do all these things if there is nothing to hide?

It is an interesting question and one for which I don’t have an answer.  I have written to PGMO putting this point (well, actually simply asking “why?” rather than “why if you have nothing to hide”) but they have not replied.

As I have said, it has become a little game for some correspondents to indulge in, to laugh at Untold for its attitude towards PGMO and referees in the Premier League, but it is noticeable that few (if any) of these correspondents ever manage to provide a coherent answer as to why Premier League refereeing is run in this way, when it is run so differently in the rest of Europe.

But anyway I can at least answer Mr Pearson’s problem as raised in When Saturday Comes.  It is not a case of there being a referee issue throughout English football.  It is an issue about the way referees are organised and act in the Premier League, why it is as it is, and why PGMO won’t engage in a debate about the way it does things.

Recent Posts

Two sales on this day

  • 27 April 1973 Double-winning captain Frank McLintock was sold to QPR for £25,000.  He played127 league games for QPR over four years, taking the club to second position in the First Division in 1976, as Arsenal sunk to 17th, retiring one year later.
  • 27 April 1991: Arsenal 1 Liverpool 3.  Benefit match for Ray Kennedy.  He was Shankly’s last purchase as Liverpool’s manager, and his sale to them was an absolute disaster for Arsenal, a triumph for Liverpool, and a sign of Mee’s total lack of judgement at the time.


39 comments to When Saturday Comes the enquiry line is switched off.

  • Matthew

    Can you list all the trophies Arsenal “would” have won if it wasn’t for the referees?

  • colario

    Can you Mathew provide proof to the claim that referee mistakes ‘all even out in the end’?

    Untold gives reports on matches noting refs decisions.

    We know more about the Masonic
    masons than we do about the PMGOL that is how secretive the PMGOL is.

    What can you tell us about the PMGOL?

  • Pat

    I see on another thread that these characters who want to mount a protest plan to do it at the end of the match.

    I hope very much that whatever the result many fans will stay in the ground and clap the team off the pitch. That’s what supporters used to do in the old days.

  • omgarsenal

    Matthew….can you list all the points we dropped because of poor officiating? Can you enumerate all our players injured by savagery permitted by officials, year after year? Can you read well enough to see the articles written by a few newspapers and other media about points lost by clubs due directly to poor officiating?

    IF we were the only team complaining about poor EPL officiating, then ,maybe we could be justly accused of being over-zealous in our criticism of officiating, but since you clearly have never officiated anything that actually counts, if anything at all and probably have little to no idea of how a referee or assistant can influence the outcome of a match, nor probably scant knowledge of the Laws, I will ignore your self-righteous question!

  • Luscious Lisa

    If PL referees are poor, which I agree is the case, then their poor performance, based on penalty statistics, has worked in Arsenal’s favour. By the law of averages, other things being equal, we’d expect things to even themselves out over time and for each PL team to be awarded the same amount of penalties as conceded, and for Arsenal to be awarded the most penalties in a season once in every twenty years. That is my simple understanding of the laws of averages. As a subjective and biased football fan (if we’re not subjective and biased we’re probably not real fans), we can apply any rationale we choose to explain why our team, whichever that is, is not governed by the law of averages. “We spend more time in the box, we don’t play for penalties, we don’t intimidate referrers, referees are biased against us, our pitch is better, we play more games on a Sunday, we play less games on a Sunday….”. All arguments worth considering perhaps, but nevertheless, over time we’d expect the law of averages to be more or less on the money, that’s why it’s a “law”.
    So what are the facts on penalty statistics? Over the last 14 years of the PL, Arsenal have been awarded 72 penalties and had 54 awarded against them. So over 14 years, Arsenal have been awarded exactly 33% more penalties than conceded. Also over the last 14 years, Arsenal have been awarded the most penalties of any team in a season on two occasions, when statistical averages would say that should only happen once in twenty years. My subjective conclusion: Arsenal do better on penalties than the statistical average would predict for footballing reasons (more ball at feet time in box than average, more shots on goal than average), and that poor referring decisions more or less even themselves out over time.

  • Menace

    Matthew – all of them including the Ryder cup! Are you really that stupid?

    List the qualifications you have to ask such a question.

  • serge

    Luscious Lisa

    You really need to be writing articles instead of being hidden away in the comments sections.
    I feel that you’re the antithesis of some of the clones on Untold, and like Blacksheep you have an excellent & inarguable alternative point of view.
    Keep it up.

  • What kind of stupid question is that to ask Matthew, if you have seen matches this season then you have seen what has been going on with the PMGOL because they sure as hell did little to hide it. Not just this season either, go back and if you can watch the matches and if you are not totally blinkered it’s right in front of your eyes.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I see you are a fan of 7am kickoff who published exactly that statistic earlier today, unfortunately you then didn’t lift any of his other stats regarding penalties which paint a rather different picture. Selective editing.

  • Luscious Lisa

    I’ve never heard of 7am kick off but i ‘lifted’ the source data from “

  • Gunner6

    Funny you call those who agree with Untold’s articles clones yet yourself who subscribe to the opposite view can be said to be a clone of that view. Looks like Andrew C have popped Lisa’s bubble.

  • Rich

    Unless it’s a coincidence, Luscious Lisa, you got those pen stats from the 7amkickoff article today.

    I’d never heard anyone quoting precisely those figures until that article, so in fact it seems very likely you got them from there.

    Which would make your ignoring of the second part of the article astounding (for an Arsenal fan)

    In that second part the article’s author highlights how our ‘luck’ with penalties drastically changed around 2008, and bar one season, last year, has been awful since then.

    “Arsenal’s penalty record is neatly bifurcated into pre-2008 and post-2008. Pre-2008, Arsenal averaged 6 penalties for and 2.3 against. Post-2008 Arsenal’s penalties awarded drop to 4.5 and the penalties against more than double to 5 per season.”

    His conclusion -” So, when I see that a top team, one that has consistently finished in the top four, has been awarded fewer penalties than their opposition, something we don’t normally see with top teams, I wonder if something else isn’t at work”- indicates he is suspicious something might be wrong.

    So, what is going on? It looks like you’re putting in real effort to defend PGMOL actions, even when this means ignoring good data and good arguments against them, as an Arsenal fan.

    I’m stumped what the motivation for that could be.

  • Luscious Lisa

    see earlier Reply for my source. I also referenced this same Penalty data a few days ago, here on Untold no less. So maybe the 7am guys owe Untold a citation:)
    As to my motives, I have no agenda. I simply enjoy watching AFC and occasionally contributing to an online discussion.

  • serge


    So I’m an “opposite” clone am I? LOL. I can live with that.
    I think Luscious Lisa has given the Crawshaw person the answer his smug comment deserves.

  • Rich

    Luscious Lisa

    Fair enough.

    I’ll admit I do have an agenda. No question.

    I’m strongly motivated to find any stats and the like which supports my firm belief something is wrong in referee land in their treatment of Arsenal. Took me a long time to get that belief, now it would be pretty hard to shift. Hopefully I’m honest with it. Try to be.

    Have a read of that article if you get the chance

  • Just read that article Rich and it’s clear that the author indeed thinks something is not right. Why on earth the media or a least a good investigative reporter with a set of ball’s has not started to ask questions that should have been asked along time ago I don’t know.
    In saying that the press are starting to ask questions and though I really believe that this story will break it may not be as soon as we would hope.
    Whoever digs into this and reports it will end up a household name and rightly so. Money, lies, deceit and God knows what else and its not that it’s just Arsenal that is affected it’s other clubs as well.
    Every team in the EPL should play on an even field but sadly that is not happening and it’s us the football fan’s who pay the price
    We spend money to watch our club be it in the Stadium or subscription on TV and we buy the kits for our children and grandchildren not to mention Shirts, Hoodies, clothes with the name on and Tracksuits. Programs and dare I say even the food at the Stadium and we are being short changed by the very men who are there to up hold the laws of the game.
    Football is the loser and that is in my book criminal .

  • Barry Gething

    Next season is likely to be one of the most competitive for many years. The money sloshing around the Premiership will be huge; the top teams, Chelsea, City, Man U will undoubtedly strengthen. Tottenham look to have a very good young side and, provided they keep hold of their best players, will be challenging next season. Klopp appears to be getting something going at Liverpool. West Ham’s move to the Olympic stadium may well usher in a new era under Bilic. Whether Leicester manage to produce the same performance levels is debatable, but who knows. If you add Arsenal to that top list we could have six or seven teams challenging and scrapping for the title. Wonderful for the neutral not so good if you are an Arsenal fan.
    The reason is that, under Wenger, Arsenal haven’t done very well when the competition hots up. His most successful period was 96/97 – 03/04. During that period he won three titles. He was undoubtedly a revolutionary of sorts in those heady days, but in reality our only challengers then were Man U. Moreover he had the good fortune to inherit arguably the greatest back five Arsenal have ever had. Seaman, Winterburn, Bould, Adams, Dixon. In June 2003, Abramovich bought Chelsea and the top table now had three players instead of two. In 2008, the Sheiks bought City and the top table expanded to four. The fact of the matter is that, since the competition expanded beyond just Man U, Arsenal haven’t managed to win a single title. It’s also worth adding that they haven’t managed more than a third-place finish in the last 11 seasons either.
    Many Arsenal fans have accepted this chronic underachievement as being down to the impossibility of competing with the more wealthy clubs, what Wenger termed financial doping. This was widely accepted as fact despite the performances of the likes of Dortmund and Atletico whose success suggested it could be done.
    This was supposed to be our season, all the big rivals having faltered for a variety of reasons. As the wealthiest of the challengers left, it was assumed that the title would be ours. Using Wenger’s logic (ie you can’t trump financial clout) we were in the driving seat for sure. The reality has been a disaster; not only have Arsenal not even challenged, they have come up short of two sides, Leicester and Tottenham, who have nowhere near Arsenal’s financial muscle. As I write this, we are 13 points behind Leicester. What happened to the financial doping argument?
    The bottom line is that Wenger hasn’t been able to better any of the other big competitors since 2004. And even when they have gone missing, as they have this season, he still hasn’t managed to get the job done. With a track record like this, what on earth makes the club think that next year, with even more competition, he will be able to mount even a top-four place finish let alone a title challenge? Mid-table obscurity beckons in my

  • Barry, we have had this review many times before, but I thought I’d run it by just one more time, because it contains so many of the features we have seen and debated over the years, all in one go. Wenger did inherit the back five, that is true, but if you look at what they were doing in the couple of seasons before Wenger, it was not very impressive . This was the back five that played in the 1994/5 season and ended up 12th, shipping the same number of goals as Palace who were relegated. What Wenger did was rescue them.

    And you see that is the trouble with this sort of generalised analysis – it only needs one totally erroneous “fact” to be pointed out, and the whole edifice tumbles.

    I won’t take up my time, and indeed the time of readers who kindly do read through what we publish, because we’ve been through all these points before, but really there are some facts out there, and they need to be considered if you are going to make a 500 word argument.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Tony – I’ve always wondered how you keep fit , spry , alert and active . Not to mention your patience with all the moronic fools that come on here !
    Then I read this post , and now I think that I understand how you do it .


    5 ways to burn 100 calories .
    1.Walking – 45 minutes.
    2.Jogging/ Running – 16 minutes.
    3.Swimming – 17 minutes.
    4.Climbing stairs – 16 minutes.
    5.Tennis – 14 minutes.

    NOTE –
    People who can’t do all the above mentioned exercises , arguing with your wife for 2 minutes is equally effective !

    It struck me that with all that arguing with them ,it is actually keeping you fit and trim .
    And I think that I should do the same as by not arguing with ‘them’ , and joking around , I really putting on the weight !

    Note to ‘them’- You can finally get rid of Tony by not arguing with him ! Try it . Please .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Another thought struck me – maybe the refs are not really crooked , incompetent or biased . After all the English are noted for their sense of fair play and honesty . And their good teeth !
    Could it be that maybe they are just …..blind ? Too far fetched ? The one eyed man is king !
    This idea hit me when I read this joke . So without much further ado and horsing around , here’s ……..

    A champion jockey is about to enter an important race on a new horse. The horse’s trainer meets him before the race and says, “All you have to remember with this horse is that every time you approach a jump, you have to shout, “ALLLLEEE OOOP!” really loudly in the horse’s ear. Providing you do that, you’ll be fine.”

    The jockey thinks the trainer is mad but promises to shout the command. The race begins and they approach the first hurdle. The jockey ignores the trainer’s ridiculous advice and the horse crashes straight through the center of the jump.

    They carry on and approach the second hurdle. The jockey, somewhat embarrassed, whispers “Aleeee ooop” in the horse’s ear. The same thing happens – the horse crashes straight through the center of the jump.

    At the third hurdle, the jockey thinks, “It’s no good, I’ll have to do it,” and yells, “ALLLEEE OOOP!” really loudly. Sure enough, the horse sails over the jump with no problems. This continues for the rest of the race, but due to the earlier problems the horse only finishes third.

    The trainer is fuming and asks the jockey what went wrong. The jockey replies, “Nothing is wrong with me – it’s this bloody horse. What is he – deaf or something?”

    The trainer replies, “Deaf?? DEAF?? You idiot, he’s not deaf – he’s BLIND!”

  • norman14

    Maybe nobody watched the Dortmond v Bayern game last night, but it was referee’d by Mark Clattenburg.

    Had the game been reffed by a European (non English) official, Bayern would not have lost. There was an incident in the first half, where Robert Lewandowski was in a fantastic position, only to have himself pulled back then have his shirt almost pulled off, before then being clattered by TWO Dortmond players. Mass protests saw Clattenburg shake his head, like one would at a naughty child, throwing a stropp.

    However, the point of this post is to place on notice, a future comparison, of a rattled Guardiola, annoyed at this “injustice”, and remembering the PGMOL referee’s decision.

    Let’s see if the reaction is the same next season when Guardiola is at Citeh!

  • Josif

    @Luscious Lisa

    Overall number of penalties for and against don’t prove anything out of context. You can’t expect Barcelona and Granada to have the same number of penalties. You can’t expect Arsenal players who have been known for attacking football to get the same number of penalties or fewer than, say, Tony Pulis thugs.

    The only penalty at the Emirates in 2016 has been given to Leicester City.

    In fact, the number of penalties for and against depends on the level of Arsenal competitiveness, but not in a normal.way. When we get too close to the title, we get fewer penalties as a look at our 2012-13 and 2014-15 (when we were out of the title race before Christmas) campaign comparing to 2013-14 (top of the league for 128 days) and 2015-16 can prove.

  • colario

    From Barry:

    ” With a track record like this, what on earth makes the club think that next year, with even more competition, he will be able to mount even a top-four place finish let alone a title challenge?”

    Yes this is being trumpeted by the radio pundits and in all probability the press and TV.

    What they don’t say and what you don’t say is the obvious and it is this:

    Yes the smaller clubs are going to have more cash to splash. Not said “so are the big clubs!”

    When the new money comes in all it will do is inflate transfer fees agents fees and players salaries.

    chelski and mancs will continue to have their oil money. Manure theirs and the same for Arsenal.

    The one exception to this is the club called here as ‘stateaid’ whom I have always thought of as ‘wetspam’.

    They will not have the expenses of running a stadium. They will get almost double the money from sale of seats than they get this season.

    If you live in the UK and pay UK taxes then you will indirectly contribute to wetspams coffers.

    If you want to whinge by all means do so but get your fact right first.

    Instead of coming here proclaiming old assumptions as fact like 100s may be 1000s before you, go on the wetspam sites and point out that it is wrong that tax paying supporter of other clubs have no choice but to support wetspam with their hard earned money.

    That is a fact not an assumption.

  • Rich


    Good point.

    10+ years in football is a long time, so clubs are quite likely to have experienced ups and downs in that time, and the relationship between how good you are as a team and how many penalties you get should only be very strong over a longer period.

    In a game, it’s much more likely the team who attacks more, or the better team, gets a penalty, but nonetheless it could easily be the other team who gets one. That’s football. Over any ten games, it’s more likely a top team will have done well on penalties. Over forty games, more likely again. And so on

    In other words, the only teams where it should show up very strongly are those who have been good, bad or average over a long period. The longer the period, the stronger the correlation should be.

    If you had a team who,say, finished top four a couple of times, 8th a couple of times, mid table four times, then just above the relegation zone four times, it would be more difficult to say what their stats should be. In their good years it is much much more likely they would do well on penalties than bad years, but football does contain enough luck, randomness, chaos and human judgement and error for this not to be the case.

    However, if they were in the bottom half of the table very consistently for five years, or ten years, they should have poor penalty statistics.

    Now, what if you never left the top four. On any given year, the odds favour you doing better than anyone lower than you in the league. But, ok, that’s only something like probability. Maybe it’s a strange year. Maybe you don’t get much luck, etc. So your year ends up defying the odds and probability. You’re a top four team, but you do badly over the year, conceding more pens than you get. Unusual, but over a very large sample, it should happen occasionally.

    Then it happens again the next year

    Same the year after

    Same the year after

    Same the year after

    What’s this…a good year for penalties, including an absolutely vital one in a big game (whoa, it’s been a while)

    Back to doing badly.

    Note: I wish I was good at maths, statistics, etc, but I’m pretty damn average. So I may have used the wrong terms in ‘should’, ‘probability’, etc. It also means I’m unable to invoke the law of averages, of large numbers, or anything which applies and does a good job of explaining things. I’m regularly tempted to, but don’t have a firm enough grasp of those concepts.

    So any maths whizzes, help a brother out here.

    Since 2008, we should be nestled in the top four in our penalty stats. Instead of being close to the relegation zone, with stats befitting perennial strugglers in the league.

    ‘… in practice you will only get them if you have possession (or at least a decent chance of winning possession) in the opponent’s penalty area. Many a penalty is wrongly given. But it is almost always a reward for deep territorial penetration. That makes it, on average, a marker of the balance of power in the game. That’s why good teams get proportionately more penalties than bad teams, and why home teams get more penalties than away teams. On average, a penalty is given with the grain of the game.’


  • Rich

    By the way, we went over those longer term stats yesterday. The ones supportive of the view things don’t look fishy.

    I wrongly assumed Luscious Lisa had got them from another article and then omitted the conclusion of that article. My mistake.

    Anyway, though i registered them as new figures to me, they weren’t that new. Just updated by a few months of action presumably. I’ve pored over the stats from the same source before. (Only place on the whole wide web that seems to have them.)

    Thought I’d repost something from earlier in the year to show how I tried to tackle those unwelcome numbers and still make my case.

    ———– ————————


    Saw you mention penalties on another thread. A topic never too far from my thoughts, particularly this year when we’ve such a good chance in the league and when penalties can make such a difference in tight situations.

    When I dip my toe into watching other leagues it feels like a very regular occurrence that the biggest teams contesting the title get a lot of penalties, often at key moments. Real Madrid alone probably account for a lot of that impression as they seem to get penalties with extraordinary frequency.

    Anyway, if the stats back that up, it’s as it should be. The conclusion of a book I read a while back (Numbers Game?) was that of course it should be like that, for the simple reason top teams attack more than the rest of the pack.

    Anyway, I had a look over the available pen stats for the prem.
    Thirteen and a half seasons starting from 2002-3, and, you know what, the figures are not that suspicious. Of the seven teams in the league for all that period we finished fifth (on pen difference.)

    Chelsea 78/37 (+41)
    Man Utd 76/36 (+40)
    Liverpool 80/48 (+32)
    Man City 71/47 (+24)
    Arsenal 72/53 (+19
    Everton 50/48 (+2)
    Spurs 57/59 (-2)

    Poor Spurs. They’re the ones who should feel hard done by. But then again, that explanation, which is very reasonable, explains it. We attacked a lot more than them and Everton, and if there’s quite a significant difference between us and the leading two, well, they were probably the two best teams in that period and, it appears, they were sounder in defence. Anyway, nothing that remarkable there. City have done well to get such good stats given they were an unremarkable often struggling team for half of the time in question but, hell, it was a remarkable transformation and they do attack a lot.

    So there we go, despite our impressions of being very hard done by, the long term stats which, as usual, are the best guide, suggest not.

    But I suppose you could have a little look at more recent but still long term trends. I mean, the refs of 13 years ago are gone, the organisation controlling them is different. Here are the stats for 5 years (from 2009-10 to 13/14)

    Chelsea 38/16 (+22)
    Man utd 36/15 (+21)
    Man city 35/17 (+18)
    Liverpool 34/24 (+10)
    Everton 21/16 (+5)
    Fulham 20/16 (+4)
    Sunderland 26/23 (+3)
    Spurs 21/24 (-3)
    Stoke 21/30 (-9)
    Aston Villa 21/31 (-10)
    Arsenal 19/31 (-12)

    So Mike Riley, who took over the reigns in the summer of 2009, was one unlucky charm for us. From not having a negative score for pens for at least 7 years (it may have been many more), we had five on the bounce.

    Now Chelsea, Utd and, probably, City were more successful teams than us in those years, gathering more points and, I expect, scoring more and conceding less than us each year, so by the ‘he who attacks most’ theory they should have been better than us over the long term, but about twice as good at both ‘earning pens’ and not conceding them?… that seems far too much. Then there’s, well, did Stoke, Villa, Sunderland et al attack as much or a little more and defend less desperately?

    Anyway, our luck changed last year (7/2) and has stayed better this year (2/0), so, who knows, maybe it’s just about being better attackers and cleaner defenders now, maybe if there’s a key call today we’ve the exact same chance of getting it as any other team.”


    Note: I’ve not been on perfect fair behaviour there, what with choosing to stop at five years instead of adding the sixth which was a good year, but I did force myself to include it elsewhere.

  • Pete

    Luscious Lisa – I think others have done a decent job of debunking your penalty interpretations, but I also refer you (and others) to my article a couple of years ago which investigates this in detail. The conclusions are still valid.

    In short, since 2009 (when Riley took over) we are around net 4.5 penalties a season worse off than we should have been (assuming that penalties awarded and conceded should be approximately proportionate to goals scored and conceded). So about 4 goals and 4 points. I haven’t updated for the period since then, but I am pretty sure the situation hasn’t improved.

  • Jerry


    Excellent response Rich! I wrote a similar response to Luscious Lisa on my phone highlighting the other teams penalty stats as well, but phone browser reset and wiped everything out!

    @Luscious Lisa,
    PKs For/Against in those 14 seasons
    Arsenal 72/54 (+18)
    Chelsea 80/38 (+42)
    Man Utd 76/36 (+40)
    Liverpool 81/50 (+31)
    Man City 75/48 (+27)
    Everton 54/49 (+5)
    Spurs 60/59 (+1)

    Interesting notes:
    1) Out of the usual title challengers with the exception of the Spurs, Arsenal has had the most penalties against in those 14 years. Why is this interesting? Let’s look at the goals conceded over these 14 seasons:

    Chelsea: 434
    United: 454
    Arsenal: 519
    Liverpool: 531
    Man City: 592
    Everton: 618
    Spurs: 662

    In this group, Arsenal has conceded the 3rd fewest amount of overall goals throughout 14 seasons so not as bad a defense as often reported, but have conceded the most pks!

    2) In those 14 years, Arsenal have been awarded less pks than Chelsea, United, Liverpool, and City.
    3) The 2 seasons Arsenal had the highest amount of PKs, they only had 1 more PK than the next closest team and around 9.5% of all the PL PKs in those seasons (10/105 and 7/73).
    4) In fact the pk leader in most of the seasons had ~10% of all the PL pks, with these notable exceptions:
    15/16 Leicester City 14.3% (11/77 pks)
    13/14 Liverpool 13.8% (12/87)
    12/13 Chelsea 13.3% (11/83)
    04/05 Crystal Palace 16.2% (12/74)
    03/04 Newcastle 12.66% (10/79)

    5) Leicester’s 7 away PKs this season is the 2nd highest amount in the last 14 years (Liverpool’s 2013/14 got 9, but everyone else 5 or less away PKs).

    6) The law of averages is not actually a law at all, but a logic error often referred to as gambler’s fallacy. It is an incorrect generalization of the law of large numbers.

  • Matthew

    Still waiting for that list of trophies…Anyone?

  • Pete

    Matthew – can you not work it out?

  • Tony youre being a tad slective with regard to the famous back five. They were the backbone of the sides that won the Championship in 88/89 and again in 90/91. So by deduction I would say they were already winners before Wenger. Wenger certainly didnt create them, that was GG’s claim to fame. I would concede that maybe they went off the boil and he may have reinvigorated them. These facts are pesky critters.

  • Jerry

    Well Matthew, that could be a long list. But let’s start with this year, if Arsenal got half the pk claims/opposition red cards they should have got, they would have ran away with the league this year.

    Here’s a question for you, what would it take for you and the like to not troll Untold?

  • dokjat

    Pete @ 12.01 pm said … (assuming that penalties awarded and conceded should be approximately proportionate to goals scored and conceded). In my view this is not a valid assumption. Why should a penalty be linked at all to goals scored/conceded? The award of a penalty are dictated by the laws of the game. It is not necessarily the case that goals scored/conceded involve a potential penalty decision. If the criteria for awarding a penalty are not met, then there is no penalty to award. A team could score two goals from outside the box without any contentious penalty decision required. Thus, penalties are purely random events from a statistical standpoint. So to look at data on penalties for, and against a team, and to compare this against other teams doesn’t make any statistical sense; and there is no “law of averages” that dictate the penalties for/against a team. Unless of course you believe, that each team is “entitled” to, for e.g. 40 penalties for, and 40 against, during the course of ten seasons. This then works out to 4 penalties for and 4 against on average per season. Now if a team only got one last season, and one this season, then the “law of average” would dictate that they should start getting more penalties during future seasons over the course of the 10 seasons. But since, team are not entitled penalties, this concept is total nonsense, and any number crunching of this data leads to invalid conclusions.

  • Rich

    Tempted to post this on the latest, Danny Karbas- (better go check spelling)-siyoon’s, article, but it didn’t seem right.

    Noticed something I think shows what we’re up against from our own fans and the levels they will stoop to.

    Some of you will remember the debate about Walcott’s challenge from a few days ago. I defended him in a long argument. Most didn’t. Someone tried telling me I was wrong about Kabul having his studs raised at a crucial moment even when I showed a still which clearly (though fuzzily) shows that. They said it was his side foot, even though Kabul’s boots are whit and only the bottom is black.

    Anyway, elsewhere on the internet one of our fans gave Theo both barrels, then the bazooka, then the nuke, about the incident.

    They used three still photos in a sequence. The first showing Kaboul moving to the ball with his sidefoot (which you’d struggle to injure someone with)

    Am I supposed to trust these people that they didn’t see the picture from the moment before that sequence, where Kaboul’s studs are raised? I don’t believe that for a second. I expect whoever made the article is more technologically savvy than me and doesn’t rely on google images as I do. Meaning they just took screen shots to select the images they want.

    The link to the article I used showing the image in question no longer works, but I could still find a picture on google images

    Hope at least a few of you are interested in this in the same way I am, and appalled that people are willing to do that to our own players.

    They might be unhappy, not like Walcott, not like Wenger, want change,etc, but to do what I’m sure they’ve done there- ignoring images/facts and editing them in order to join in to giving one of our players (for ten years, and having a bad time) a kicking- pisses me off in the extreme.

    For me, not only is it a warning about what our own fans can do, it’s a little bit of that elusive proof about what the media can (and do) do. They have the picture of the studs raised, and the video, and made the conscious choice not to use it and to run instead with the Theo bottler story.

    Anyone who recorded the match, please do me a favour and watch again for that incident. I know I saw replays twice of Dean having a brilliant view as Kaboul approached the situation studs up and Walcott decided to take evasive action for that reason. Check it out again for me if you could.


  • Pete

    dokjat – no.

    Of course it is not an exact proportionality between goals and penalties – but it is broadly right. Look at all the other other clubs.

    Nearly all goals are scored from inside the box.

    Seems a very clear correlation to me over the long-term (i.e. multiple seasons). There will clearly be statistical fluctuations from season to season but the numbers since 2009 are so far out of kilter as regards Arsenal that the likelihood of this arising purely by chance is tiny in the extreme.

    Hopefully someone with better stats knowledge than me can crunch the numbers but pretty certain it is far less than 0.01%.

  • Rich


    Who would you predict to get more penalties next year out of Man Utd/Bournemouth; Chelsea/West Brom; Liverpool/Swansea Man City/Southampton?

    In each case, why would you make that particular choice?

    The choice is surely based on expectations of who will be the better team over the course of a season.

    It also might help to think about, say, our recent games against West Brom and Palace, or any game where a team does that much defending around their box and attacks so infrequently.

    In total in those games there was probably no more than two to four minutes when we could possibly concede a penalty. literally. You cannot concede a penalty when no action is taking place within your box. So the few set pieces they had and the even rarer breaks in normal play were the only times you could get one.

    For us, meanwhile, the ball was probably in or around the opposition’s box for about 10-20 minutes in each game. That’s a hell of a lot of time, dozens upon dozens of match ups between players from each team.

    it should be very obvious that there is much more chance of us gaining a penalty rather than conceding one in that scenario (if you remove our particular referees from the equation)

    Games of that type are in the minority, just about.-We get about 10 of them a season now- but they illustrate the principle perfectly : if the opposition aren’t in you box, you can’t concede a pen; if you are in the opposition box a hell of a lot, the chances are relatively high of one of their defenders committing a foul.

    It might not work that way in one game- they could get in your box just once and you could foul them; or you could be in their box a lot and they defend cleanly and commit no fouls- or five games, but… ah, if you can’t see it I’m not sure I can explain it any better than I’ve attempted to already

  • ob1977

    @doktat, “penalties awarded by due to the laws of the game”, ha that’s a good one, the year that happens I look forward to Arsenal winning the PL…
    But with referees as of next season being given yet more room to screw teams and be lenient when it suits with no fall out I am not too optimistic…

  • Somerset Gooner

    Just for my information and curiosity does the figures about penalties just record scored penalties or do they include the penalties that are awarded and not scored? I think this could alter any stats which are produced.

  • Somerset Gooner

    Answered my own question! found the info here:

  • finsbury

    “it should be very obvious that there is much more chance of us gaining a penalty rather than conceding one in that scenario (if you remove our particular referees from the equation)”

    It’s a logical deduction. Well said. Hard to imagine that anyone who watches the football on the pitch would or could want to disagree.