Liverpool v Arsenal
- Yet another media game: if Arsenal can’t beat Liverpool, the title is lost
- The Form Table’s guide: who will win the league based on recent form?
By Bulldog Drummond
Paul Tierney is the referee for the Liverpool v Arsenal game, and our first concern is to see how much he favours the home team.
If you have been reading Untold for a while you will know we have conducted a whole series of investigations into referee bias towards home teams, and in particular why home wins stopped being the most likely outcome of Premier League matches during the pandemic.
There is a summary of our work in part three of the recent series of articles “The real facts about football that the media will never touch”: What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias. I’ll put an index to the whole series at the end of this article in case you are interested, but below is a very quick summary.
Basically, the whole issue of why there are more home wins than anything else in English football, was thrown into focus during the pandemic when games were played without crowds present and the figures we are used to seeing (almost half of games being home wins) changed, making home and away wins nearly equal in number.
But now we are back to the normal pattern of results, and crowds, as the research shows, cause home-team bias among some (but not all) referees.
The top line in the table below shows the current state of play in the Premier League this season across all matches – almost half are home wins, and almost a quarter are draws.
Below that I have picked out a few referees working regularly this season for PGMO in the Premier League starting with the referee for Arsenal’s game at Liverpool, Paul Tierney.
We can’t expect all referees to be overseeing matches that come out with exactly the same percentage as the national average, of course. And clearly we are not going to see football in the Premier League return to the figures when there were no crowds present, during which there were actually more away wins than home wins. But the data from the pandemic era clearly shows that if there were no crowd influence on referees (which of course there should not be) the number of home and away wins would be about equal.
But not only has the home bias returned for many referees, whether a match is going to be a home win, away win or draw, is as much dependent on the referee as anything else.
In an ideal world Arsenal should have had Anthony Taylor (43% away wins) or ever Craig Pawson (44% away wins), but if we can’t have them then in terms of away wins Paul Tierney is the best on offer. At least he oversees more away wins than the average, and he’s not Stuart Atwell or Simon Hooper.
There is one other point on this front: these figures of percentage home and away wins come from the actual records – a bit like the league table. There’s no dispute about who was in control of the game or what the result was. The only possible arugment against the notion that some referees are more able than others to avoid the howls of the crowd, is that everything is down chance. And really, any examination of anything in this world, shows that although chance is there, it can’t explain figures as extreme as one referee overseeing 4.8% away wins and another just on 43%.
In reality what gives Liverpool 30 points from home games this season and 13 points away from home is their crowd and the design of the Anfield stadium that amplifies their effect. The papers today are full of explanations about tactics and how Arsenal have got them so wrong when playing Liverpool, but that seems a very unlikely explanation in the light of the figures above.
The media’s explanation suggests most teams get their tactics against Liverpool at Anfield wrong, while most clubs get their tactics against Liverpool away from Anfield right. Does that really seem likely? Are football managers really that stupid?
What Arsenal (and indeed many other clubs) need to do is re-design their home ground and encourage supporters to make more noise (as the blackshirted supporters at the clock end have done this season) and become more Anfield like.
What PGMO needs to do is to train its employees not to be influenced by the crowd.
The real facts about football that the media will never touc
- Why, with football, it is important to ask what is not being reported (part 1)
- The real live facts that the media won’t ever touch (part 2)
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 3 – referee home bias
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.