Arsenal v Chelsea: the behaviour of the referee



By Bulldog Drummond

There is a comment in the Telegraph today from Frank Lampard in which he says, “Chelsea were so used to winning for long periods of time, maybe a short period of non-success brings a real kick-back,” he said. “Maybe with Arsenal, for instance, they had quite a few years of not getting what they wanted so they decided ‘we are going to stick with this and maybe get it to work’.”

Maybe, but most likely not.  More likely Arteta offered a clear long-term plan which included stopping the club being most yellow carded in the league, and regaining control of what happened on the pitch – including along the way winning the FA Cup.   Maybe it was a clear picture of who should leave and who should stay.

Or maybe there was something else.  Maybe Chelsea, having seen the ceaseless comments from alleged Arsenal fans when Wenger was in charge along the lines of “fourth is not a trophy” and maybe Chelsea actually bought into that.  So four consecutive finishes of third and fourth in the league, and three consecutive defeats in the FA Cup final made them think the club needed just “one more player”. 

And then when that didn’t work, they decided they needed “one more player”.  And when that didn’t work there decided they needed “one more talisman” who would change them from being the nearly men to the winners.

While all the time the first thing they needed to do was to stop the fouling.

In fact investing over and over again in finding the manager and the players who would bring them this move from the “not a trophy” position and the runners-up spot in the FA Cup was the cause of this season’s insanity.   (And let’s not forget the league cup final defeat last season as well).   They really did come to believe it was just one more push to get them back into the trophies.

In fact the cause of the disaster was psychological – that belief in one more push to get to the top, which in fact turned into what we see today.  Their solution was the cause of their continuing failure.

But let us move on from that and consider the referee.  Today’s referee is midrange for fouls per game, at the high end for yellow cards per game but at the low end of fouls per yellow card.


Referee Games Fouls pg YeLLOW pg Fouls per yellow
4.Peter Bankes 18 23.94 4.39 5.45
5.Michael Salisbury 14 23.79 4.57 5.21
6.Craig Pawson 20 23.70 3.80 6.24
7.David Coote 19 22.84 3.32 6.88
8.John Brooks 14 22.64 4.21 5.37
9.Andy Madley 22 22.55 3.59 6.28
10.Robert Jones 22 22.18 4.23 5.24
12.Michael Oliver 26 21.58 3.00 7.19


And these figures are quite interesting for tonight’s game because Chelsea are a yellow card club. 

Now looking at the table of yellow cards clubs collect one might think that there is little difference between Chelsea in 9th place in the yellow card league table, and Arsenal in 15th.

But in fact when measured on yellow cards there are two leagues.  The first 11 clubs with between 77 and 66 cards each, and the bottom seven clubs with between 40 and 49 yellows this season.  (In between are a couple of clubs that don’t seem to know what they are).

In short in the league there is now a group of seven clubs that have decided to do what they can to stop getting players booked, and eventually be unable to tackle because they are afraid of one more booking.    And there is a second group that have followed Arsenal’s lead in cutting the yellow cards down, by cutting the tackling, and thus regaining control of the game from the referees.

Arsenal are in the “let’s stop the yellow cards” group.  Chelsea are in the “tackling is part of the game” group.

Stopping yellow cards doesn’t, of course, mean automatically rising up the league, but it is a major step in that direction.      So let’s have a look at the tackles fouls and yellow cards…  these figures are per game…


Tackles Comparison Fouls Comparison Yellow Comparison
Arsenal 14.8 9.6 1.45
Chelsea 20.0 +35.1% 10.6 +10.4% 2.06 +42.1%


In common with what we see elsewhere Chelsea as a high-tackling team can get away with more tackles before a foul is called, but then they can put in fewer tackles before a yellow is given, and as a result, they are getting away with few fouls before a yellow is waved.    Hence their much higher position up the yellow card table.


Tackles/ foul Tackles/ yellow Fouls/ yellow
Arsenal 1.54 10.21 6.62
Chelsea 1.89 9.71 5.14


There will be more later…

One Reply to “Arsenal v Chelsea: the behaviour of the referee”

  1. Next match up is Chris Kavanagh as Ref.Are you aware he hails 5 miles from Manchester & is reportedly a City fan? If so why has he been appointed for the Newcastle match? If above is true.I fear the worst.

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