If refs carry on like this, by the end of the year defences will be totally disrupted




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By Tony Attwood

This was a baffling, frustrating and annoying game in which Arsenal had 69% of the possession, 18 goal attempts to Fulham’s eight, eight corners to Fulham’s three, and no cards to Fulham’s six (figures from the Guardian).   Fulham got away with it, and got the draw, but ultimately this season, if they carry on this way, they (along with some other clubs) will simply run out of first-team players eligible to play.

Indeed the fact that in two matches prior to yesterday’s game Fulham had three yellow cards and now have eight shows exactly how they set out to play the game.  At this rate they will end up with 101 yellow cards by the end of the season – a remarkable level of foul play.

Only once in the history of the Premier League has it ever happened before that a club has received over 100 cards in a season – and that was with the Leeds team of 2021/2.  What happened there, as will happen here, is that the club started to run out of first-team players able to defend, while those still left on the pitch played with the awareness that one more tackle could either mean missing the next game or three or indeed missing the rest of that game.

Quite what PGMO were thinking when they suddenly introduced this new form of refereeing without clear consultation and warning, we don’t know.  Quite what Fulham expect to do as they start running out of players we don’t know either, but for now it is not exactly a pleasant watch.

Arsenal are, frustratingly, once more a team under reconstruction, just when we thought that last season’s results meant the reconstruction was done.  But of course changes have to be made and if that includes team changes well, so be it.  No team can stay the same forever.  But it was not the best of games from an Arsenal point of view.

Last season against similar levels of opposition as this, Arsenal won all three opening games scoring nine goals.   This season it is two wins and a draw scoring five goals.   Maybe the return of Gabriel Jesus will sort matters out – not because he will necessarily score all the goals needed himself, but his presence on the pitch certainly does add to the confusion of defenders.

I watched the game in the stadium as usual, and just watching it live can lead to misleading notions of what is going on, but in the two games I have seen this season the one other thing I am not sure about is whether Martinelli is operating as effectively as was normal last season.

But of course, it is still very early days, and Arteta has not suddenly lost the ability to manage or to pick a team.  In the league table we are third although could drop to fourth after Manchester City play away at Sheffield United today.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 West Ham United 3 2 1 0 7 3 4 7
2 Tottenham Hotspur 3 2 1 0 6 2 4 7
3 Arsenal 3 2 1 0 5 3 2 7
4 Brighton and Hove Albion 3 2 0 1 9 5 4 6


But let us just stay with the referees and discipline.  Only two teams – Arsenal and Bournemouth are running at a lower level of yellow cards than they were last season.   Some have gone up by enormous proportions such as Newcastle and West Ham United (the latter you may recall, being mentioned a number of times last season in these columns for the fact that referees seemed utterly incapable of handing out cards to them.  Now they are getting 250% more cards a game.  Figures from WhoScored.


Team Yellows Games Yellow per game Last season per game
1. Wolverhampton Wanderers 10 3 3.3  2.2
2. Newcastle United 9 2 4.5  1.6
3. West Ham United 9 3 3.0  1.2
4. Manchester United 9 3 3.0  2.1
5. Brighton and Hove 9 3 3.0  1.6
6. Chelsea 8 3 2.7  2.0
7. Tottenham Hotspur 8 3 2.7  2.0
8. Fulham 8 3 2.7  2.1
9. Nottingham Forest 8 3 2.7  2.2
10. Aston Villa 7 2 3.5  2.1
11. Everton 7 3 2.3  2.1
12. Sheffield United 6 2 3.0  
13. Luton Town 5 2 2.5  
14. Bournemouth 5 3 1.7  1.8
15. Liverpool 4 2 2.0  1.5
16. Arsenal 3 3 1.0  1.4


If the season continues in this way Newcastle will suffer 171 yellow cards this season, and will at times have a significant number of players ruled out because of cards.  Aston Villa will get 133 cards, while West Ham United who hardly were able to get a referee to draw a card from his pocket last year will get 114 along with Manchester United, and Brighton.

Now at this level, if it continues (and there is no reason why it won’t since it is down to the new PGMO diktat) clubs will be re-arranging their teams very early on..   Any player who gets five cards within 19 games gets a suspension.

At this rate Manchester United will have 57 cards after 19 games – which works out at about eight per defender.   A substantial part of their defence will start missing games.

Of course the PGMO may quietly ditch the policy realizing what a total mess they have yet again made of football, but they might not.  Or maybe following pressure from Manchester United, Newcastle and West Ham they will suddenly ease up.  With them you never know.

But if they do carry on with the policy, the clubs with just one yellow per game will not have their entire defences disrupted by the start of the new year.   Arsenal however should be ok.  As should Manchester City.

6 Replies to “If refs carry on like this, by the end of the year defences will be totally disrupted”

  1. I read an article in which Mike Dean who was the VAR operator for the Chelsea Spurs game last season commented that although he felt thier was a decision Anthony Taylor who was ref for that game should look at he declined to tell Taylor as it had been a difficult match for Taylor and as he was a mate he decided to save him further distress and say nothing even though he realised this would cost him a suspension for not doing his job probably !
    Seriously thats what Dean said about the game i and millions of others love if there was ever conformation that some refs are bent that was it.

  2. We don’t need referees to disrupt our defence , for unexplained reasons we have done it ourselves. Without going through chapter and verse of all reasons , one word sums it up . Disjointed.

  3. Arsenal should have had a couple of yellow cards themselves, with Odegaard and Zinchenko extremely lucky to get away with bookable offences. It will take a few games for teams to figure out the new rules/regulations, after which averages will drop. Players will quickly realise what is deemed cheating, what is deemed a bookable foul etc. .

  4. Even with the following, copied and pasted, and you have the nerve to suggest that Arsenal were hard done by?
    Arsenal got away with it, but suppose you won’t mind winning the league by leaving injured opposition players in the ground to get the goals you need! Dirty.

    ‘And it was 2-1 to the north Londoners shortly after as Nketiah tapped home Fabio Vieira’s wicked cross.

    But there was huge controversy surrounding the goal as Fulham defender Calvin Bassey was laying injured on the ground in the penalty box.

    Arsenal carried on and refused to kick the ball out – as is their right – with Bassey subsequently playing everyone onside.

    The ball then got played down the left flank, with Vieira picking out Nketiah, who struck beyond Bernd Leno.

    Fulham boss Marca Silva was furious that the goal was allowed to stand as he argued that Bassey was fouled which led to him hitting the deck, while also insisting Arsenal should have shown better sportsmanship.’

  5. Martinelli was fouled in the build-up to Fulham’s equaliser. Vieira was fouled at 2-2, and the referee responded by awarding Fulham a hand-ball. Earlier Leno had handled outside his area, with no foul given. I think the broadcasters were under instructions not to show replays of decisions against Arsenal.

    Today, Alexander-Arnold should have been given a second yellow (at least) for a foul on Anthony Gordon, but got away with it. Contrast that with Tomiyasu’s second yellow when Ayew dived after no contact.

    Will we be getting an apology from Howard Webb?

    Incidentally, I saw lots of throw-ins this weekend clocking in at over 20 seconds, with no cards awarded.

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