- Arsenal v Liverpool: Arsenal discover an extra weapon
- Arsenal are losing two players to the internationals, but what effect will it have?
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By Bulldog Drummond
There is an interesting article on Liverpool’s approach to the game today which contains these paragraphs:
“Riding the emotions of a match is an attribute that has gone out of fashion. For years English football was obsessed by heart and passion and tended to be sceptical about systems and tactics. Now it feels there has been an overcorrection. There is an obsession with process.
“Data is providing fascinating insights into the game, allowing the honing of structures of pressing and increasing efficiencies all over the pitch, but there is a danger that the humanity of players is lost, the fact that they have emotions, ups and downs – and that, crucially, these are not inevitable.”
And although that reads well (it normally does in the Guardian) it ignores the simple fact that basic data, such as the referee’s results so far this season, or the number of yellow cards that a club gets as a result of fouls. Such facts are never, never, never covered. One might ask why.
OK we do it (see for example Liverpool: why do the referees give so few fouls against them when they tackle?) but the rest of the media ignore it. Instead, a lot of them take a lot of note of the most hypothetical of all statistics: expected goals. That is not goals that happen, but goals that you might expect to happen.
So hard line figures are out – which I think is a shame because (as we have seen in the last couple of games) they include an analysis of the process of the “dip”: which although psychological is based on factual results.
Even then the facts can be slightly warped. For example today (7 January 2024) I typed into the Google, “Arsenal v Liverpool the referee” and got this
The match officials have now been confirmed for the FA Cup Third Round tie between Arsenal and Liverpool on Sunday 7th December, which will kick-off at 16:30, live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport Website. Referee: John Brooks. Assistant Referee: Lee Betts.”
So Sunday 7 December eh? Maybe not. But yes it is John Brooks.
Now John Brooks is an interesting choice becuase as we have seen in the previous articles, Liverpool seem to have the right to tackle with near impunity, putting in many more tackles than any other club before they get a foul against them. And if we have a look at John Brooks’ figures we see he is very much at the low end of the fouls to tackle ratio that WhoScored publish (this being for referees who have overseen eight or more games this season.)
In other words 0.66 of the tackles he sees are called as fouls – 12% fewer than for David Coote, which absolutely suits Liverpool. And the title of the last piece “Liverpool: why do the referees give so few fouls against them when they tackle” is the clue. The argument can be that Liverpool are much better at tackling than any other club, and have been year after year after year after year seems so unlikely. Some years yes, but not every year. Of course one club is going to be better at this that the rest, but not by as much as our article shows, and not over so many years.”
Here are the referee figures….
To add a bit more to Mr Brooks’ results – he is the “away win referee” par excellence. Here are the results for all the referees who have overseen ten or more Premier League games this season…
As we can see, three of the referees have an away win record of 50%. Yet as the Premier League stats across the year show, “On average, Premier League teams consistently win around 46.2% of home games, while the draw occurs around 27.52% of the time and the away team are victorious in 26.32% of games.”
So these three referees on their own are operating at a level of wins for away teams at about twice that of the national average!!! And Arsenal gets a home match against Liverpool with just such a referee at its heart!
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