Arsenal v Brentford. The referee’s preference, and Arsenal’s team




In the last article we argued that Liverpool’s tackle, foul and yellow card figures are either weird or show a referee bias.

Now it could be argued that is because Liverpool are better at tackling than Arsenal, but if that is the case, how come they can put in fewer tackles before a yellow is given?   For that statistic suggsts the opposite.   

The only reason for this I can see is that referees believe that because Liverpool tackle less, they shouldn’t get yellow cards – which is simply not in accordance with the laws of the game.  Each tackle should be examined independently, although a yellow can also be given for persistent foul play.

In other words, contrary to the laws of the game, referees are measuring not the severity of each foul, but rather the number of tackles that led up to the foul.   That is bonkers, but that is what the figures show.

So why have the media not picked up on this?

Well, yes it is a bit complex for the mass market publications, but when you look at the way publications are now analysing expected goals, percentage of play in each section of the field, number of forward passes and the like, this is really no more complex than any of that.

But the reason for not looking at the issue is almost certainly much more alarming.   Clubs are being treated quite differently by referees.  Brentford can put in more tackles than Arsenal before a foul is called.  But when a tackle is seen as a foul by referees then it is much more likely to get a yellow card than an Arsenal foul.

More Liverpool tackles are seen to be worthy of a yellow card than Arsenal tackles.  But more Arsenal fouls are seen to be worthy of a card than Liverpool fouls.

Yes you can work out an explanation for this, but it is pretty convoluted.  The figures show Liverpool tackles are more likely to be worthy of a yellow card than Arsenal tackles but less likely to be worthy of being called as a foul.  It is possible, but just very very unlikely.  And certainly very unlikely week after week.

But fortunately this weekend Arsenal are playing Brentford not Liverpool.   And sorry Brentford, for unless this referee goes against the actions of his compatriots you are going to be hard done by.

So onto the referee…  Paul Tierney, arch-duke of the referees, will not referee a Premier League game this weekend and will instead act as VAR for Arsenal vs Brentford.  The officers of the law are…

  • Robert Jones (Referee)
  • James Mainwaring (Assistant)
  • Nicholas Hopton (Assistant)
  • Darren England (Fourth)
  • Paul Tierney (VAR)
  • Steve Meredith (Assistant VAR)

And here’s what they get up to


Referee Games Fouls pg Percent Yel pg Percent
Samuel Barrott 13 19.85  100% 3.08 100%
Paul Tierney 18 21.61 109% 3.22 105%
Robert Jones 15 23.93 120% 4.40 143%
David Coote 12 24.50 123% 5.17 168%


So once again we can see that which referee we get determines how many yellow cards are handed out.  David Coote for example hands out on average 68% more yellow cards that Samuel Barrot.  Rob Jones is more card-minded than Tierney and Barrott, and that may be why Tierney has been put onto VAR duty, to try and reduce Jones propensity for handing out cards – although of course, I have absolutely no evidence on that, it is just one possibility.  Figures from WhoScored.

But who does the referee favour in terms of winning?

Now you may recall that what started our interest in referees was the discovery that during the pandemic when there were no crowds in the grounds, the percentage of home wins against away wins changed dramatically.  Research then carried out by referees under the guidance of the statistical teams at the University of London showed that this was due to the influence of the crowd.

Since then we have seen some referees attempt to counteract this, some in fact going overboard in favour of the away team.   The figures for various referees shows this in practice.


Referee Apps HomeWin% AwayWin% Draw%
Robert Jones 15 53.3 20.0 26.7
Michael Oliver 18 33.3 50.0 16.7
Paul Tierney 18 27.8 44.4 27.8
Jarred Gillett 14 35.7 57.1 7.1


These are all referees who are being used regularly but their percentage of wins by venue varies at a level beyond belief.   These figures suggest however that we should be ok for this game.

So the team…

90 min offer…


White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior;

Odegaard, Jorginho, Rice;

Saka, Havertz, Trossard.

Sports Mole go with exactly the same, which probably means that will be it.

11 Replies to “Arsenal v Brentford. The referee’s preference, and Arsenal’s team”

  1. Like a few others, it’s the man on VAR, duty, Paul Tierney that worries me.

    If you remember he had a rather fractious relationship with Liverpool, fans and manager alike.

    Here’s a few comments from back in November, following their 3-0 victory over todays opponents.

    Under the sub heading THE BAD

    “Paul Tierney doesn’t have too many friends at Anfield. The referee has built a bit of an unwanted reputation with Liverpool, with the ill-feeling from the club’s supporters reaching boiling point during the 4-3 win over Tottenham back in April.

    This was the first time that Tierney had taken charge of a Liverpool game since that day, but his relationship with the club doesn’t really seem to have improved in that time. The Reds fans certainly left him in no doubt as to their thoughts on him.

    Having been left frustrated earlier when Tierney stopped Liverpool in its tracks as it looked to break from a quick free-kick, the fans’ ire reached its peak when Joël Matip picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Christian Nørgaard, despite the Dane appearing to jump into the Cameroonian. Matip certainly wasn’t impressed with the decision, and Jürgen Klopp looked just as perplexed on the touchline.

    The questionable call sparked an angry response from the Anfield crowd, who told Tierney in no uncertain terms where he should go. It’s probably fair to say Tierney won’t be looking forward to his next visit to Merseyside.”

    So, Tierney was left in no doubt by the Liverpool fans and manager alike that they are not exactly enamoured with him, and his next visit could be very uncomfortable.

    Well, in his next visit he oversaw a 4-1 win over an inept Chelsea. He gave Liverpool a penalty (which they missed) and just to keep a lid on things managed to book 4 Chelsea players in the first half for 8 fouls.

    As such, I suspect they felt they had much less to worry about when he turned up for last weeks visit to Notts Forest, and so it proved.

    Tierney’s been gradually getting back in Liverpool’s ‘good books’ then, and one last favour from Stockley Park tonight, should just about seal the deal.

    There’s nothing quite like ‘making up’ is there?

    We really need to put this to bed as soon as possible and keep everything crossed VAR has very little to do.

  2. Sorry, I forget to mention we also have this in The Sun:


    Thomas Frank has leapt to the defence of under-fire Paul Tierney in a shock show of solidarity from a premier league manager.

    Shock! Really?

    So a manager jumps to the defence of the official in charge of VAR in his next game and it’s a shock? Yeah, much better to state the truth that he’s an incompetent p**k, but hey, what do I know?

  3. OT

    In case you are not aware of it, the Emirates is place of a first in the PL (no idea in other countries)
    The camera is on a rail and follows the ball….which makes for a different kind of vision of the game as you probably have noticed – except for the fact that most of the time Arsenal may be in the opponent’s half which reduces camera movement…
    The Etihad is being equipped I have heard…but we are the first stadium where it is operational, thus this ‘traveling sequence’ effect you are all seing.

  4. Get in there.

    I thought the Referee was decent, but as I thought would happen we got absolutely nothing from Tierney on VAR.

    Surely now kai’s proved himself?

  5. We beat 13 men today. Tierney must be sick as a parrot that the 3 penalty denials didn’t work out for him.

  6. Good that Kai made up for the error from Aaron today. Without that error we would have had an easier game I think. But it is part of football and in the second half Aaron made up on two occasions with two excellent saves. Showing great character. Rice with another goal. And then we have Havertz who once avain scored a late winner against Brentfor just as he did in the reverse fixture earlier this season. A salute to Ben White for his two assists! Not every day a right back has two assists. If the Man$ity Livarpool match ends in a draw we will be top of the league after the weekends matches. Would be nice. 10 matches to go. You can’t win them all with a high score. Sometimes you have to work hard and dig deep. We needed to do this today and we did it. Well done boys! How do PGMO refs get Fifa badges these days? Do they find them in a box of cornflakes?

  7. @Walter,

    considering how few are being seen refereeing international games… I guess the answer is : mostly they don’t. Or PGMOL prevents them for trying so no one really sees how incompetent they are.

  8. porter


    When it suits ‘popping’ here there and everywhere isn’t a problem.

    That’s why I believe a European ‘Superpool’ of referees is the answer to the problem. Fly them in, put them up for a night, do the match, fly them home.

    With one body consisting of retired referees from across the leagues overseeing performances.

    I don’t see why they can’t talk to the media. Answer questions on performance. Clear up contentious incidents with explanations directly relating to the laws of the game. Play recordings of conversations between officials including VAR, assuming we don’t have them mic’d up, which we should.

    So many poor calls could be cleared up, or even prevented from happening.

    For example, how would Tierney of explained away not giving penalties for the shirt pull on Gabriel and the neck hold on Trossard? It’s simply not possible. So, just knowing he would have to explain his decisions would mean he had to give them, because they are not subjective calls. A pull on the shirt and an arm round the neck are clear fouls in the Laws Of The Game.

    But not all calls are that straight forward. Some are much more ‘subjective’. Havertz ‘dive’, and yellow card for example. Regarding the ‘dive’ there was contact. But, was it enough? Was it initiated by the forward? Personally, being honest I think it’s a dive. Havertz saw the outstretched leg and went to go over it. He initiated contact, but it is subjective and we got away with one there I believe. But on the other hand Havertz first yellow was also subjective, and I think harsh, so they even out to an extent.

    But wouldn’t it be better if these conversations we have here, and the debates they have on the TV, could be had with the officials, or at least a European equivalent of the PGMO?

    Alas, never going to happen.

  9. Tierney simply cannot be trusted. Subconciously I think Jones knew he cheated us at Southampton last season and knew he couldn’t do it again. It is no surprise that the Havertz incident was highlighted from behind the goal line but, predictably not the incidents involving Gabriel and Trossard. Toney failed miserably to bully Gabriel. Brentford’s main strategy was to disrupt play as much as possible – the modern version of Wimbledon. Attwell was refereeing in the Championship at Southampton yesterday – let’s hope Tierney joins him asap.

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