What caused the poor start to the season in 2014?

By Tony Attwood

Last season after three matches Arsenal were unbeaten but were 7th in the league.  After four matches the situation was the same – unbeaten but 7th – due to the fact that three of those games were draws.  We’d beaten Palace 2-1 and then drawn with Everton, Leicester and Man City.

It was at this point that the “worst start in 30 years” mantra started.  It was of course nonsense as a factual claim, but worse than that, it was meaningless.  Those opening games didn’t determine where we ended up in the slightest.  Teams can shoot out of the blocks and falter in January.  Teams can start slowly and win the double.

Of course you can look at any games and say “if only we’d won those then this…” and I have done it myself, changing the two results against Chelsea, and then converting a draw into a win, and we take the league.

It’s an interesting view, but quite different from the “worst start” because that seems to suggest that something terrible has already happened or been decided.  It hadn’t last season and it never has.  After that poor-ish start we became only the second club in the last 100 years to retain the FA Cup twice, and we came third in the league becoming the only British team to enter the Champions league for 18 times in a row.  The only team in Europe to better that is Real Madrid.  So not too bad.

But to some people it felt very bad.  On 5 October 2014 Arsenal lost their first game of the season – a 2-0 away defeat to Chelsea, and at that time the knives were certainly out as the club dropped to 8th.  And they stayed out, even though we clawed our way back a bit – but then two consecutive defeats in November sent us back to 8th.

It was a particularly bad time to be 8th, because there was an international break between those consecutive defeats which left a lot of time for the negativists to get their teeth into the situation.  This most certainly was going to be the year we dropped out of the top four – at least according to the media.

Between 29 November and 7 February Arsenal spent their time moving between 6th and 5th, and it was only after defeating Leicester at home on 10 February 2-1, that we moved into the slightly more comfortable fourth spot.

So what happened?

Over time during the season several changes were made to the team. Francis Coquelin, Héctor Bellerín and David Ospina came to the fore.  But more than this, during the first part of the season key players were injured.

To see how dramatic this level of injuries was consider the numbers of league games played by key players.  Koscielny who was clearly a centrepiece of the defence only managed 26.  Wilshere, who may not always be first choice could certainly have helped if he had been able to contribute during his long injury lay off.  He started nine league games.

Mesut Özil started just 21 games, Walcott 4, the Ox 17, Ramsey 23, Monreal 26, Giroud 21.

Now of course clubs always get injuries, but when we think that out of the 38 league games only three players managed over 26 starts (Mert, Santi Caz and Alexis) it shows the level of chopping and changing that was required was enormous.  To give an alternative perspective only three players managed to start over 68% of the league games.

Of course there was a benefit, because these injuries allowed Bellerin and Coquelin to enter the fray big time, and that was to the good, but the sheer volume of the injuries made the disrupting effect staggering.

Now we have often debated why Arsenal get so many injuries – and as I have mentioned before there has been much talk about Wenger’s over training, the wrong training, the wrong type of pitch, the wrong physio, the wrong everything else.

We’ve suggested as an alternative that referees use different criteria for different clubs – Stoke has been a notable example, and this works to Arsenal’s disadvantage.

If we look at the seven most fouled players across the Premier League from last season Arsenal is the only club to have two players in  the list (Alexis and Santi Caz) and obviously most clubs have no one in the list of the top seven.

If we look at the clubs with the most yellow cards from fouls Arsenal are 3rd for last season but are way down the list for the number of fouls committed being 10th – half way down the league.  That is interesting – we get a high number of yellow cards, but commit only an average number of fouls.

If we look for individual players getting yellows, our worst offender was Callum Chambers, who came 29th in the list of all players getting yellow cards, our second worst was Aaron Ramsey who came 45th.  So we don’t have the worst offenders, but we do pick up yellows, and we have two of the seven most fouled players.  A pattern emerges.

Now consider this

  • Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 4
  • Arsenal 3 Tottenham 6
  • Chelsea 4 Arsenal 3
  • Arsenal 3 QPR 4
  • WHU 3 Arsenal 3

Those are the number of yellow cards in London derbies in the first half of the season.  Notice what happened?  Despite all the stats above showing that we don’t have dirty players, we were still picking up yellows in derby games (you might say that given the nature of derbies that is inevitable) but never once did we pick up more than the opposition, and in every case but one we picked up less.  In derby matches home or away the figures back up what we were observing – the other London teams came out to get us.  We got 14 cards, they got 21.

So, what do we make of all this?

I know I don’t have all the stats to hand to prove the point but I think the implication is fairly clear.  We were kicked about a lot and we lost players to injury because of that.  None of the numbers is utterly overwhelming on its own (although the lack of players getting over  26 games is staggering.

Put it all together and a pattern does begin to emerge.  Which is why it is so important that we keep on pointing this out to referees.  They may be the masters of the pitch, but we are watching, and noting, the uneven impact of what they do.

Untold will have its own banner in the Emirates next season.  Details here.

32 Replies to “What caused the poor start to the season in 2014?”

  1. …out of the 38 league games only three players managed over 26 starts….

    For comparison, Chelsea had 9 players with over 26 starts!

  2. This topic was at the forefront of my mind watching the Copa America final yesterday. The referee had a gigantic influence on how the match unfolded.

    Having allowed a huge amount to go in the first half, he seemed to completely give up in the second on any totalling up of fouls. I think Messi escaped the foulers twice in decent positions and each time they nearly scored.

    Thinking of this- that the ref’s attitude to yellow card fouls totally dictated the match- it stood out starkly and ominously how much referees can shape our own matches.

    The stats support what our eyes tell us anyway- that it takes much less for us to be carded than it does our opponents- and the impact on our games is gigantic. Spurs away was the standout last year, closely followed by Chelsea away and City home. Stoke away was where it was most visible with Chambers’ sending off, with the ref no doubt passing up about a dozen opportunities to book Stoke players for fouls no less yellow-worthy than either of Chambers’

    Letting people escape bookings they should receive can have a big impact on as side’s attacking ability, but, as last night’s match demonstrated brilliantly, the way to overcome it is to do the same thing to the opposition- i.e constant fouls to break up play. But what if players know that ,over the course of the season, the pattern is that they pick up bookings easier than opposition teams do? Or what if it becomes clear that within the same match that’s happening?

    It’s a problem, and it’s something those who implore us to match dirtier opponents are almost sure to ignore or deny.

    The end conclusion, if we’re right about referees here, is that we have find a little bit extra than other top clubs have to. In games, but especially over the whole season. Hopefully we’re moving into position to do that now.

    Coquelin’s play strongly suggests the club are very aware of what we have to do to try avoid bookings : he knows if he were fouling like Fellaini he’d be off two or three times a year.

  3. Why do refs let things go? This signals to the players that they can be a little more careless in their tackles, whereas immediately clamping down means they behave.

    Coquelin and Santi at the moment are a joy to watch playing.

    I am convinced that if Arsenal attempts to play great all season, i mean go for it, no distractions(hopefully) and make this the singular goal of the coming year to perform at highest level, we will reclaim our crown.

    Can’t wait to see the lads in pre-season and how some of the youth may have progressed and want to claim a place.

  4. Chelsea had Terry,Hazard,Matic,Fabregas,Cahil,Azpilicueta,Ivanovic and Courtois all start 32 games and above in the league.with Willian also playing more than 30 games not all were starts but he surely started more than 26,Oscar as well.a lot of people like to downplay Ozil’s influence in our team..what i have observed in his 2 seasons with us is dat we find it very difficult to score when he is not playing.it happened last season just like in his first season..when we lost Ramsey and Walcott, we still managed to score goals…when we lost Ozil…we just couldnt score till he came back,it was about 6 games and we scored just very few goals,Chelsea,Bayern Munich,Swansea,Mancity,Stoke City.we didnt win any of those games…we started to win when Ozil came back.

  5. Excellent post followed by good comments. Loss of Ozil needs a creative player like Zalalem. It’s the well weighted /timed through ball that creates the space leading to a goal.

    Ozil is magnificent at it & so is Zalalem, though he does not seem to have retained his place in the squad.

  6. Tony
    As usual, a good blog. However, the nub of the story is that nothing changes. Each seasons end,the stats come out that Refs appear not to be doing their job properly,
    Conceivably, we are biased(really?), but whether we are or not, there is simply no discussion on your stats. There is a bland “we will do things our way and if you don`t like it, tough !”
    By now, it must have got to the powers that be that possibly there is a case to answer
    Quite simply a counter analysis that you (and we) are wrong could resolve the matter.
    But to repeat myself, each season the same old same old comes up again.
    Those living in the Ivory Towers look down in disdain.
    If you don`t like it sunshine, join another Premiership, if only.It`s our ball(the Refs) and we will take it home if you complain too much

  7. It would be easy to say that the reason we get a high ratio of yellow cards to number of fouls committed is because our fouls are more serious and therefore more card worthy than other teams. But anyone who watches Arsenal regularly would know that this is not the case, it is very rare to see clumsy, dangerous, thugish tackles by any of our players apart from maybe Flamini. In fact the common opinion is that we are too soft. The only conclusion I can come to is that the refs are more than willing to treat our players more harshly than those of other teams, as has been proved by Walters ref reviews over a number of years.

  8. Very good article. It’s important to keep up the pressure on this important issue in the hope that we get a fairer chance in future.

  9. Using card early in the game is important. But what I noticed in most of Arsenal matches is that the ref does not card the opposition until very late in the second half having allowed ‘assassin’ tackles all match long.

    Other teams know this and are taking undue advantage of it. Except the refs attitude changes, Arsenal will still suffer injustices in yellow card and most fouls against us uncalled.

  10. In my Utopia, football would be virtually a non-contact sport, allowing greater freedom of expression by ball players.
    Cynical fouling would be immediately red-carded.
    People will say this emasculates what is, after all, a game for men.
    My reply is that supporters and fans are now being subjected to the sight of the most appalling
    GBH. Players are chopped down and out of action for long periods. The professional foul is actually being taught to the youth of our land.
    In my view the over-physical side of football has steadily tarnished the weaponry of the skilled, fast dribbler. One or two fouls per game soon reduces the power of ball-players, by long stays in the sick room.
    A beautiful game?….no longer.

  11. And the effects on our bench strength is quite revealing. On the bench

    Newcastle H December 2014


    WBA H May 2015


    How many of the December bench will play again for Arsenal? Le coq for one, maybe 2 on loan, 4 gone.

  12. I do think there has been a swing towards a proper balance by referees, and I believe but of course can’t prove that this is due in some part to the referee previews and the continuing focus that we give to refs on this site.

    As I have said many times before I am cautious about claiming that we influence anything, but I am beginning to think that the fact that we are getting 800,000 page views in a month has been noticed somewhere.

  13. Damilare

    July 5, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Using card early in the game is important. But what I noticed in most of Arsenal matches is that the ref does not card the opposition until very late in the second half having allowed ‘assassin’ tackles all match long.


    July 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    The stats support what our eyes tell us anyway- that it takes much less for us to be carded than it does our opponents- and the impact on our games is gigantic.

    -Very true lads. And if this tactic of early bookings for us, and late for the opposition is applied shrewdly, it can easily be made to look at the end of the match as if the referee was very even handed with cards, possibly even biased towards Arsenal.

    For example:

    Book Coquelin and Kos early. First fouls maybe, and then for the rest of the game they are under pressure. If needs be, pull out the 2nd yellow at the merest opportunity. IE Chambers when we looked like getting back in to it at Stoke. If we had remained 3 down I doubt we would of seen that 2nd Yellow. Also, once the game is decided, Yellow a few token opposition players to even the bookings count up. Too late to matter but it looks better on paper.

    In the end it actually can look like the Ref dealt quite harshly with the opposition and leniently with us, when in actual fact he allowed them to kick us off the park, whilst restraining us, from the off, with early yellows.

    People can, and do, call us paranoid, but this IS exactly what happens many times.


    July 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    In my Utopia, football would be virtually a non-contact sport, allowing greater freedom of expression by ball players.

    Cynical fouling would be immediately red-carded.

    People will say this emasculates what is, after all, a game for men.

    My reply is that supporters and fans are now being subjected to the sight of the most appalling GBH.

    -Spot on. Yet just the other Night on Talksport they had a big debate lamenting the passing of the ‘good old days’ of Norman Hunter and Johnny Giles etc. Apparently we all miss it !

    Gf60 @ 6:03pm

    Brilliant spot.

    Really does highlight how much affect it has.

    As I say, brilliant.

  14. As I have said before, in the Cup Final, Villa were given four yellow cards in the first half.

    Yes Villa still got away with many fouls in the second half but they were given a fifth yellow.
    When before this game was the opposition given four yellows in the first half? That usually happens to us.

  15. colaria

    Yep, very unusual.

    And for all I’ve said above, and others have said, of course it’s not an exact science. A lot of it is to a degree ‘subjective’, and therefore not that easy to prove.

    All we can do is to be as ‘objective’ as possible and to find as many statistics as we can to support our suppositions.

    To that purpose there have been 2 sets of statistics analysed, taken over 10 years or so, that clearly show a bias against Arsenal.

    They are:

    1) Cards per foul ratio.

    Nearly every year we have the lowest fouls to cards ratio in the premiership.

    2) Penalties for and against

    Nearly every year we have the lowest penalties for, and highest against, of all our direct rivals (IE teams that spend similar time with the ball, in and around the opposition penalty box) This is less consistent than the Cards stats as we seem to have the odd period where it goes ‘our way’, but taken over years it does not pan out well for us.

  16. I meant to say “…2 sets of stats that have been analysed in depth on Untold…..”

  17. Most of the places where one finds card data, it doesn’t say where. Here is the Charity Shield game.

    20140810 Arsenal 3 – 0 ManCity

    Shots 8/4 – 11/1
    Corners 3 – 7
    Fouls 13 – 15

    0:55 ManCity Fernando on Wilshere
    3:41 Arsenal Ramsey on Clichy
    5:07 ManCity Navas on Cazorla
    10:47 ManCity Yaya on Ramsey
    15:17 Arsenal Gibbs on Clichy
    23:40 ManCity Kolarov on Sanchez
    26:24 Arsenal Chambers on Dzeko
    29:50 Arsenal Arteta on Kolarov
    35:24 ManCity Kolarov on Sanchez
    35:58 Arsenal Arteta on Dzeko
    37:45 Arsenal Arteta on Joevetic
    40:36 Arsenal Sanchez on Kolarov
    47:25 Arsenal Giroud on Fernando
    48:53 ManCity Nastasic on Giroud
    49:59 ManCity Fernando on Wilshere Yellow
    50:41 ManCity Jovetic on Wilshere
    55:32 ManCity Yaya on Wilshere
    62:55 ManCity Jovetic on Chambers
    63:54 Arsenal Cazorla on Milner
    66:15 ManCity Zuculini on Szczesny
    69:14 Arsenal Flamini on Silva
    75:17 ManCity Jovetic on Ox
    80:28 ManCity Fernando on Ramsey
    81:34 Arsenal Flamini on Navas
    81:53 Arsenal Debuchy on Milner
    85:56 Arsenal Campbell on Milner
    90:00+0:18 ManCity Sinclair on Szczesny

  18. Interesting point about the early bookings for Arsenal as I’m sure we all remember the CB, FB, or CM getting carded for breathing on any Utd player early on at OT, or Highbury or Emirates for that fact…

  19. OT, the women’s World Cup has finished, and US ran away with the victory, but I had a flashback of the ManU-Arsenal games, with the ref making a complete mess of the match. Non-awarded foul on a Japanese player in the 2nd minute resulted in them losing the ball, and from the ensuing phase the 1st US goal. The 2nd US goal was from a free kick given for a dive. I lost count of the non-whistled handballs, both sides, and the professional fouls made throughout the game. Plus a player keeping the ball blocked under her feet while down to the ground for more than 2 seconds. That ref should have never been there. Not that US wouldn’t have won – they were taller by 10″ at least compared to their opponents, and their feet seemed twice as long – but it made for an unpleasant viewing.

  20. The performance by PGMOB representative Mr.Moss in the FA Challenge Cup final was a complete contrast to those games in the first half of the season.

    The Villa owner sat up in the Royal Box was annoyed when Delph was shown a yellow in the first half. Not because it was a deserved yellow following a fair warning for consistent shirt tugging, but because opponents have and had come to believe that they had the remit from the house of Riley to indulge in such a Carry On against the good ship Arsenal (“ohhhhh matron they don’t like it up ’em”, cue the vomit bags). Seeing Fabian pick up that yellow was a bigger shock then watching Alexis power in another howitzer. Almost.

    Villa could’ve/should’ve had the late Grealish pen. following the tug or foul from Bellerin but it’s fair to say everyone knows the match was over by then.

    It was a huge contrast to what you all saw in for example the Utd Home game. Fellaini etc. McNair.
    Almost as if the official was applying a different Code (Ass. Football as opposed to PGMO Rules Football?) 😉

  21. With the n billion worldwide audience, John Moss had no choice but to referee the FA Cup Final fairly. Hence, we saw first half bookings for Hutton, Cleverley, Delph and Westwood – first notably foul was a warning, the second was a booking. This prevented Villa from ‘ruffing-up’ Arsenal, allowing our superior football to prevail.

  22. Finsbury, completely agree with you. Also interesting, as my pal Ian pointed out, was the fact that contrary to normal behaviour, the directors of the losing side did not politely clap Arsenal up the steps and getting their medals and the cup. Of course directors do it through gritted teeth, but it is considered a politeness at directorial level. But apparently not for Aston Villa.

  23. Tim,
    You seen the 2014 FA Cup Final? I suppose someone, somewhere, could argue that Probert was just trying to keep it interesting…but really that game should’ve been over in 90mins if:

    A) Probert had conducted himself like he was allowed to award AFC a pelanty. Apparently he wasn’t.
    B) Gibbs had or has a right foot 🙂

  24. A fine analysis.

    There is no doubt the PGMO cost us points at the beginning of last season with not so subtle biased decisions.

    While there was an improvement later in the season my concern would be the the PGMO can do the same again when they decide to do so (or are encouraged to do so) – it will only change when Riley and his string pullers are cleared out.

  25. Here is the first game, with some detail not present in Charity Shield

    20140816 Arsenal 2 – 1 Crystal Palace

    Arsenal 2 Yellow
    Crystal Palace 3 Yellow, 1 Red (straight red or 2nd yellow?)
    Shots 14/6 – 4/2
    Fouls 13 – 19

    90:00 +5:03 Full time
    90:00 +4:20 CP Chamakh fouls Szczesny
    88:24 Dismissal Second yellow card to Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) for a bad foul.
    88:20 CP Puncheon fouls Monreal
    76:43 Booking Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
    76:38 CP Kelly fouls Alexis
    75:29 Arsenal Debuchy fouls Ward
    68:32 CP Bolasie fouls Chambers
    67:07 Booking Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
    67:00 CP Chamakh fouls Wilshere
    65:18 Arsenal Alexis fouls Chamakh
    64:31 Arsenal Monreal fouls Campbell
    63:27 CP Chamakh fouls Cazorla
    62:31 CP Chamakh fouls Ramsey
    59:12 Booking Santiago Cazorla (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
    59:09 Arsenal Cazorla fouls Ledley
    57:38 CP Dann fouls Wilshere
    57:09 CP Chamakh fouls Wilshere
    55:11 CP Hangeland fouls Sanogo
    54:11 Arsenal Alexis fouls Ward
    53:32 CP Chamakh fouls Cazorla
    48:38 Arsenal Alexis fouls Bolasie
    47:55 Booking Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card.
    45:00 +2:20 Half time
    44:56 CP Chamakh fouls Alexis
    43:43 Booking Calum Chambers (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
    43:24 Arsenal Chambers fouls Campbell
    40:32 CP Puncheon fouls Debuchy
    40:17 CP Chamakh fouls Wilshere
    39:45 Arsenal Gibbs fouls Bolasie
    35:17 CP Chamakh fouls Wilshere
    32:25 CP Campbell fouls Arteta
    31:03 Arsenal Arteta fouls Campbell
    30:01 Arsenal Alexis fouls Chamakh
    27:17 Arsenal Debuchy fouls Chamakh
    23:04 Arsenal Alexis fouls Ward
    11:08 Arsenal Arteta fouls Campbell
    3:04 CP Hangeland fouls Alexis
    0:26 CP Chamakh fouls Wilshere

    Being Fouled
    Arsenal Wilshere 0:26 (Chamakh), 35:17 (Chamakh), 40:17 (Chamakh), 57:09 (Chamakh), 57:38 (Dann), 67:00 (Chamakh Y)
    Arsenal Alexis 3:04 (Hangeland), 73:04 (Kelly)
    CP Campbell 11:08 (Arteta), 31:03 (Arteta), 43:24 (Chambers Y), 64:31 (Monreal)
    CP Ward 23:04 (Alexis), 54:11 (Alexis), 75:29 (Debuchy)
    CP Chamakh 27:17 (Debuchy), 30:01 (Alexis), 65:18 (Alexis)
    Arsenal Arteta 32:25 (Campbell)
    CP Bolasie 39:45 (Gibbs), 48:38 (Alexis)
    Arsenal Debuchy 40:32 (Puncheon)
    Arsenal Cazorla 53:32 (Chamakh), 63:27 (Chamakh)
    Arsenal Sanogo 55:11 (Hangeland)
    CP Ledley 59:09 (Cazorla Y)
    Arsenal Ramsey 62:31 (Chamakh)
    Arsenal Monreal 88:20 (Puncheon YR)

    Committing Fouls
    CP Chamakh 0:26, 35:17, 40:17, 44:56, 53:32, 57:09, 62:31, 63:27, 67:00 Y, 90:00 +4:20
    CP Hangeland 3:04, 55:11
    Arsenal Arteta 11:08, 31:03
    Arsenal Alexis 23:04, 30:01, 48:38, 54:11, 65:18
    Arsenal Debuchy 27:17, 75:29
    CP Campbell 32:25,
    Arsenal Gibbs 39:45
    CP Puncheon 40:32, 47:55 Y, 88:20 YR
    Arsenal Chambers 43:24 Y
    CP Dann 57:38
    Arsenal Cazorla 59:09 Y
    Arsenal Monreal 64:31
    CP Bolasie 68:32
    CP Kelly 76:38 Y

    First yellow of the game, is Chambers only foul of the game at 43:24. Chamakh already has 3 fouls at that point. Second yellow of the game is to Puncheon, for something not involving a foul to an Arsenal player. Third yellow of the game is Cazorla’s only foul of the game at 59:12. Chamakh finally gets a yellow (games 4th) after his 9th foul, and he still goes on to foul Szczesny in the dying seconds. The games fifth yellow is to CP Kelly, and is his only foul of the game. At 88:24 CP Puncheon picks up his second yellow for a foul on Monreal.

  26. Gord

    Good stuff. Data doesn’t include the most obvious booking of the day- the keeper for his ridiculous time wasting!

    But then again, the ref didn’t say a word to him about it until very late on. Inexplicable : he knows the rules, what’s happening is very obvious; and as well as infringing specific rules, the time wasting was massive breach of the general rule of refereeing : don’t let teams gain an advantage through cheating. A good ref in my book will derive enjoyment at being able to shut down those tactics as he should.

    Talking about Villa players being shocked when carded against us, the league games the season before showed it brilliantly.

    We won’t dwell on the first game and ,besides, the more interesting thing was the pattern of the second. Villa put in a couple of strong fouls in midfield early on…and the ref only went and gave them deserved bookings for it.

    I swear they looked totally flummoxed at that point (‘but, but… what are we supposed to do, then? ). Almost instantly we capitalised and scored a couple and should’ve got a third. A false memory I suspect, but I’ve got an image in my head of the booked player looking over to the bench with a desperate ‘what now?’ expression.

    Second half was a different story, as we slacked off and they improved , while Agnonlahor’s nose-breaking dirt seemed to complete the sense that normal service had resumed.

    However- in large part because the memory of the first game, when the ref was so wretched and they were allowed to foul us liberally in midfield, was so vivid- that period in the first half was probably the best window I’ve ever had into how correct refereeing can virtually wipe out a teams tactics against us.

    Shocked? Bereft of a plan and much hope, more like.

  27. I purposely ignored handball incidents, and editing commentary like this misses situations where advantage is being played. That would be an explanation for Puncheon’s first yellow, as it wasn’t apparently associated with a foul.

    If people know where similar information is available (for free), they should say something. But if I am going to dig this up for the league last year, it is going to take a while.

  28. I have long felt that referees always have a tendency to try to ‘even up’ the cards, particularly yellow, that they give out and even more so because the have a referee reviewer marking their performance and reporting back to PGMOL.

    I do not feel that this vitiates the comments, which I presume are based upon factual statistical analysis, that Arsenal get booked first/earlier because as a referee sees the amount of serious and rotational fouling by Arsenal opponents they know that they need to find the opportunity to book Arsenal first because if they their booking the proper way then the game is likely to swing Arsenals way and they may not have the opportunity at that stage to book Arsenal players at all.

    I feel my premise is easily reconciled with the London table in Tony’s blog and probably better expressed and in greater detail in Jambugs detailed comments with which I totally agree.

  29. Gord, thanks.
    Did you pick the Palace game because Moss was the official in that game? What a contrast. Was he really using a different code? Blimey!
    Looking at the starts a simple footballing soul would’ve assumed AFC were the Away team. That was the game when the magic spray got the better of him.

    Here’s a thought. Do you think some bright spark looked at the England squad as it bungled it’s way through the WC last season and thought to themelves:

    “Blimey! Where in the blazing saddles are England’s best young talents Wislhere & Chamberlain? Where is the most effective wide forward of his generation (walcott)? Where is the only decent LB with any CL experience to count, he’s only had stormers against the likes of Munchen (when fit…)?”

    Do you think that someone somewhere in the sweet FA might have noticed that having England’s best players injured by fouls that the officials are deliberately choosing to ignore and not call (forget about cards!, or ignore (not exclusive to AFC players) is not in the National Interest? Somehow, given the patterns in preceeding decades Revie over Clough etc. I’m not sure that they care about the Football. There is some evidence to support that conclusion.

  30. Fair play to Hodgson for taking an unfit Chambo to the WC. Rewarding a young player who’d performed for him in the past. Unlike Sterling, when at a similar age Hodgson had been happy to play Chambo during Euro 2012 as a wide player, against France i think etc.

  31. I’m soooo late to this party,

    But this is an excellent article with superb comments.

    Florian, ta for report about WC Final. I missed it so when I looked up the score I was shocked to see 5-2, and I wondered how the game was reffed.

    I daren’t say what I thought about the matches I watched.

    Again, great article and comments, thanks.

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