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March 2021

Swansea City v Arsenal 14 January – The Match Officials – and why are Liverpool having Michael Oliver for the fifth time this season?

by Andrew Crawshaw

Before I start on the match Officials for our game on Saturday I want to bring to your attention the latest piece of game management by the PGMO.

This coming week is matchweek 21 and Michael Oliver has been appointed to the Manchester United v Liverpool game on Sunday afternoon.  This will be the fifth time that Liverpool have had Mr Oliver this season and this most certainly isn’t healthy for the Premiership.  Our evidence shows no signs that Mr Oliver has favoured Liverpool in terms of Important Decisions in any of the three games we have reviewed.  To be in charge of a team every four weeks is just plain wrong.

  • Arsenal v Liverpool 14 August – Liverpool win 4 – 3 and 4 wrong Important Decisions (two against each team)
  • Swansea v Liverpool 1 October – Liverpool win 2 – 1and 2 wrong Important Decisions (both against Liverpool)
  • Liverpool v Watford 6 November – Liverpool win 6 – 1and 4 wrong Important Decisions (all against Liverpool)
  • Liverpool v Stoke 27 December – Liverpool win 4 – 1
  • Man United v Liverpool 15 January

Here is a chart showing the numbers of games each of the 17 PL referees has done for both Liverpool and United

Referee Liverpool Man United
Anthony Taylor 3 3
Michael Oliver 5 3
Robert Madley 2 2
Mike Dean 1 2
Mark Clattenburg 2 2
Martin Atkinson 1 2
Craig Pawson 2 1
Andre Marriner 2 2
Jonathan Moss 1 2
Neil Swarbrick 1 1
Mike Jones 0 0
Kevin Friend 0 0
Lee Mason 1 1
Roger East 0 0
Stuart Attwell 0 0
Paul Tierney 0 0
Graham Scott 0 0

In our weekly reviews of the referees (complete with video evidence) we have shown that statistically speaking there is no difference between any of the referees, they are all equally bad. So there is absolutely no reason why one of the referees in the bottom half of the table shouldn’t have this game.

Good, bad or indifferent there cannot be any reason for a referee being in charge of a team 5 times in 21 games particularly as his last Liverpool game was on 27 December 19 days ago.

On to our game away at Swansea City – a rare 3pm Saturday match.

  • Referee – Mike Jones – Age 48 from Cheshire
  • Assistant Referee 1 – Richard West – from east Yorkshire
  • Assistant Referee 2 – Mark Scholes – from Buckinghamshire
  • Fourth Official – Oliver Langford – from the West Midlands.  One of the Select Group 2 referees normally officiating in the Championship

This will be our second time with Mike Jones in charge this year.  The first was 27 November when we had Bournemouth at home – a 3 – 1 home win.

Ref Review : Arsenal – Bournemouth

70.3% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams of 70/30 and four wrong Important Decisions (second yellow or red cards, penalties and goals).

  • Min 14 Ake should have had a yellow card for a foul on Alexis,
  • Min 27 he should have had a second for an attack breaking foul on Alexis; Min 42 Smith should have conceded a penalty for Bournemouth,
  • Min 62 Alexis should have been dismissed for a studs up challenge on Arter and
  • Min 73 Monreal should have conceded a penalty for handball.

These wrong decisions kind of evened out, both teams should have had a player sent off and both should have conceded a penalty.  On balance then the result of the match was probably correct even if the score should have been different.  Not the best refereeing but just about acceptable and with a bias score that wasn’t too outrageous.

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Our week 14 Referees report (complete with video evidence) has Mr Jones averaging 1.63  wrong Important Decisions a game over his 8 games.  Four second yellows, five reds, three penalties and one goal.  Whilst this is worse I reported in my preview to the Bournemouth game it is still very much at the right end of the table.

Last Season 2015-16 we had Mr Jones on three occasions, two wins and a draw.

17 October Watford v Arsenal (0 – 3)

68% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams of 10/90 and two wrong Important Decisions (second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals).  In Min 3 Prodl should have conceded a penalty as he was holding Mertesacker’s shirt and Min 36 Capoue should have had a straight red card for a slap against Alexis’ face.  Arsenal won th game so the decisions didn’t cost Arsenal any points

13 January Liverpool v Arsenal (3 – 3)

59% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams of 6/94 and again two wrong Important Decisions Min 33 a not given penalty to Arsenal with Moreno pulling Campbell from behind and Min 70 Cline should have had a second yellow card for a kick to Campbell’s knee (the foul was given but not the second yellow card).  Here I counted this as two points taken from Arsenal.

30 April Arsenal v Norwich (1 – 0)

65% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams of 71/29 and no wrong decisions.  Not the best refereeing in the world but far from the worst and not costing us any points.

Going back another season to 2014-15 and another three games

20 September Aston Villa v Arsenal (0 – 3)

82% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams 20/80 and one wrong Important Decision when in Min 83 Clark should have had a straight red carder a challenge on Podolski.  Apart from that a good performance.

10 Feb Arsenal v Leicester (2 – 1)

54% overall score, bias against the two teams of 90/10 and two wrong Important Decisions.  Min 28 Upson should have been dismissed for a two footed challenge on Alexis and Min 88 Simpson should have had a second yellow card for blocking Özil.

21 March Newcastle v Arsenal (1 – 2)

58% overall weighted score, bias against the two teams of 5/95 and three wrong Important Decisions.  Min 62 Cabella should have been dismissed for a second yellow card after an elbow to Coquelin’s head, Min 81 Cabella should have had another yellow card for diving to try and win a penalty, Min 60 Newcastle should have had a penalty for handball by Chambers.  I noted this game as one where the referee gave us two points.


  1. Up to Matchweek 14 this season Mr Jones has made 13 wrong Important Decisions in eight games.
  2. In the two previous seasons in Arsenal games he made 10 in six games and added another four in his only Arsenal game this year.
  3. His bias numbers against Arsenal are typical at 80% plus so in line with the rest of the PGMO although he was somewhat better against Bournemouth with 70%
  4. He is quite good at recognising penalties (compared with the rest of the PGMO) in  non-Arsenal games but missed two in the Arsenal v Bournemouth game.  Where he does make mistakes are in the disciplinary offences, yellow, second yellow and red cards.  Again this is typical of the PGMO.
  5. We should expect him to make at least two wrong Important Decisions on Saturday, most probably not sending off one or more Swansea players.  He is also quite likely not to award Arsenal a penalty should he have the opportunity to do so.


Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society…  embarrassing 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Recent transfers, total cost of squad, and salaries against position in the league

The funniest (and also the most embarrassing) transfer story this January

Arsenal: Too dearly loved to be forgotten.

Arsenal don’t have a plan B. Well, actually we do. It’s Giroud.

Refereeing in the Premier League is under investigation, and PGMO have no idea what to do.

10 reasons why Arsenal signed Cohen Bramall (and why no other club bothered)

Ref Review: Arsenal – Crystal Palace: more of the same please

Football appoints new positivity czar to counter “overly negative” media and pay for football pitches in China


The index of all the major articles on the Arsenal History Society site is now complete.  It comes in two parts: A to K  and  L to Z


January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).

11 comments to Swansea City v Arsenal 14 January – The Match Officials – and why are Liverpool having Michael Oliver for the fifth time this season?

  • WalterBroeckx

    The distribution of referees is really awful and only the PGMO is to blame for the lack of referees.
    No team should have each ref more than twice in a season. At this rate some will do 10 matches of some teams….

  • Usama Zaka

    Imagine Mike Dean doing 10 Spuds’ games ( cards against oppositions all over the pitch)

  • Rich

    Their rationale for it- how they would justify it, if pressed; and what they are doing, if clean- is pretty simple : the select refs are the best in the country, but not all select refs are equal, i.e there are some who are completely trusted for the biggest games and some who distinctly aren’t.

    That is problematic even in a best case – a clean organisation doing their level best, fairly- scenario, which happens to be the one every last journalist regards as being the case.

    Are these trusted or superior refs regarded as being significantly better only in the top games- generally those involving at least one club from the top of the table- or are they supposedly better in all situations?

    If there’s this stark difference in their ability, why should the top clubs get so much more or the-cough- benefit of it than the rest of the league? Is, say, competing for a title more important than avoiding the drop?

    I expect they’d have to argue that the top games are the hardest to ref partly as a result of the extra scrutiny they inevitably place a ref under.

    Anyway, even from the most generous view, the distribution is, and should be regarded as, a failure. Just like there was a reason behind selecting 24 refs as a proper number, there are reasons why the same ref shouldn’t be doing the same team five times in half a season, or the same tiny pool of refs – about six?- shouldn’t be doing virtually every one of the big games.

    Same story with the north/South divide. Failure. Best practice would strive to ensure a better balance, yet with all the vast riches of the league and pgmol having been in existence for 15 years this massive divide still exists.

    Just to dismay us all further : I’m sure I spotted recently that after that piss-taking performance from Clattenberg at Goodison (he was awful for us last year there as well) he has been given another big game there almost immediately.

    They loved it, in other words. They watched how he let the game ‘flow’ and bloody loved it. That’s where the real depression lies for me, not the thought of refs fucking us in a game (could happen with any system- off day etc), but that afterwards their performance is looked at approvingly. Meaning it is unlikely to be an off day but is instead a good day, in pgmol’s eyes.

  • MickHazel

    I am sickened by the hypocrisy of the ‘forked tongue’ British press. After slandering, insulting, humiliating, ridiculing and trying to destroy Graham Taylor when he was England manager they are now falling over themselves to write their mealy mouthed tributes in today’s editions. Typical of the two faced cretins.
    They will do the same with Wenger you wait and see.

  • finsbury


    When *Gollum Gollum* was still in possesion of Riley’s ring (his FUFA badge) AFC would be lucky enough to get him something like four times a season during that period. The numbers for that sequence never did even out in the end, it must be a mystery!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Nail – hammer – bang bang bang right on top!

  • Usama Zaka


    The “Precious…Precious… FUFA badge” 😛

  • finsbury

    Clattenburg has fallen into shadow
    One badge to rule them all and in the darkness bind them to the “game management” briefings

    Only cost England players like Welbeck, Chambo, Walcott, a fit Wilshere (players who have actually scored for England in international tournaments, i mention no names of any cart-horse diving cloggers…) etc.

    pgMOB Rules Football (ok?)
    Riley’s lifetime achievements could be witnessed by all regardless of their opinions against the likes of:

    Costa Rica

    What a guy!

  • Ben

    i actually bet my friend who supports Chelsea that Tottenham would end their run because Dean was the ref, he didn’t believe me till the game ended.

    On another note as I am not a regular reader of the ref reports. Are there any stats to show refs making more mistakes due to the number of games they are refereeing and less recovery time?

  • omgarsenal

    Based on my experience, the so-called ¨senior¨ or ¨top¨referees are given big games like Liverpool vs United, Chelsea vs City etc. as a reward for services rendered. In my career I longed to handle such renown clashes and found them very easy to manage. I usually did quite well (based on my assessments) and really enjoyed the great football on display. The toughest matches, where I really learned my trade and earned my keep, were often the clog-fests between teams similar to Stoke vs WHU or Crystal Palace vs. Hull, or the derbys between the equivalent of Everton & Liverpool, where rivalries were an important part of the match.

    What I learnt from my mentors was that most assigners took the following concerns to heart;

    a) Assign a referee who will not cause a major controversy…ie: assign to safe hands,
    b) Stick with the seasoned veterans who you know to be reliable and malleable rather than experimenting with a more junior referee, who may need more time to mature,
    c) Referees who ¨know¨the players well are considered to be better bets than those who are not on a first name basis,
    d) Prefer referees who don’t apply the Laws too harshly but rather let play ¨flow¨ even IF they let one team or both get away with murder….as long as it isn’t noticed too much,
    e) Make a point of punishing those officials who don’t kiss enough ass,
    f) Avoid pissing anyone off, especially owners and managers as they can complain to the League and the stuffed suits running the show might look for another coordinator who better calms the waves… Riley is the master at sweeping things under the rug and burying his mistakes.

    I am sure Walter and other refs on UA have seen some or all of these criteria used when appointing referees. They can also explain why so few refs get so many games.