The curious case of the wrath of penalty Gods on Arsenal!

The curious case of the wrath of penalty Gods on Arsenal!

By Sam

If you watch the Premier League, or any league for that matter, you might have at times been baffled by the refereeing decisions. Of course, Referees are human beings and deserve sympathy for not getting decisions right all the time. There is also this argument that “things even out” in the long term.

However, if you are an Arsenal fan and have witnessed Mike Dean refereeing Arsenal games, or Anthony Taylor applying his own interpretation of FIFA rules while officiating Arsenal, or indeed Martin Atkinson routinely being appointed for the away game at Chelsea and awarding his customary soft penalty against Arsenal whilst giving Chelsea players a free hand (or elbow or leg) on Arsenal players, chances are you aren’t entirely convinced by that argument that these are all human errors and will even out in the long run.

You may feel even more sick in your belly when you are reminded that these referees were recruited, trained and appointed by Mike Riley, he of that infamous 50th invincible game fame. But it is very difficult to prove your doubts conclusively without being labelled a conspiracy theorist by other fans, especially since you hear totally opposite perspectives from different people opining on the same incident – including the so-called football “pundits” on Television.

But I think that if you look at cold hard figures over the long term instead of subjective arguments on whether or not a particular incident was dealt with correctly or not, you can start drawing some more irrefutable trends or observations, if not outright conclusions.

One of the things I am still riled at is the way the title was gifted to Leicester last year largely by referees awarding Jamie Vardy a penalty every time he ran at speed and clashed into at an opposition player in the penalty area. At the same time I remember many instances where much more deliberate kicking, shoving, pulling against Arsenal players in the penalty areas went unpunished.

So I decided to look at some statistics and found penalty data from 2002-2003 up to 2016-17 (i.e. 14 full seasons and one in progress) on this website. However, I decided to analyse the data only for 14 complete seasons up to 2015-16. This is because Mike Riley became the head of PGMOL in June 2009 (i.e. from 2009-10 season) and doing so allows me to break up the data into two equal halves: 7 years between 2002-03 to 2008-09 (the pre Mike Riley era) and 2009-10 to 2015-16 (the Mike Riley era).

I also limited my analysis to seven teams since these were the only teams that had not been relegated in the 14 year period, so had a full data set with no missing years in the period being analysed.

A summary of the penalty statistics and my observations are below:

Table 1: Penalties awarded and conceded

Teams Pre Mike Riley era Mike Riley era Awarded %change Conceded %change Ratio % change
Awarded Conceded Ratio Awarded Conceded Ratio
Arsenal 41 19 2.2 31 35 0.9 -24% 84% -59%
Chelsea 28 15 1.9 53 23 2.3 89% 53% 21%
Everton 22 25 0.9 33 26 1.3 50% 4% 44%
Liverpool 39 20 2.0 42 30 1.4 8% 50% -30%
Man City 25 26 1.0 51 22 2.3 104% -15% 130%
Man Utd 33 15 2.2 43 21 2.0 30% 40% -9%
Spurs 29 27 1.1 31 33 0.9 7% 22% -18%
Total 217 147 1.5 284 190 1.5 31% 29% 0%


Firstly you would notice that even the total amount of penalties awarded to these 7 teams increased from 217 to 284 penalties in the Mike Riley era (a 31% increase). But, the number of penalties conceded by the teams also increased by 29% in that period to give a near constant overall “penalty ratio” of 1.5 (i.e. the number of penalties awarded to a team for every penalty conceded by it).

However, you can see that generosity of the referees did not benefit Arsenal as it is the only team out of the 7 which was awarded fewer penalties in the Mike Riley era (a drop of 24% compared to pre-Mike Riley). All other teams saw an increase in the percentage of penalties awarded in favour with Chelsea and Man City being the largest beneficiaries who have almost doubled the penalties awarded to them. Overall, Arsenal was awarded the least number of penalties, along with Spurs, in the Mike Riley era.

When you see the change in percentage of penalties conceded by the teams, Arsenal is once again the biggest loser with the most number of penalties awarded against them amongst the 7 teams, which is almost double the amount compared to the pre-Mike Riley era (i.e. an 84% increase). Man City on the other hand have bucked the trend of the 29% overall increase in penalties conceded, with a 15% decrease in penalties awarded against them as compared to the pre Mike Riley era.

When you look at the overall effect of the penalties “awarded” and “conceded” figures on the penalty ratio, you find that Arsenal is the biggest loser in the Mike Riley era with the penalty ratio dropping by a massive 59% (from 2.2 to 0.9 penalties awarded for every penalty conceded). While Man city (130% increase), Everton (44% increase) and Chelsea (21% increase) have been the biggest beneficiaries.

Now you might point out that the favourable ratios for Man City and Chelsea are probably justified with their recent “successes” (oh let’s not talk about the financial doping lest someone gets offended). However, Manchester United (since Fergie left), Liverpool and Spurs have not been particularly spectacular compared to Arsenal, so why does Arsenal suffer the most on the penalty front?

Has Arsenal become much more impotent in terms of attacking threat compared to the other 6 teams in the Mike Riley era that a significant drop in penalties awarded is justified? Has Arsenal’s defence become so much more shambolic in the Mike Riley era compared to the other teams that the pig-mob (as I affectionately like to call Mike Riley’s esteemed organisation) are justified in punishing Arsenal by slapping the highest number of penalties against Arsenal?

I will mull over these questions in Part 2 of the article.


Footnote: Readers who do subscribe to the notion that anyone raising questions about refereeing in the Premier League are invited to read the data provided in the articles in the series 160 games analysed.  These give the most in depth analysis, with video evidence of the first 160 games played this season in the Premier League.



Arsenal Transfer Index Edition 6. 39 players joining the club; 13 players leaving.

How Fifa corruption is continuing, and how we can help bring it down.

Oh what a lovely protest. Please can we have more, more, more. And thank goodness Moyes has been relegated.

The Arsenal History Society is publishing the most detailed account of Henry Norris’ time at Arsenal ever produced.  Part 3 is available now: March and April 1910 – the crisis deepens with a link to earlier articles in the series on that page.

16 Replies to “The curious case of the wrath of penalty Gods on Arsenal!”

  1. Or maybe we no longer run with intent into the box. If you watch Arsenal we spend an awful lot of time playing intricate passes around the area and occasionally in it, slowing our play down and giving opponents plenty of time to organize. It’s not necessary to foul an almost static attack force, you just need to get plenty back in defence thereby nullifying the outlet for passes. How many times have we screamed at our players to shoot rather than over complicate?

  2. I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t there a similar study done on yellow and red cards, pre and post Riley where a similar swing for the worse was found in relation to Arsenal.

  3. colario – despite all the PGMOL cheating Alexis just gets on with it. He is one player that cannot hold back his complaints but gets nowhere with the cheats, so he just gives a little extra. Giroud is the same. He gets on with the game despite being fouled beyond the pale.

  4. A good study would be pre & post PGMOL. It is this organisation of corruption that has brought about the downfall of technique in English football.

  5. MickHazel – I believe that this is the article that you are thinking of – The figures are extremely damning, yet most the WOB won’t take one look at it and accuse most here of just being a deluded “conspiracy theorist”. Ignorance through arrogance.

  6. Great piece Sam, conjecture:

    Spurs are interesting, their stye of play under Pochettino has become significantly more agressive, along with the nature of some of their players, Cristian excluded, bar the odd sly trip. I would have expected in a factual account of matters involving the likes, a significant incrase, howevr the solidity of tht back line, is without doubt I think over the last two campaigns.

    With 2 almost like for like swaps at full back, it is arguable that they defend te middle third most robustly, breaking up attacks, the significance is the siguise of unsporting conduct, they should be recieving many, many more reds.

    Although Liverpools usually woeful defending and propensity to defend in their own third, ina nd around the box, would suggest that a significant increase in penalties, should have been likely.

    Similarly with City as they split into two units, the attacking one doing little or no defending and both Vincent and Fernandiho have a propesntity towrds hands on approaches to efending, not withstanding, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy inability to ever get his positioning spot on and tact for lunges in the inside edge of the 18, here you would expect to see a sometihing, not simply a representation of their attacking prowess in awards for. The early years, when United, Chelsea and Spurs were a little less than they are now.

    United have been atrocious, so the margins here are fictional works at best, some kind of fantasy saga, with dragons and lightly clad, buxpm froilines. Vidc was the worst penalty box offendr I have seen since Johns hey day, please retire already.

    Everton also, they have become more potent in attack, but have wained in recent years, since the break up of that famous duo at central defence. Don’t they just produce some fine CB’s? These figures are very odd.

    But of course, Arsenal’s are startling, we have changed, but not that dramatically, Koscielny has been targeted as a crucial linchpin in the bacj 4/5. Gabrie also to start with, Monreal can chalk up quite a few penalty errors alone, but if our numbers look like that, the likes of Unted, Liverpool and Spurs should be into triple digits.

    Breathe on him and it’s a penalty against, but even if four players have had broken legs in that period, nothing done to us is worthy of note.

    With parliament disolved, immunity no longer exists and as the off season draws near, will we see a similar lack of protection for the lunatics behind the manipulation of a multi billion pound industry.

    Well with the FCA and Central bank having colluded to manipulate global economies, whislt ensure the sale of inflated Lloyds stock, having shifted liabilities to the 70% publicly owned RBS, we should ope so.

  7. From 2004 onward we started to dismantle the Invincibles. At the same time the tikki-takka of Spain/Barcelona took hold. We were influenced by this. I would suggest that although we had good possession statistics in the early noughties, that they become very good in the second half. Our play which in the era of Vieira, Henry, Pires, et al. often depended on a devastating counter attack and runs into the box changed to slower, more deliberate attempts to unpick the lock of 10 men in front of the ball. To some degree, I agree with Yellow Canary…runs into the box not done at full speed, that are impeded, are less spectacular and probably less likely to be called…though they should be penalties. Our team was younger and less physical than it used to be and we were by temperament and size less able to deal with it.

    This is not to say that #mikerileygamet50 did not affect things. Anyone who remembers the match probably still has that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach but if there is one area that regularly does not get the attention it should it is that wrestling octagon (sic) we call the box. Vardy’s mach 3 crashes happened twice a match and he would get one of the two calls. Giroud would end a match with his sweater in tatters and get called a diver.

  8. I’ve seen these stats before, as well as the damning ones regarding cards, and it is depressing.

    As much as it is possible that a change in style has contributed to us not being awarded as many penalties as before, it is pushing it to suggest that that is the sole reason for the massive downturn in our penalty awards.

    If you look just over the last month or 2 and consider the ‘soft’ penalties that have been awarded to our direct rivals, then consider what can been done to our players without a penalty awarded, you can draw no other conclusion than we are being cheated.

  9. Thanks for the link Jammy J. The evidence is there for all to see, something very, very fishy is going on.
    Surely the club, management and players must be aware of this apparent injustice against them. I remember Wenger saying once in a post match press conference something like “I know what is going on”, I wonder if these strange stats are what he was referring to.

  10. who cares anyway, just look at the last match with stolks realy apart from when you come from mars or you are deluded or you chill in the sewers then you gota know what the f… is going on.

  11. Very convincing post. I was shocked to see Vardy getting all the pens by entangling his legs into the defenders legs. This season his game is over, but if the referees didn’t let him get away with this last year, the title race would be much more open (arsenal 1?)I think we have also take into account the Boringho mentality that cheating is stimulated, diving, theatrics, (look at how routinely Hazard can get a pen, Conte doesn’t mind)) that drove the pen rate for Chelski vs Wenger, the gentlemen who will discourage his players to behave in this pathetic way. But maybe time for a more cynical approach here? Dive-practice ?It is obvious that most arsenal players refuse to trip in the pen area even with physical contact. Or should we keep the standards high, even if its costing us valuable points (not to mention the bias: if a Arsenal player trips in the pen area he off course always risks a yellow for diving, makes it even harder)

  12. I’ve mentioned before the last time Arsene complained about the standard of refereeing in Arsenal games we had Pigmol roll out Dowd for a 4 all draw at Newcastle
    As most Arsenal supporters should know we were 4 up at halftime ,kicked to pieces in the second half Diaby sent off and 2 of the softest penalties given against
    I say no more

  13. Mike Riley was a cheat as a ref.
    He is not in place due to his refereeing ability, his PR or communications skills, not because he is good at supporting and recruiting refs.
    He is there because the likes of Scudamore and leading figures in the LMA, FA…..and I would hate to guess who else want him there. The question is, why. I think we know

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