By Sir Hardly Anyone
Quite clearly the Premier League is in a state of flux, and with Arsenal’s manager having the virus, and players out of action now for a couple of weeks, even if the season continues Arsenal are going to be behind in completing the fixtures.
But it turns out, that is only the start of our problems!
As it is we have played one game fewer than six of the eight clubs above us, and with the Brighton match off plus doubts over the FA Cup match and the Norwich game, Arsenal are slipping further and further behind.
And now there is another problem as well, which the media (as ever, slightly behind events having not been given a fulsome briefing by PGMO as to what happens next) has not even contemplated.
As you will know if you are a regular reader of Untold, it is a fundamental part of Premier League football that the same referees should be used over and over again. The simple chart below which we published recently shows the maximum number of games per referee so far this season in the top league in five different countries…
|Country||Teams in league||Referees used||Max game per ref|
The Premier League, under the guidance of PGMO, has the lowest number of referees (equal only with Spain) and insists of some of them refereeing more games than in any of the other major leagues (25 at the time that table was compiled just about a week ago).
The maximum games of a top division referee in England is over double that of the most used referee in Germany and almost double that in Spain and Italy.
But now with the virus spreading like wildfire, the simple fact is that if referee Atkinson and/or referee Dean test positive for the virus (and given the number of times they come into contact with Arsenal that seems to be pretty much an inevitability) they will be put out of action.
It is, as we know, a fundamental that Arsenal must repeatedly be refereed by Atkinson and Dean most of the time, and with those two gone, well, there simply won’t be referees to handle Arsenal matches.
Given PGMO’s insistence on its unique way (among the top leagues) of running football refereeing, that will, in short, be the end of Arsenal this year.
Of course, when we did our earlier analysis we found that Andre Marriner, David Coote, Simon Hooper, Peter Bankes, and Andy Madley, all of whom are on the PGMO Premier League rosta, had yet to appear for Arsenal games, and I suppose in extremis, they could be used, but that would smack of artificial manipulation of the refereeing schedules, which other clubs have relied upon year after year to ensure that they beat Arsenal. There would undoubtedly be the most serious objections to such artificial tinkering with a tried and tested system. No, beyond doubt, other teams want us to be refereed by Dean and Atkinson. It has worked well up to now, so they won’t want it changed.
Indeed matters could get worse. When we last published our analysis of the number of referees seen in Arsenal games, the number was 12. No club had a lower number this season. I cannot imagine that the PGMO will suddenly change their own rules which insist that Arsenal get the same referees over and over and over again. And why should they when the system is working so well and has worked so well for so many years?
Over two-thirds of Arsenal matches have been potentially affected by just five referees, and that clearly has an influence on what the league table looks like today. Take a couple of those referees out of the system and the whole approach falls apart.
If Atkinson or Dean go down with the virus, the PGMO will thus struggle to find a referee for Arsenal games who will be able to referee in the manner to which we have all become accustomed over the years. And without that level of consistency, well, we might as well pack up the league there and then.
I mean if you can’t rely on the referees, who can you rely on?
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