By Tony Attwood
This is part three of the series on Arsenal, referees and the media. The earlier parts are:
- Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?
- How discussions about refereeing are deliberately stifled by the media
And interestingly as I came to post this article I noticed a comment from Lakh which read
“It’s either the refs are wrong or untold don’t know much about refereeing. However whatever the case is, this blaming the ref after ever sub-optimal result has become stale.”
It is an obvious piece of gaslighting – rather than becoming involved in the debate, suggesting that the debate that we are having is itself of no value – it is “stale.”
This is how the debate is stopped, not by answering the points raised, but by calling the debate pointless. I am glad to have such a perfect example provided. So moving on…
At the end of the last piece I argued that the gaslighting technique which dismisses an argument as stupid or pointless, or dismisses the people putting forward the argument as stupid, or in some other way biased, ignorant or inadequate, is what we have with any attempt to discuss refereeing in English football. It is the President Trump approach of simply stating untruths as facts, and dismissing the argument as pointless, stupid, or just plain idiotic. It doesn’t take sides in the argument – it just dismisses the validity of the debate.
Thus an Arsenal fan raising the issue of refereeing is often portrayed as nothing other than a person who is trying to excuse the poor performances of his/her team and ineptness of the manager by blaming referees. The argument would not be put, it is suggested, if Arsenal were winning the League.
Untold Arsenal has for the past year been running statistics which compare the number of fouls teams commit before they get a yellow card, and it turns out the numbers vary greatly, and it is very strange. How can one team repeatedly commit twice as many fouls as another and yet get fewer yellow cards? Likewise we raised the question of Leicester City and its penalties. As I wrote last December “In its report on Leicester’s win at Tottenham, the Guardian mentions Leicester penalty five times. On the BBC Radio 4 report this morning the penalty was mentioned four times. But neither news source mentioned the real oddity of the Leicester penalty. That is that this was Leicester’s ninth penalty of the season.”
So in a world in which the BBC website is able to point out that “Nine Arsenal players have been sent off since Arteta’s first game in charge on Boxing Day 2019, five more than any other side,” there was no mention of the extraordinary number of penalties that Leicester were being granted.
Likewise it took Untold to reveal the Leicester tackling issue. In that case we noted that at the moment we wrote the piece Arsenal had undertaken 528 tackles leading to 308 fouls leading to 72 yellow cards. On the other hand Leicester had undertaken 655 tackles (the most in the league, 24% more than Arsenal) leading to 308 fouls (the same as Arsenal) leading to 37 yellow cards (just on half Arsenal’s level). Of course there might be an explanation; one Leicester fan suggested they had one player who was particularly adept at tackling, but the data turned out not to coincide with his playing.
We are instead asked to believe that Leicester can commit 24% more fouls than Arsenal but get only 50% of the yellow cards that Arsenal get, and there is nothing to discuss.
I must stress, I am not saying that this is an example of referee corruption. I am saying that it is very odd that no one in the media thinks that this is worth discussing. The tactics Leicester had to pull this off must have been incredible. Why was it not headline news every week?
That is the question: Leicester had this amazing set of tactics which took them to near the top of the league, and then suddenly their tactics changed, the number of tackles collapsed, the rate of fouling escalated, AND NOBODY (apart from Untold) THOUGHT IT WAS WORTH COMMENTING ON.
In an era when we have statistics so readily available on everything (as for example the “Nine Arsenal players have been sent off since Arteta’s first game in charge on Boxing Day 2019, five more than any other side,” comment with which we started the first article) those weird stats must have been noticed. But until Untold wrote about them, no one mentioned them.
And even stranger than all that, once we had publicised them, Leiceseter’s figures changed radically as the club slipped down the league in the latter part of last season. It was almost as if the referees realised what was going on, just as we publicised the figures. But it couldn’t be that simple, could it?
This season the same thing happened again only with penalties. By 21 December Leicester had gained nine penalties, at a time when four clubs had been awarded none. This meant that Leicester kept on getting them at that rate they would have 24 by the end of the season – an all time record.
We publicised our findings, made a bit of a fuss, and by and large just as with the fouling without yellows, the penalties stopped.
Of course that could be a coincidence just as the sudden reducing in the tackling level the season before could coincidentally have occurred after our first comment.
But what is strange is that no commentator picked up on the tackles and yellows issue, just as no one picked up on the high volume of penalties.
As I have pointed out, the essence of gaslighting is that one person denies the validity of the issue the other person is discussing. So the debate as to whether refereeing in the Premier League is run in the best way possible, never begins. When we raise it, it is dismissed as sour grapes or ignored.
And may I stress, I am not trying to say, there is something wrong with refereeing in the Premier League. There might be, but that’s not my key point. I am saying there is something wrong when interesting sets of facts are there for all to see but are never made public (except by Untold) and thus never debated at all.
That is the key issue when it comes to looking at PGMO and refereeing in the Premier League. For some reason, really interesting facts are just not being debated.
This series continues
- 1: Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?
- 2: How discussions about refereeing are deliberately stifled by the media
- 3: Referees: the odd statistics that are simply never revealed or discussed
- 4: How we have been utterly misled about football: part 4
- 5: Hiding the problem of refereeing is destroying the credibility of the Premier League
- 6: Revealed: PL referees are not 98% accurate but actually just 75% accurate
- Everton v Arsenal: a happy video, line-up and what the league table will look like after
- Everton v Arsenal: Injuries, points needed for 4th, and Arsenal the first to 100?
- Everton v Arsenal: extraordinary figures seen in the last 6 games table
- Everton v Arsenal: how this referee treats the home and away team
- Everton v Arsenal and the oddity of referee behaviour