Are some referees out to get Arsenal? Ref stats compared and it makes bad reading

By Tony Attwood

It has long been the policy of newspapers and websites to rate players after games.   But I am not sure if anyone in England gives referees ratings.  Why is that?

Probably because the statistics are so alarming; maybe because PGMO have told them not to.

And they might have done that for the analysis we have been carrying out game by game this season we know that Arsenal commit 9.29 fouls per game – the lowest in the Premier League.  In return they get 1.39 yellow cards per game.

But these fouls and cards are not equally awarded by all referees.  For when we come to that part of the analysis we find that more fouls and yellow cards given by certain referees.

However this is information that most of the professional media and the amateur blogs won’t touch with a barge pole, largely, I suspect because it undermines a central tenet of their overview: that referees in England are clean and pure, and have no bias.  If they do make a mistake, well, it’s because they are only human.

But the actual figures on referee decision making are weird, and in case you think I make these numbers up, in all cases we take them from the most reliable source we can find.  In this case it is WhoScored.

Looking at our figures we can see that the worst referee we can have is Mike Dean.  He has given 12 fouls against us and three yellow cards against us… in just one game.  But fortunately we have only had him for one league game in the 28 played this season.  Maybe those figures were too much even for the Referees Protection Party (known conventionally as PGMO).

But there is another referee who is almost as bad when it comes to giving fouls against Arsenal, and tragically we have had this referee more than any other referee this season.  Want to know why Arsenal are not higher up the league?  Here is the answer.

Michael Oliver who has already handled five Arsenal league games this season – that is 18 percent of our matches.   He gives out 11.6 fouls per game against Arsenal, the highest of any referee.  And we can see that now, when he is the referee, Arsenal are forced to change their tactics, reducing the number of tackles they make in a match.

But even if he were not so heavy-handed with the whistle (ok a mixed metaphor, but you get my meaning) the question must be raised, why have we had Mr Oliver five times?  (Our demand has always been, each ref no more than twice a season, to protect against Type III match fixing – and there is no reason why this should not be introduced).

However there is worse to come, for Arsenal have played 28 league games and 18 of those games have been refereed by just five referees.  That is fractionally under two thirds of all Arsenal matches have been refereed by the same group of five men.  If one of them has a sub-conscious dislike of Arsenal, or worse, if there is Type III match fixing going on, we are in real trouble.  If two of them are involved (and it was many more than that in the Italian scandal) we’re dead before the season starts.

Fortunately things are not that bad, and different referees’ take on Arsenal do vary.  Martin Atkinson hands out  just 7.75 fouls per game against Arsenal, while Michael Oliver across his five games dishes out 11.6 per game.  Nearly half as much again!

Yellow cards are just as varied.  Martin Atkinson has handled four games and given us 7.75 fouls per game but just 1 yellow card.

Of course the obvious reaction for Arsenal has to be to adjust their style of play to each referee, and it looks to me as if they are now learning to do this, but it should not be like this.  Each club should have each referee just twice in a season and there needs to be an independent and open body overseeing the ultra-secretive activities of PGMO.

But as it is, on current showing we are probably going to get Michael Oliver twice more this season, which means the foul rate is going to go up and up.

Referee Games Fouls awarded against Arsenal per game Yellow cards against Arsenal per game
1.Michael Oliver 5 11.60 1.40
2.Martin Atkinson 4 7.75 1.00
3.Chris Kavanagh 3 11.33 1.67
4.Craig Pawson 3 9.33 2.33
5.Andre Marriner 3 10.67 1.67
6.Paul Tierney 2 8.00 1.00
7.Anthony Taylor 1 8.00 0.00
8.Jonathan Moss 1 11.00 2.00
9.Kevin Friend 1 6.00 2.00
10.Graham Scott 1 5.00 2.00
11.David Coote 1 9.00 0.00
12.Stuart Attwell 1 8.00 0.00
13.Lee Mason 1 3.00 0.00
14.Mike Dean 1 12.00 3.00
Total / Average 28 0.07

For us to believe that these figures are reasonable we would have to take it that Arsenal do play in a different way according to who is refereeing the game, and then deliberately foul more in front of certain referees.

In reality Arsenal is clearly reducing the number of tackles it puts in per game because referees give fouls against Arsenal for tackles far more regularly than with any other club – as our regular tackle / foul / yellow analysis shows.

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10 Replies to “Are some referees out to get Arsenal? Ref stats compared and it makes bad reading”

  1. An important factor in this is that some teams are more street wise (or ruthlessly cynical) at playing the referee. Arsenal don’t do this very well – and in a way I am glad.

  2. I think what’s equally concerning is that other teams know how harshly Arsenal are treated by refs and adapt their own tactics to reflect this. They foul more, often getting away without a foul being called, know that they will hardly ever get penalised for a 50/50 (or 60/40) challenge, and also know that it will generally take much longer to get a card themselves.

    So not only are we at a disadvantage from the way we are treated, that disadvantage is greater because of the leniency the opposition are afforded. I’m sure there are those who will look at the stats from Sunday and say we shouldn’t complain because the Spuds were carded more often than us. The plain fact is though that at least two red card offences went totally unpunished (maybe more). Lamela twice kicked Xhaka whilst the ball was out of play, and the blatant assault by Kane on Gabriel. Both were ignored by ref and VAR.

    As we have said many times, it certainly doesn’t all even itself out in the end!

  3. Mikey

    “Lamela twice kicked Xhaka whilst the ball was out of play, and the blatant assault by Kane on Gabriel. Both were ignored by ref and VAR.

    As I pointed out yesterday, this is what Dermot Gallagher had to say about the Kane assault.

    INCIDENT: Alexandre Lacazette hits an air shot in the Tottenham penalty area. Davinson Sanchez slides in on the forward, at which point he goes down.

    “The problem is Michael Oliver is behind the play. He sees Sanchez come across with his boot high, I don’t think he sees the air shot”

    “I think it’s aggressive, I don’t think it’s dangerous or endangering Gabriel’s safety, a yellow card would sit about right but it’s definitely not a red card.”

    “If someone got a red card for that, we’d be making more of a story about it than we are now.”

    Being ignored would be bad enough, but it’s worse than that. They actually look at it and think it’s not that bad.

    As I said yesterday, you couldn’t make it up. An absolute disgrace.

    And I actually thought Oliver was one of the better referees. But lets be honest, we get screwed across the board. Yes we may get away with one once in a blue moon, but it’s very rare and jeeeez God help us if we do because we never hear the end of it.

    Even when the opponent, Spurs in this case, have actually got away with it and not us (Lamela should of been off long before he was, Kane should of gone,) they somehow turn it against us.

    We end up being told that Lamela was harshly done by, Kane was just frustrated, and that late, waste high, studs up challenge was perfectly legal.

    Even the free kick Kane ‘won’ against Gabriel near the end was a blatant dive. You look at it from the side. Kane feels the presence of Gabriel and he literally throws himself to the ground.

  4. Does anyone remember Arsenal v Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park and I think Mr Moss was the referee , Coquelan had just been yellow carded and then made a lunge type tackle a minutes later , Moss the referee gave the free kick and also gave him a good talking to .
    The media thought he should have been sent off PGMOL thought the same Mr Moss was demoted to the Championship or suspended and discussions of the incident didn’t go away for a week because Arsenal got away with one .
    The deadly silence says a lot regarding Spuds and the media .

  5. Steve Vallins

    I cant say I recall it but I don’t doubt what you say because as I said, I know we do get away with one now and then, it would be beyond remarkable if we didn’t, but as in this case, it’s the way it is shouted from the rooftops when we do.

    The World and his dog, and that includes referees, are left in no doubt that Arsenal are due some payback.

    I haven’t been watching/reading the media since Sunday but I’m guessing Neither Kane or Lamela are being taken to task over their thuggery, whereas I’m guessing they’re still banging on about how we got away with one regarding the penalty.

    Maybe I’m wrong.

  6. Oliver has done 5 of our games and Arsenal have won 3, drawn 1 and lost 1 so maybe we’re better when we don’t tackle as much?

  7. allezkev

    You may well be right but surely it’s not right that we have to adapt how we play according to who’s refereeing us? That’s just wrong.

  8. @Nitram it may be wrong but it suits the way we play by non contact interception to get the ball. It must be very disheartening for Riley as his possey cannot get to our discipline to weaken our squad.

    Each official has a different method of Arsenal baiting so playing to evade the poacher is part of todays game.

  9. @ Menace

    You’re absolutely right that Riley will be pissed off that we’ve adapted our game to combat the bias of his referees. That gives me a moderate amount of pleasure but I’m certain that this will be short lived because I have no doubt the PGMOL will look for another way to screw us.

    What’s more infinitely more important is Nitram’s point. We shouldn’t have to do this. Other clubs don’t have to do so.

  10. Well Nitram, I think that clubs actually do take into consideration the character of a referee before a game, because they’re all different, some are more easily influenced than others, some are the opposite, the lack of crowds and the differing results we have seen during the lockdown certainly seem to show how influenced they are.

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