By Tony Attwood
It was 31 December 2018 that we published Andrew Crawshaw’s groundbreaking article “How four clubs commit fouls with impunity, while others constantly get punished”
Since then we’ve been looking constantly at the issue of fouls and the way referees treat Arsenal, and so it was probably inevitable that we’d be the people to pick up on last season’s amazing development in which Arsenal sank down tackling table in order to stop getting ceaselessly penalised by referees throughout the games.
But now a new set of data has come to light which has made that discovery far more shocking, for it concerns which referee handles Arsenal in which way.
Our original story gave us an insight into the new tactical style adopted by Arsenal which coincided with the extraordinary improvement in results in the last two thirds of last season as Arsenal cut down on tackling, in order to reduce yellow cards – which dramatically improving their performances.
And of course by and large it has been ignored by the media who have treated the season as a unity, and fouls as something absolutely not to be mentioned.
But now we have another set of figures which suggest there is something even stranger that went on last season.
We have long since known that referees call out fouls by certain teams in different ways. But here’s something we missed before: the more likely a referee is to call fouls against Arsenal – the more often Arsenal get that referee for their matches!!
And that is not just a feeling – we’ve now got the stats to prove it.
The table below shows the referees for Arsenal games this last season, and is ordered in the number of fouls the referee awarded against Arsenal per game. (Figures from Who Scored).
First we notice an incredible variation from top to bottom. Oliver gives 386% more fouls against Arsenal per match than Mason. Are we really going into some games kicking the hell out of the opposition, while with others we are much, much more passive? That’s what these figures imply!
OK that is bad enough, for although Arsenal’s style of play might vary from game to game it is really hard to see that they move from a rugby style approach which would lead to 11 fouls being called in a game, down to a passive style in which the club only gets three fouls against them.
But it is far worse than that, for the referees who gave the most fouls against Arsenal PER GAME handled 22 of Arsenal’s 38 league games!
Only one of the referees who calls fewer fouls against Arsenal got more than two games, while five referees who call foul after foul against Arsenal got three Arsenal games or more.
Of course one could call that a coincidence, but it is rather like two school children who sit next to each other handing in an exam paper with the same answers on, explaining that away by saying it was a pure coincidence. Maybe, but it’s unlikely.
And there’s worse. When we measure these referees against the number of points Arsenal got per game we can see just how much we were penalised.
Here are the six referees who we had three times or more in the season. Our average points per game through the entire season was 1.60. As we can see, yes Michael Oliver did oversee games which were above average, but the other five referees in this list, who between them controlled 19 games (which is of course half a season’s worth) all oversaw matches that gave us below our average points per game.
Have you got that. Five refs who all give us below average points per game, controlled half the Arsenal matches in a season.
Now you might be inclined to call that a coincidence too, but 19 games across five of the six referees who controlled Arsenal by far the most, and we get lower than our average points per game looks like absolute bias to me.
Of course I have no proof. I am just reflecting what the figures show. But it makes me ponder.
The proof that something is seriously wrong with football refereeing and reporting
- Results from crowdless games are different from those with crowds. Why?
- How even a serious science magazine has used fake data on football
- Someone is trying to fake football stats – and doing it rather well,
- Crowdless stadia stats reveal fallacy of PGMO claims
- Proving unconscious bias by referees
- How clubs manipulate referees through their tactics
- Referees are not 98% accurate but only 75% accurate
- Newcastle v Arsenal. Injuries and how much does a club have to spend each summer?
- Newcastle v Arsenal: the influence this referee will have on the game
- Is the notion there is something wrong with refereeing, a conspiracy theory?
- Uefa goes its own way, but the route is still the same: more money for the big clubs
- Is it possible to save English football from the corruption and incompetence of those in control?