By Tony Attwood
To summarise where we have got to… five years ago several clubs began finally to realise that there were two factors in each football match that they had not been taking into account in the past, but which if taken into account, could give them the edge.
One was which referee they had, and the other was how to handle the dodgy referees who seemed to more favourable to some clubs than others.
By 2018 at Untold we were sure enough of where things were going the situation to publish “How four clubs commit fouls with impunity, while others constantly get punished” and it that article hit the nail.
Our further piece of research under the headline Shocking new referee statistics suggest outright bias against Arsenal showed exactly how referee bias against Arsenal works.
Some referees penalise Arsenal players far more than others – that is shown in the statistics. That’s bad enough, but what we have also shown in that article is that PGMO have ensured that Arsenal get the referees who penalise us the most, over and over again. This is possible in the Premier League, because unlike all the other major leagues in Europe, in the PL the number of referees is kept artificially low, and instead of limiting how often each referee can oversee each club to two games a season, there is no limit. We get the dodgy buggers over and over again.
However all clubs know that fighting PGMO is not possible without the agreement of the whole league, and of course the clubs that benefit from PGMO activities will never agree. So a different tactic has been needed.
As the chart below (which was published as part of the series of earlier articles) reveals, several clubs decided they had had enough of being at the mercy of dubious refereeing, and started to change their style of play to beat the refereeing tactics. At the heart of this was the ploy of cutting tackles.
Alongside this came the notion of putting a greater emphasis on young players who were less set in their ways, and so more able to adapt to the new “don’t tackle” reality.
The decline in tackling over the past five seasons has been dramatic, and for ease of reference in what follows I repeat yesterday’s chart showing the decline…
Number of tackles per season with decline measured across the six seasons
It is clear that even prior to 2015/16 Mr Wenger realised that penalising tackling was the PGMO weapon of choice against Arsenal, and as we see, by 2015/16 Arsenal were considerably below other clubs in the number of tackles the club was undertaking in a season.
Other clubs followed the ploy but by 2018/9 there was a feeling among some clubs that the bottom had been reached, and indeed Leicester, along with Tottenham and Manchester United then changed policy, successfully taking other clubs and referees unaware.
But the referees caught up and Leicester and Man U once again reduced tackling in 2020/21, so that all clubs in the list above have overall reduced tackling by between a quarter and two thirds in the past six years. Only Tottenham with their regular changing of managers stayed at the 2016/17 level.
The decline of tackling has worked. In 2020/21 there were 1095 yellow cards handed out in the Premier League. In 2016/17 there had been 1315. A decline of 16%. Over the same period tackles declined 22%. Cut tackles and you cut yellow cards, although interestingly the decline in tackling hasn’t made much difference to the number of goals scored.
In 2020/21 there were 1024 goals scored in the Premier League. In 2016/17 there were 1064. 30 goals fewer across 380 games. One goal fewer every 13 games. Nothing at all in fact.
So, cut out tackling, cut down on yellow cards, virtually no effect on goals but partially overcome referee bias in terms of handing out fouls and yellows.
And when Arsenal under Mr Arteta got their new system thoroughly working at an even higher level than before, by Christmas 2020, the results were there for all to see.
And yet, and yet… no one else is mentioning this. It is a subject utterly forbidden in blogs and the general media. Just as is the difference in the ways refs treat different clubs. Why is that?
The policy of ignoring a subject totally, thus suggesting it is ludicrous or irrelevant, is well know to those who study human interactions. It is known as Gaslighting. If you are interested in it both generally and in relation to football this series might be of interest…
Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.
- 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
- 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
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- The abuse of female footballers is appalling, but there is a wider context
- Why Arsenal v Glimt might be tougher than the game against Tottenham
- Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?
- Arsenal Women – Champions League last 16 draw – We get the toughest opponents