Arsenal match Man City, but can’t beat the ref. But why do refs behave like this?

By Tony Attwood

In our pre-game article we used the home/away analysis that is regularly included before a match, this time to suggest that the result might be closer than was generally considered by the pro-Mancunian punidts…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Arsenal home 9 7 1 1 17 6 11 22
1 Manchester City away 10 8 1 1 20 6 14 25

That table showing Arsenal at home, against Manchester City away, suggested we might get a draw from the match, and indeed we would have done if the referee had not acted in a way that is becoming rather familiar when we watch Manchester City.

Now however with Rodri breaking the rules by taking his shirt off, and the resultant collection of plastic bottles being thrown, we could see any punishment handed Arsenal’s way.   A points deduction (as when the players once indulged in what used to be called argybargy against Manchester United) is possible.  As is a ground closure or reduction in crowd size.  In fact anything is possible, with the FA desperate to distract from their own utter and total incompetence in handling the Euro finals at Wembley.

The positive from the match was that when the PGMO man didn’t get involved we were a solid match for Sheikh Mansour’s personal team and Saka was stunning as we really took the game to the sheikh’s representatives.

Whether Xhaka grabbed a shirt to hinder him or as a reaction as he attempted to avoid going to ground is a moot point.  The ref had to decide, and he decided in favour of the Sheikh’s team, which really wasn’t a surprise.

Cue media commentary about Xhaka, but no media commentary about the referee – which when one takes a step back, is a bit strange.   Surely both the history of the player AND the history of the ref are of equal merit in such a situation.

If Arsenal have a fault in this, it must be by not training their non-English players strongly enough in the understanding of the level of variation within refereeing.  What goes for one team does not go for the other, and I suspect that tales of the Englishman’s alleged belief in fair play is what they recall, rather than warnings that English refereeing is different from refereeing anywhere else in the world.

But Gabriel could be booked for dissent which gave the referee his opportunity, and he took it.

The point is that the use of VAR was palpably unbalanced.   It wasn’t used after 10 minutes when Martin Ødegaard was tackled.  No requirement to even look at it; of course not, it was an Arsenal man who was down.

What we can say is that this is a very good Arsenal team, and it is getting better.  But thus far it is only good enough to beat the opposition when there is no referee intervention.  Now they have to go the extra 10 miles and be good enough to take on the referee as well.

The fact is that over recent years, research and data has shown that some very, very weird decisions are given against Arsenal, and that referees who are known to give decisions against Arsenal get to referee more Arsenal games than those who are even handed.   (If you’ve been with Untold for a while you’ll know about this, but if not you could start with last year’s data tables.)

In an unbiased refereeing situation each ref would only oversee games involving a team a maximum of twice a season – as happens in most countries.  Not here.   Likewise there should be no link between the number of cards a referee hands out to a team per game and the number of times the referee oversees that team.  Not here. They would also do TV interviews after a match.  Not here.  And so it goes.

But there were positives.  Other than the referee the key noteworthy points were Martinelli and Saka who were both stunning.  Long may they stay fit.

Arsenal are not likely to win the league for a long time to come, the referees will see to that, but we might still make the Champions League, and the odd cup is possible too.

So why is the PGMO against Arsenal?  I can’t say for sure, but the most likely reason is that Mr Wenger took them on, and made them look like the idiots they are.  If you want to know more, the story is here.

I still think he was right to do that, but it seems we are still paying the price.

27 Replies to “Arsenal match Man City, but can’t beat the ref. But why do refs behave like this?”

  1. Tony

    “What we can say is that this is a very good Arsenal team, and it is getting better”.

    Here here to that, and as you say, amid a brilliant all round performance Saka and Martinelli were immense.

    I’d just like to add that I thought, as did others it seems as he was made MOTM, that it was nice to see the Partey we hoped for make an appearance today. He too was immense.

    “But thus far it is only good enough to beat the opposition when there is no referee intervention.”

    And how sad is that !

  2. We will have to wait for Riley to go before we get a fair shake and that’s all that I am looking for. I don’t want an advantage I just want even handiness.
    Not holding my breath though.

  3. Porter

    “I don’t want an advantage I just want even handiness”.


    I was feeling we were gradually getting a slightly fairer hearing from the referees of late. Others were more sceptical.

    Even if I was right, it hasn’t taken long for normal service to be resumed.

  4. The simple fact taht PGMOL, the ref organisation handling the biggest football league in the world is INCAPABLE of fielding the number of referees necessary to guaratee that none ref a game more then twice in the course of a season tells you :

    – they are totally incompetent in handling their recruitment and don’t have enough referess to mismanage
    – candidates visibly are not very interested to referee in the biggest, richest league in the world and turn them down

    I mean WTF ? read the 2 statements again and let them sink in !

    Referees accross England DO NOT WANT TO JOIN the best league ?!?!? And it becomes an real issue and affects the results of said best, biggest, richest league !

    INCOMPETENCE, IDIOCY, ARROGANCE. And more and more, all the world can see it. And some 4 players of the 3 Lions are directly affected.

    Keep on banging that drum. F…..g Incompetent Idiots – FII

  5. When Riley selects the Aussie cheat to man VAR and then swops the selected piggy in the middle, it is obvious that the match is manipulated (as Lewis Hamilton says).
    Racism is F1 as it is PGMOL.

  6. Ever wonder why referees fear for their lives when they officiate at Anfield and Old Trafford? Respective managers probably couldn’t guarantee their safety?
    At the Emirate’s, they tend to look after their visitors. Conspiracy theory? Maybe? Most of the referees would get assaulted by Mother Theresa, such is their competence.

  7. At least we can point to the fact that we now hold another Premier League record after todays game.
    Arsenal are the first team to reach 100 red cards since the Premier League started.
    Not bad for a bunch of southern softies!

  8. mick shelley

    I have no doubt that as the dust settles the Xhaka and Gabriel incidents will be elevated above any debate surrounding the incompetence of the Referee, or more over VAR.

    In the end it will be yeah, officials weren’t great but it’s really all Arsenals own fault.

    Maybe I’ll be proved wrong but I doubt it. We’ll see.

  9. A campaign should be raised perhaps by the media.Tony I’m sure has connections there.Perhsps through voices such as Oliver Holt or Henry Winter to enquire as why the ref isn’t miked up to VAR & any discussion to be plainly heard by the crowd as to what decision & why & why it’s reached with BOTH in agreement.This is done in Rugby union & although not foolproof certainly cuts out a lot of the bias when any decisions is being analysed in full knowledge of the crowd.Also & this is equally important.Many refs ir Rugby union demand to see ALL camera angles not just a sneaky tv editor might slip in to sway the decision.Particularly if a ref has to review an incident on a monitor.
    For the richest league in the world how poor is our PGMOL.Is there not a joint prem Fans committee to raise these issues?

  10. The appointment of the Australian referee to the so-called Premier elite referees panel has never been highlighted publicly with respect to the criteria used for making such an appointment. I mention this as this appointment is yet another white male who speaks English! How and why was he appointed in the first place?

    Is the PGMO monitoring and highlighting the appointment of possible referees from other English speaking countries and continents? If not, why was this referee appointed? If so, why have no black nor asian personnel been appointed from other countries? Is professional football not played in the Caribbean? Is the standard of refereeing seen in the United States MSL not to the liking of the PGMO? Do Asian countries not play professional football?

    The Guardian recently highlighted the lack of black and asian referees within the Premier League. Since this published observation, there has been little if any follow up from other media outlets. Why? Has any other media outlet questioned whether the action of PGMO appointments could be underpinned by institutional racism?

    Money talks! The PGMO obtains its financial support from where…… and how? From the Premier League et al? If so who is/are the ‘et al’? The secrecy surrounding the PGMO and its internal management and the way subsequent appointments are made is astonishing! Nothing or nobody appears to be able to question its workings. Why is this? Many democratic governments have safety checks to try to ensure transparency in the way that they operate and to ensure that corruption is at least limited. Nothing like this appears inherent in the way media organisations relate to the PGMO. Transparency does not exist. “Boys will be boys”! as my mother used to believe. It appears that internal monitoring within the PGMO is done by those personnel who are part of the PGMO, i.e. employees of the PGMO. Where is there external monitoring and evaluation of all aspects of PGMO practice, from an independent external source?

    I have never been involved in professional football at any level. What do I know then? However, such secrecy suggests the possibility of ‘something rotten in the state of Denmark”.

  11. If Silva was offside prior to having his shirt pulled it would not be a penalty, yet the ref changed his mind upon seeing a shirt pulled AFTER the initial act of simulation.

    It’s clear he saw the simulation in real-time, why change his decision watching a replay where it was clear the pulling of the shirt did not occur until after Silva threw himself at xhaka in attempt to win a penalty?

  12. Mick shelley

    Thanks for the link. Yep, not bad but I still don’t agree that there’s was a penalty.

    The first offence was simulation as it was a clear dive into and over the leg of Xhaka. Once that offence has occurred any subsequent infringement is irrelevant.

    But hearing that Peter Walton was bending over backwards to excuse the Odegaard incident is depressing, but I had long since switched off.

    When I heard the BT anchor excuse VAR on the basis it wasn’t a clear and obvious error because the referee couldn’t see it, I gave up.

    I think everyone accepts it was tough for the referee to know exactly what happened because it was difficult to see. But whether it is failure to see or just bad judgement, not giving a penalty was a clear and obvious error. Not necessarily his fault, but a clear and obvious error none the less.

    What chance have you got when pundits and ex referees alike are determined to defend the in defensible.

    Plus I’m sure they wouldn’t of, had it been the other way around.

    Nice to see we are at least getting a little sympathy. Better than nothing I suppose.

  13. Tony I have a few questions
    1. Please in what league do refs not officiate a team more than twice per season, please tell us. Recently a poster showed via analysis of many leagues in Europe that your claim that this happens is untold fantasy.
    2. In what league(s) do refs routinely give post match pressers?
    About the match I can only advice our players to concentrate on playing the game with utmost discipline and maturity. It’s not coincidence that we are first to 100 red cards. I know we have a tendency to put the blame on the refs, but frankly that doesn’t cut it, you just get laughed off as a sore loser. I’ve been on Man City forums and their fans are certain the decisions made by the ref were correct, just like I’ve been on untold after controversial decisions have favoured us and all the usual suspects have sworn that the ref made the right decision. Fact is it doesn’t matter wether the ref was right or wrong, if it was tight in our favor, untold arsenal would support the ref while untold-whichever club we’re playing against would cry foul and vice versa. So what fan forums think is immaterial. However I’ve listened to Dermot Gallagher review the decisions too as well as other persons not affiliated to arsenal or citeh, and I think the onfield ref decisions though tight are acceptable. The boys did well, but we need to watch our discipline

  14. I don’t have immediate access to the data that you seek, although I feel sure we did have information on this in the past and published it either in an article or a comment. But with there being getting on for 12,000 articles and over a quarter of a million comments on the site spread across 14 years, and with just myself as the editor, the record-keeping is not all it should be. So you should take my comments to be a logical aspiration and I will try and ensure my future comments reflect that on both topics – at least until I do find the original notes on referee interviews and referee appointments which are somewhere among the box files.
    I certainly did have these notes at one time, but given that the LSE research showed referees are biased by crowds, and given that the Italian experience showed that corruption is possible on a major scale, having enough referees to ensure that the same club only sees the same ref twice is so obviously reasonable a requirement, whether a couple of leagues allow interviews and restrict repeated appearances or not doesn’t really seem to me to be the main point. Although there is an interesting discussion on this in relation to lower league football by referees at which gives a good insight into the perspective of some referees, although of course only some.

    In terms of refs being interviewed, the article reports this starting in Italy. My recollection is that this happens in some countries (Belgium and Norway come to mind,) but I have not checked recently, and since I don’t speak Norwegian or Flemish I cant immediately check. This is in contrast to the PGMO offer on retirement if they continue not to talk to the media.
    However given that I don’t have time to research this further at the moment I’ll in future refer to the desirability of not having the same referee for the same club more than twice in a season, and making referees available for interview as reasonable requirements and the PGMO refusal even to debate such matters as obdurate, in my view, and that should give a more accurate reflection of the info to hand – at least until I find the original research.
    It should further be understood that while I have raised the issue that Arsenal tended to get the referees who handed out the most cards against Arsenal, the most times, last season, this does not prove that there was any corruption, it could be just an unfortunate quirk in the arrangements or incompetence among the organizational committee at PGMO. However I do feel that this set of findings is a much more important issue than the original complaint about the same ref more than twice. What we saw last year was not just the same ref more than twice but the same refs who gave Arsenal the hardest time, more than twice.
    Thus the key point, it seems to me, is not which countries if any are allowing interviews, and restricting each ref to seeing each club twice, but rather that this would be a way of removing the concerns that some people, including myself have. The refusal even to discuss this (other than above relating to lower leagues) or to undertake either move (more refs, no ref seeing the same team more than twice) strikes me as curious, given the history of refereeing corruption in Europe across the last 15 years or so, and so worthy of comment. Apologies for relying on my memory, which clearly is not up to recalling exactly what was said across 12000 plus articles and 278000 comments, but I am sure it is in there somewhere – or indeed it could be that I turned the data up while researching the articles on Henry Norris for the Arsenal History Society series – which means I’d have to check those files too. Trouble is the Henry Norris at the Arsenal series in the history site is over 150000 words long, so again it would take a while to find. Sadly I don’t have a full time researcher to help me, but I’ll endeavour to be more accurate in my references in future – at least until the data I used originally does turn up.

  15. I’ve viewed it again and again, and thought Xhaka va Silva was a penalty. He may have ‘won’ it by moving slightly in the direction of Xhaka, but he was always going to do such ‘gamesmanship’. It’s undoubtedly coached in and encouraged as it was in that Barcelona side. So when you are playing a team that has been coached to cleverly cheat, you need to be aware of it, and our side is maybe a bit young to do that (yet). The one I would dispute was the Odegaard decision where the keeper got man before ball. That was pretty stonewall for me. Also, what exactly did Gabriel say that earned him a booking. I want to know. The sooner refs have open mics like in rugby the better.

  16. @Tony,

    I believe it happens in Germany regularly.

    But then those are all foreign european countries who know squat about football and who cares anyway ? What does the PL, PGMOL and the so-called press care about what happens there and what people think. All they want is that these people pay to watch PL games and shut the f…. up.

    We re seeing incompetents at work at every level and giving these incompetents the illusion of intelligence and capability of strategic or even tactical thinking is giving them much more credit then they merit.

  17. As if the fact Ian Wright and Martin Keown find against Arsenal in their assessment proves a thing.

    Both are ex Arsenal yes, both never have a good word to say about us. As I have pointed out many many times Ian Wright is in my eyes an utter disgrace. He has in his time as a pundit openly encouraged other Arsenal legends to leave the club. His criticism of Arsenal over the years has been remorseless.

    I don’t give a **** he once scored lots of goals for Arsenal, and that I sang his name to the rooftops.

    He is bitter and twisted. His celebrations in the studio are fake.His love and to Arsenal is as fake as his love and loyalty to his wife.

    I love you, I love you, I love you, then he sh*gs another women. Tells you all you need to know about the morals and the loyalty of the guy. It’s FAKE. So please spare me the opinions of a man like that. I cannot abide the man at any cost.

    Keown is not so bad but he too seems incapable of seeing anything in our favour, no matter what.

    The fact there was a foul on Odegaard IS clear and obvious and to deny that is ludicrous.

    To deny that the City player dived into Xhaka to initiate any contact is also ludicrous.

    Pointing out that the MOTD mob found against Arsenal is like pointing out the South East of England Votes Tory. If you asked any regular on here ‘What are they going to say on MOTD’ and to a man we would of all said they would say exactly what they did, especially if it was ex Arsenal ‘Legends’! As predictable as night following day.

    Its what happens every time they open their mouths.

    We were again cheated by VAR and anyone connected to Arsenal who is bending over backwards to defend it should hang their heads in shame.

    My West Ham and Man Utd supporting mates where watching it unfold in disbelief.

  18. @Tony, I did my research before posting the questions. And the only reason why I asked the questions is because you regularly make those claims as a matter of fact. However extensive search using Google doesn’t bring up information backing up the claim that there are leagues where refs routinely give pressers after matches like the players and managers do. Of course I stand to be corrected by evidence you will post. Also a few months back a poster on untold with verifiable stats proved unequivocally that none of the major leagues in Europe, not bundesliga, not la Liga, not french Ligue 1, not Portuguese, not Scottish none of these leagues and others practice making sure no ref does a club more than twice a season. So for you to continually make the claim suggests intent to misinform. We know you don’t like the pgmol, but making up stuff to castigate them with is beneath you sir

  19. Ukp, your comment raises a few interesting points. I suspect this is going to be boring for everyone else (although I am going to write a follow up article in a few minutes), but you’ve written on the point at some length so I’ll try and explain in detail.

    There are two points: one is that there would be a benefit in referees only overseeing games involving each team twice in a season because it would make it harder for match fixing to take place and easier for incompetence or bias to be spotted. It is something that is certainly achievable in the PL (more on this below).

    Second, yes I made the claim, and now I find I can’t prove it. Given that the vast majority of posts on football throughout the media each day fall into the same position (think for example of the transfer tales each year of which 3% are accurate), it is far from ideal, but hardly earth shattering.

    But, you feel that my continuing to mention this suggests a deliberate attempt to misinform. OK, you can of course believe what you wish. But there are several points.

    First, I have explained that I thought I did have the evidence. I’ve now spent time searching and can’t find it, so I admit it. I’ve told you that, but you refuse to believe my words, saying this “suggests intent to misinform”. That’s an illogical suggestion. My admission suggests the opposite. It also suggests an openness on my part to give space to your argument, and to admit and debate a matter which leaves me looking a bit silly, for not keeping the files in order and indeed relying on my memory rather than checking.

    Second, if you are not going to believe my explanation, why bother to make the accusation again? Indeed why be here on this site at all if you feel that I’m in the business of deliberately misinforming? I’m glad you’ve pointed this out, because it means I won’t write something I can’t prove again. But if you aren’t going to believe my answer, why put the issue to me? It’s like me asking the English Prime Minister if he thinks he has handled the coronavirus situation well. I don’t bother asking because I wouldn’t believe his answer.

    And then to jump from there to suggesting that I am deliberately attempting to mislead to me seems ludicrous. It must be palpably obvious that this is blog, run by a fan, with the help of a few friends. We do it ourselves, and we have jobs as well. And what I would suggest is that we make fewer mistakes (I would guess far fewer, but again I can’t prove it) than the national media run by professional journalists who transfer tales are 97 or 98% inaccurate each summer.

    I didn’t respond to the earlier comment about my view not being right, because I didn’t see the comment. Which given we have now had 278,078 comments on this blog is not that surprising. Sometimes I am away, sometimes (when covid allows) visiting my family in Australia, sometimes the paid work level is such that just keeping the blog running is all I can do and I miss comments. That’s the reality.

    So overall I would argue from one incident in which I got a fact wrong to an “intent to misinform” is bonkers – there is no evidence for that. And where’s the motive, given that the underlying issue (that enough referees to ensure no one oversees the same club more than twice) is so easy to achieve. Last season, as you will know if you have read the Key Data Tables file, we got one ref five times, but a host of refs once each. Because balance is so easy to achieve we might ask, why didn’t we get that balance? (Actually now I think of that, I feel that is a stronger argument against the PGMO. If each referee who we had more than twice had been reduced to two games, and those games given to other refs who only saw Arsenal once, the balance I seek of no more than two games per ref would be achieved. Which raises the question, why isn’t this done? I think I shall write an article on that.

    But in relation to your comments I ask, why does it worry you so much that a blog run by a tiny number of people gets something wrong and admits it?

    However I now have my next article. We generally publish 3 pieces a day, and I’ve not go anything else ready to go, so you’ve now given it to me. Thank you for that – it will appear in half an hour or so and I’ll acknowledge your input in it. But deliberate attempt to mislead? For what purpose? Untold doesn’t change many people’s opinions, so what would be the point?

  20. @Tony I don’t intend to anger you. It’s just that you have made the claim over and over again and yet I’m sure I have read posts on this site that have countered this with facts from verifiable sources, so to me it seemed like you were willing to overlook the facts to push an agenda. Secondly, in your previous reply, you did not categorically accept that your claim is without proof(maybe I’m the one who didn’t see it though). However in your latest reply you have clearly stated that and also made a commitment to desist from making that claim going forward, that is satisfactory and honorable. And I thank you in advance for keeping to your word. Sorry for any inconvenience I might have cost you.

  21. Ukp,
    In Holland referees are free to speak to the press after a match. They can do it or prefer not to speak to the media after a match. I have seen many times referees speaking about decisions and even looking back at decisions together with the TV station. And I have seen refs apologise for making a wrong decision. This was before VAR was introduced in the Netherlands. I don’t follow the Dutch league closely anymore but they are rather open minded about talking to the media.
    In Belgium the referee department almost every week opens up on controversial decisions. I will give you some links (where they judge a mistake has been made by the ref and the VAR ref) and another one

    So they open up on the decisions and sometimes refs get credit but also refs are not being spared when they mess up.

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