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By Bulldog Drummond
The last article on Untold concluded that Mr Pawson, the referee, has overseen 30% of his matches as home wins, 50% as away wins and 20% as draws. Indeed in terms of the referees who have overseen ten or more PL games this season he is top of the league for awarding away wins.
Now we might indeed compare Pawson with Simon Hooper who has refereed 12 Premier League games and not seen one single game through as an away win. Three quarters have been home wins and the rest draws!!!
So have PGMO finally given up on trying to scupper Arsenal’s chances by giving us referees that favour the opposition, or, (and this would be a rather interesting scenario), have PGMO really had enough of Tottenham?
To make sense of such a statement one does need some statistics, and so here are the details – and they come from the set of statistics that have puzzled us ever since we first looked at them several years ago:
How often is each team fouled?
Since every team plays every other team, you might expect this number to be pretty much the same across all teams, but that is far from the case. Arsenal are fouled 11.4 times a game – the fourth most fouled team in the league.
But look at this: Tottenham are fouled 8.2 times a game – the 18th most fouled in the league. . Arsenal players are fouled 39% more times than Tottenham players.
Now why is that? One argument immediately put forward is that clubs that attack more get fouled more. That is hard to measure for it is difficult to compare attacks when one attack might start with half a dozen passes in midfield, and another with a single 30 yard pass.
But we did find one statistic that is interesting and that is the way Tottenham and Arsenal build up to goals. The only team to match Tottenham for using the cross as the assist for scoring goals, as opposed to any other tactic for getting the ball to the ultimate goal scorer, is Fulham. And Tottenham use this unusual approach (the cross as the assist in the build up to a goal) 300% more than Arsenal.
And what the figures and observation of films of games suggest is that as the cross comes in a Tottenham player is fouled, or is deemed to be fouled, according to the referee. Of course as observers we are biased – we are Arsenal supporters, but watching Tottenham and Fulham on videos what we see are player outside the box going down or stumbling very easily as a cross comes in.
It is a very curious and interesting tactic and is one that is maintained at home and away.
But this is the interesting point. Tottenham’s recent slide in form could well be due to the fact that PGMO referees, always a little slow on the uptake, have finally realised the oddity of the Tottenham statistics and they too have looked at the tactics. Winger puts in a cross, players jump or scuffle outside the penalty box, a foul is given.
Of course we can’t prove this. The figures (that Tottenham and Fulham are out on their own using the cross as the assist tactic for scoring goals) is right, it is there in the WhoScored data which is the definitive data when it comes to referee behaviour. And we know that journalists won’t touch this sort of analysis because…. well, because it is either a bit too complex for them to analyse or they believe their readers are not intelligent enough to understand it.
Now what really alerted us to this was that Conte has of late been criticising Arsenal for putting pressure on referees, and calling for respect. Of course that might be a genuine feeling of his, but if one is manipulating known referee behaviour to your team’s advantage then it is also exactly the sort of thing one would say in order to avoid people looking closely at referee reactioin to repeated tactics.
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