How Tottenham are getting the best out of referees


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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. 

26 Replies to “How Tottenham are getting the best out of referees”

  1. Watching the Manchester Derby. I guess I don’t understand the offside the rule after all. Rashford was in an offside position and ran beside the through ball for half a dozen strides before letting Fernandez touch the ball. I thought the rule was about whether you are actively engaged in the play or not. ManCity’s keeper had to come out because Rashford was running beside the ball…strange.

  2. Talking about referees, from what I saw there were at least 5 City players facing the referee about that Manure goal.
    I did not see any yellow card.
    Apart from that, I just don’t understand offside anymore. There is no way one can say the Manure player (Rashfor ?) who was offside did NOT influence the action befor Fernandes shot. At least he was between the ball and the City defender.
    Then again, the game plays at Old Trafford, so the home game advantage must be activated.

  3. As for Conte’s critique of Arsenal players complaining to the referee, I personally don’t like the way that ALL teams do this. I believe football should take a page out of other sports and limit approaches to the referee to the captain. I am certain that Arteta has talked to the players about how to deal with the referees in a NLD and to be honest I am not convinced that a few remarks in the press actually affect referees. A continued and prolonged narrative might affect the PGMO but a few remarks…meh.

    As to Conte’s comments and the way they have been used to bash Arteta, I find that they are rich, given the way that Conte sprints up and down the sideline flapping his arms ventilating his puce face.

  4. 58 mins CHELSEA 23 mins LEEDS 78 mins MANCHESTER UTD and MANCHESTER CITY and also at full time what will the FA do about it FA

  5. Both Son & Kane are masters at falling over very easily in & around the opposition’s box. Kane also seems to have an “Englands captain advantage” applied when it comes to officials decisions.

  6. Expecting a red card and a pen against us when we play Spurs. The PGMOL may have worked Tottenham out, but there is still a lot of media and possibly establishment love for our rivals, the officials will be aware of this
    Arsenal have to be very clever in this environment, luckily, Arteta is just that.
    An, erm interesting game at OT just finished, with that officiating up there, almost as if Howard Webb had never been away! Not that Riley was any less biased in their favour of course

  7. Manchester City in breach of FA rules today when they failed to control their player after Manchester United Scored and also at the end of the game when they kept badgering the referee. Lets see if the FA are consistent after fining Arsenal for the exact same breach, or is it true what fans are saying that they are harassing Arsenal and not some of the other large teams. Arsenal should do what Chelsea did a few years ago and take the FA to civil court for unfair harrassment. Chelsea won their case and the FA have since left them alone. Arsenal need good solicitors to copy Chelsea and win their day in a civil court. The evidence is their for all to see. Why is the media so scared to report this?

  8. GooingGoingGooner

    Re interfering. !00%

    How can it be said under any circumstances that Rashford didn’t influence the behaviour of opposition players, (especially the keeper as you say) and if that is so, which it is, surely that is interfering with play!

    But surprise surprise the SKY referee said it was the correct call. Well I never.

    I said recently given the return of the Man Utd Love-in… afraid, be very afraid.

  9. @Mandy,

    One thing has changed. This season, the more it progressed, Arsenal have become the ‘star’ team. The Sky Sports trailers for PL games show Gunners and Oodegard front and center. And in other countries I’m seeing the same phenomenon. So suddendly Arsenal are the star team of the PL, not City, nor Pool! And whatever may be said, one thing is real : they play very attractive football, they show fun and team spirit, in short the perfect team to promote the PL.

    So, I believe that this added visiblity and the fact that our Gunners are the youngest team around which gives them a real likability factor makes it much more complicated for PGMOL to screw us, as millions will see it, comment it, be scandalised and bring negativity upon the PL, or maybe disrepute which would put PGMOL afoul of PL rules….. ;)))

  10. Chris

    I was thinking along the same lines.

    Look, I know some people are getting a bit wound up with Artetas touch line antics, but other than that what’s not to like?

    As you intimate, we have a very young, exuberant, exciting team that exude joy. You cannot take the smile off of Saka or Nketiahs faces. They are a joy to behold. Embracing and loving every minute.

    And in Sakas case that’s despite being kicked off the park every week whilst getting booked for wafting a leg at an opponent.

    Alas I still don’t think we have the British media on our side. Trailers apart they are still on our backs at every opportunity. As I said elsewhere, no sympathy at all for very poor penalty shouts and managing to turn us in to the villains for getting a bit uppity about it.

    I know there’s been a couple of articles pointing out the inconsistencies in how we are being treated, but as I said, until I see it in main stream media I wont believe the broader anti Arsenal agenda has changed at all. I thought it was, but this week has showed me it hasn’t.

  11. @Nitram,

    what they call touchline antics is just being mentionned because they can’t really fault Arsenal as a team. They are hard-pressed to criticize the fan’s behavour at the Emirates, they can’t really criticize the owners who have put their money where their mouth is, can’t really fault the team in terms of spectacle given on the field so they look for another angle to be negative. And as Arteta has stated I think in an interview, the team are well aware of his presence, of his total and un-relenting defense of his players and it all adds up to a team operating as a family.

    But outside England, outside which is the PL’s biggest market, biggest revenue stream, well, Arsenal nowadays are the poster child. Much more then in Mr Wenger’s time by the way which is a little strange.

    So, IMHO, this element is helping Arsenal by making them more complicated to get screwed by blatant refereeing screwups.

  12. I believe there were 8 City players confronting Attwell so we can expect charges to be brought – but don’t hold your breath.

  13. Chris

    It’s nice to hear we are being appreciated around the globe. Lets hope it does make the powers that be squirm in the seats as they try to find yet another way to throw a spanner in the Arsenal works.

    But my concern is that the British media still weighs so heavily on the shoulders of the officials. Performing to their preferences is still essential if they want to keep their job.

    As I have said a couple of times, the re emergence of the Man Utd Love-in is a very worrying development.

    The officials will be left in no doubt as to what will make a fairy tail season, and that will be Man Utd rising to the top like a Phoenix from the flames, especially if it’s at the expense of Arsenal.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  14. Looking at the City loss, at Pool! losing as well, I can’t but notice one thing. I have the hunch – but no time to check – that we’ve got a few teams which are getting older and not showing a visible strategy of bringing in fresh blood from their academy ( City and Pool!), both teams have been fighting on all fronts for a few years.

    I like the fact Arsenal are not bringing in ‘older players’ but investing, on young players, even if it is expensive and they are yet ‘unproven’ in the PL. From which ever angle you look at it, it is a strategy for a decade, not for this or the next season. It is long term and not ‘opportunistic-let’s-break-the-bank’. Winning the PL this year does not looklike the priority or they’d have brought in a coule of experienced players. They are sticking to their strategy. Top four looks more and more feasible by the day, winning the PL looks like a nice to have not like a must have. To me this is an organisation that knows what it wants, and keeps its focus on the goals that were decided.

    And the whole discussion about our strikers, why would we get another one ? Jesus will be back. ESR is back, I mean, how many players for how many places is sustainable come next season ? And how many chances can our academy players get (Balogun anyone ?) if there is absolutely no room for them ? There always need to be a tension between established players and younger ones that allows the ‘next man up’ to appear. Just look at the way Eddie has taken his chance.

    We are seeing the building of a team for the ages if you ask me. From the organisation, to the academy, through the coaching staff all the way up to the players.

  15. Chris

    Very well said.

    Ever since Arteta arrived at Arsenal, Untold have watched with interested as he first rebuilt the defence, then changed the tactics, then rebuilt the attack.

    It has been wonderful to watch, as he stuck by his guns, or more accurately his young guns, through thick and thin.

    Untold, myself and many other regulars have fiercely defended our Club, our manager, and our players as we have experienced the ups and downs of these last few years, because I think we could all see what was happening.

    Not just through ‘I know what I see with my eyes’ but through detailed analysis of all the data and statistics available. Untold has clearly mapped out the progress that has been made, and more importantly how it has been made.

    I agree winning the title would be ahead of schedule but when I placed my bet on us I truly believed we were in with a shout. But if we don’t, I am sure it wont be long because as you say, this team isn’t just for today, but for many years to come, and it will only get better.

  16. That all being said, the truth is the only thing that matter is winning the next game.
    Nothing else matters and I do have the feeling that Arteta is doing his best to have the team understand this.

    And, frankly, when I read that most probably Chelsea have signe Mudryk for 100 million, I just shake my head and think we are better off with the team we have. Winning the PL this season was not part of the strategy, it would be huge thing, but long term, Arsenal need their finances to be sustainable, and the team structure as well. I believe our actual team can do it. And should have a chance to try. Nothing says Mudryk can adapt to the PL out of the plane. And who does he replace ? I mean if he costs 100 million, can you imagine him not playing ? Martinelli out ? ESR ?

  17. Chris

    That’s exactly the point. We were/are just looking to strengthen our squad. It would be nice to do so but it certainly isn’t worth breaking the bank, and as you say once you start going into the really silly money zone he becomes a ‘must play’, and at who’s expense.

    Then you start talking about upsetting a happy dressing room.

    It’s a shame, because good additions are always welcome, but not at any cost, and certainly not out of desperation, and desperate is certainly what Chelsea are.

  18. Nitram,

    silly money. That is the word.

    They need to win tomorrow. Nothing else counts. Just win, baby, win.

    And if you consider the table, it would but Arsenal 8 points clear of Citeh and 9 of Manure, 12 of Newcastle not to talk about Sp*rs at 14.

    So this game is the most important, and then the next game is again the most important with Manure coming to town. And then the next game will be the most important yet….

    We need a win at WHL. let’s trust the kids to do their magic and beat them on their home turf.

  19. Welcome to the new PGMOL. Where the rules of football may be safely ignored, depending upon who they want to receive the benefit of the doubt.

  20. I’ve heard that Chelsea will have to reduce their squad size.

    How about Aubameyang to Barcelona on a free?

    I haven’t mentioned dodgy accounting or FFP yet.


  21. Are Chelsea on UEFA’s watchlist of 15 teams facing possible FFP sanctions?

    I haven’t heard about it in the papers, so it must be true.

  22. Not really surprised by Chelsea’s move. They aren’t going to finish in the top 4 and they have looked really bad doing so. They have always had silly money to spend and they let Arsenal find Shaktar’s basement and then stepped in. It’s another reason to insist that all negotiations be kept secret.

  23. Well, interestingly you see articles pop-up online saying Arsenal were right not to get Mudryk.
    And when you think about it, the player, as good as he is, has not 50 1st team games…. Saka is past 150, Martinelli 100, both of them in the most competitive league in the world, so how much are they worth ?
    Anyway, I think we dodged a bullet there and will be better off in the end.

  24. Chris, get what you are saying about things that have changed about Arsenal and how it makes it more difficult for PGMOL stitch ups, and can see the reasoning, but Instill fear the worst with the way the game is run here.
    If Arsenal were to win the next two games, today against THE media darling, after that, against the football establishment darling, they would start pulling away, just can’t see the powers that be allowing that, and they will act via the officials, I am not talking about bungs or offshore accounts, but via career progression pressure. Death by yellow, or red today not only weakens us today , the inevitable suspensions will weaken us against Utd. I am expecting multiple yellows for absolutely nothing today, probably a red, and the inevitable soft penalty against us. Arsenal are now a threat, and are seen as such. A certain media figure (who I read has so much class, he chased after his daughters friend) only has to make utterances, and the club are now facing 3 charges, not aware of other clubs doing similar facing similar charges.
    I hope the club, manager and legal team are very wise to what’s going on, with this lot, I expect they are .
    As for potentially dodging a bullet with Chelseas new Ukrainian winger, don’t want to contradict an expert like Arteta but I think this could easily prove the case, this player is very young and untested, that price is ridiculous

  25. Rumours have appeared that Chelsea are looking to offload the “undervalued, fuming, raging” Sterling. At over £300k p/w I suspect there won’t be a lot of offers. I doubt whether Chelsea will recoup their £47.5 million outlay either.

    Chelsea are quickly becoming a retirement home for prima donnas.

    Hopefully, future potential buyers in the market for rejects will see what is going on at Chelsea, and play some serious financial hardball.

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