Watching the foul against Bellerin in the 13th minute of Saturday’s match against Chelsea, my initial reaction was surely Atkinson, seeing it in real time, must have gotten it right; after all he is the senior FIFA ref in the PGMO. That was until I saw the young man crumpled on the turf oblivious to what was around him, clearly hurt and later diagnosed as concussed. Then came the slow realization that I and others was experiencing a classic replay of the worse of PGMO refereeing that has afflicted Arsenal and other unfancied clubs in the Premier league in the past ten years; the blatant use of excessive force, perpetuated in plain sight, had gone unpunished in favor of a big-moneyed team who, on this occasion, were allowed to score a decisive first goal. (The replays I speak of are the unpunished smashing of Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey in the not so recent past.)
While I had written two-blogs in the preceding weeks documenting, in my view, clear and convincing evidence of OR on the balance of probabilities proof of referee bias, it struck me I was still psychologically unprepared for Atkinson’s proclivity to rule against Arsenal and in favor of Chelsea. Thus, contrary to my initial desire to not belabor the point, I am impelled to provide additional evidence of referee bias to the jury of public opinion, many of whom, even after Saturday, remain unconvinced.
Initially, I was inclined to research whether the award or denial of penalties was tied to Arsenal’s disciplinary record with yellow and red cards. But my colleagues in the Positively Arsenal community were able to point to a study by someone at Untold Arsenal which indicated that during the Mike Riley era, of the constantly PL teams since 2007, no other team except Sunderland has received more red cards despite the narrative in the media that Arsenal is not physical enough. Even Stoke, that paragon of English toughness, has fewer red cards. What an amazing statistic; the least physical team in the PL is adjudged the dirtiest by the PGMO refs.
Not wanting to bore my readers by going over old ground, I decided to evaluate whether the award of penalties bore any relationship to the offensive statistics of the top-6 teams in the league. Fortunately for me, at least, since 2009 the highly rated whoscored.com have done a team by team analysis of every participant in the league compiling what they identify as key data and thereafter giving each team an overall ranking as well separate ranking based on their offensive and defensive statistics.
For this blog I focused on the offensive ranking of the top-6 over the past seven seasons and compared this with the average number of penalties awarded by the PGMOB. Despite being hardened and inured to the ability of PL refs to turn reality on its head, I was astonished by the results of the data. Since Mike Riley’s tenure, the PGMO have managed to make Tottenham the equal of Arsenal in creating penalties despite being ranked 5th offensively compared to the Gunners being ranked 3rd.
|Arsenal||Chelsea||Livepool||Man City||Man Utd||Tottenham|
|Shots OT pg||5.9||5.9||5.6||5.8||5.2||5.6|
According to whoscored, Tottenham is inferior to Arsenal in all statistical categories except shots per game. Most notably they have 16.5% less dribbles per game, which is generally accepted as a metric highly correlated with getting penalties. But they manage to get practically the same amount of penalties on average.
More mind boggling is Liverpool being awarded on average more penalties than Arsenal (6 vs 5) despite being inferior in every category except Shots per game. They were equally dribble-shy as Tottenham.
Overall, despite being having the highest average offensive Rank and second highest Rating by whoscored, Arsenal has been awarded close to the lowest number of penalties of all the top-6 teams. Yet Arsenal has on average the highest number of Dribbles per game and is the next to Chelsea is the most fouled team. The irony of the Foul per game data is that the award of fouls is by the same referees who seem reluctant to award penalties.
Like the flagrant unpunished foul on Bellerin, the non-award of penalties to Arsenal by the PGMO defy the laws of the game and any statistical explanation. Contrast this to the more favorable treatment to all five other teams in the top-6 especially Tottenham and Liverpool.
Next time, after comparing the penalties against data with whoscored’s defensive rankings, hopefully we can arrive at some definitive conclusions.