Third Yellow – Michael Oliver and Big Games


In this week’s #ThirdYellow we explore why a big club, like Arsenal, has a less than stellar record with Michael Oliver. We will also comment back on Roger East’s performance from last weekend. Finally, I’m going to rant about the back pass rule as we had an issue in a playoff game in my league this week.

Michael Oliver is a Good Official, but Arsenal have a Poor Record

Michael Oliver is, in my opinion, the best official in the PGMOL. That said, there are about five other officials I would rather have because Arsenal have superior records with them. I wondered how a club like Arsenal, could have a poor record with Michael Oliver. Michael Oliver is probably the best in the league for allow play to flow, which helps a team that plays with pace.

First, let’s analyze whether there is a potential correlation between difficulty of opponents between Michael Oliver and other referees. You do not need to be a genius to know that Jonathan Moss is not going to officiate Arsenal v Man United any time soon. Did you know that 57.9% of Michael Oliver’s Arsenal matches features one of the “Big Six” clubs for an opponent? Michael Oliver has officiated Arsenal vs Big Six (Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool) 11 times. He has officiated only 19 Arsenal matches in his young career. Mike Dean has officiated Arsenal 59 times, but only 24 of those feature Big Six clubs (40.7%). Mark Clattenburg is third with 35.1%. Where is Jon Moss on this list? He has never officiated a battle between Arsenal and another Big Six club. Basically, Michael Oliver gets the big games! Perhaps that could explain why Arsenal have such a mediocre record of 7W 6D 6L?

Tottenham, for example have had Michael Oliver for eight (8) matches where their opponent was a Big Six club. They have had Michael Oliver 20 times in all. Tottenham have NEVER won a match against the Big Six with Michael Oliver in charge, watch out Martin Wills and Matt Culham. As long as Tottenham do not play a Big Six club with Michael Oliver, they are nearly sure bets for a win going 10-1-1 with a loss to Norwich and a draw at Everton.

Chelsea, my last example, have a sterling record with Michael Oliver (11W 6D 2L). Going into last year’s disaster season their record was 11-2-1! Prior to last season Chelsea were never outside of the top three when they had Michael Oliver as a referee so they should have been dominating their matches anyway. That said, only six (6) of Chelsea’s 19 matches were against Big Six opponents. Chelsea did win two and drew the last four. That is not a bad return against your fiercest rivals (1.67 pts/game). Arsenal’s return with Michael Olvier is only 1.55 pts/game.

Michael Oliver Full Record Points/Game Without Big Six Points/Game
Arsenal 7W 6D 6L 1.42 3-1-4 1.25
Tottenham 10-5-5 1.75 10-1-1 2.58
Chelsea 11-6-2 2.05 9-2-2 2.64

To my surprise, Arsenal are the anomaly. Tottenham and Chelsea play better in matches that do not feature Big Six clubs, when Michael Oliver is officiating. That should not come as a surprise. For some reason, Arsenal play better against Big Six clubs when Michael Oliver officiates. To demonstrate the anomaly, and my consistent hate for Mike Dean and Martin Atkinson, have a look at the next table.

Arsenal Metric Full Record Big 6 Record Points/Game Without Big Six Points/Game Improvement
Michael Oliver 7W 6D 6L 4-5-2 1.55 3-1-4 1.25 -0.30
Mike Dean 24-19-16 4-10-9 0.96 20-9-7 1.92 0.96
Martin Atkinson 21-8-12 3-4-7 0.93 18-4-5 2.15 1.22
Mark Clattenburg 24-4-9 6-2-5 1.54 18-2-4 2.33 0.79
Andre Marriner 18-2-6 5-1-2 2.00 13-1-4 2.22 0.22

If Arsenal are not playing a Big Six club get Martin Atkinson, then Arsenal are a great club. Even with Mike Dean against smaller opposition, Arsenal earn enough points to finish in the top four. The short and sweet is that if Arsenal play Chelsea, City, United, Liverpool or Spurs, pray to all that is holy that we avoid Dean and Atkinson, now you have your proof!

Roger East Needs to Keep Traveling

Keith Hackett moaned about Roger East before the weekend and he was spot on. I’ll be quick because Roger East does not deserve any respect right now. In anyone’s mind did East handle the Jake Livermore incident properly? Get it?

How did Cazorla avoid the second yellow? This is what irks me, East was going to the pocket. However, as it would have been a second yellow, all of a sudden the standard changed. In that one instant the “level” of infringement, or the standard to which a yellow would be brandished was modified by the official. I have a problem with that. If a foul is a yellow, then it’s a yellow. I do not care if it’s the first minute, last minute, first yellow or a dismissal.

Last the Hull penalty. Yes, 100% it was a penalty. How did Martin Atkinson miss it? It was called by the linesperson. It was a careless mistake by the official, one of many this season. If you get Roger East, all bets are off.

The Back Pass

We had a playoff game in my men’s over 30 league this week. Late in the second half we had a scenario pop up that is so rarely called in beer league football. The call was not really made by the official, but by the opposing team who pressured the official into the wrong decision.

One of my teammates was under duress and booted the ball clear, to the outside of the penalty area. Our goalir was on the edge of the six yard box. About five seconds later our goalie arrived at the ball and dribbled it back into the penalty area and picked it up. To the surprise of everyone the referee called for a back pass and an indirect free kick. I can fully understand when the ball is kicked towards the goalie, but not when a player is under duress and the ball is kicked 15 yards from the goalie. AND especially when the rule says it has to be a deliberate pass. I am going to underline “deliberate” in the dictionary of the teacher who was our referee.

We brought stats back to the #ThirdYellow this week. I wonder what I’ll do next week? If you have a suggestion, please post a comment!



About Author

Morgan Rubes

Morgan is our Arsenal contributor, the former Chairman of Arsenal Canada, and the lead writer of "The Third Yellow", the only referee blog on the internet. We look at Morgan as the villain of the show: listen and you will see why.

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