With so much attention on the officials last weekend, we will certainly be hoping for a low-key performance from Kevin Friend at St. Mary’s on Saturday evening, but will we get it?

Referee Kevin Friend
Assistant Referees Peter Kirkup & Simon Beck
Fourth Official Tim Robinson

It feels like Friend doesn’t referee many Arsenal matches. I wasn’t sure he’d been in charge of any this season for us so it was refreshing to see that he has had two – surely forgetting all about a referee can only be a good thing, right? The ones who mess up are the ones who stick in your mind.

Friend issued 11 yellows across those games, although he probably could and should have issued a lot more (to both sides). Against Watford in our 3-1 away win, he flashed his yellow 7 times, with only one of those going to an Arsenal player – Jack Wilshere, whom I had completely forgot played any minutes at all for us this season. The other game was another Saints match – our 2-0 defeat in the EFL Cup – when he issued four yellows, three of which went Arsenal’s way.

This will be Friend’s third Southampton match of the season. In addition to the one mentioned above, he’s also taken charge of Everton 3 Southampton 0 (1 yellow, James Ward-Prowse).

Named the fourth best referee for last season (which doesn’t mean much because YouAreTheRef named Anthony Taylor as the best), Friend is not a bad ref, and he’s not a great one. In this league, ‘not a bad ref’ is about as high a compliment as you can get.

In total, Friend was also in charge of three Arsenal games last season – the 3-0 win at Swansea, the 2-0 win at Villa and the 2-0 win at Bournemouth. Go back through the last number of seasons and a clear pattern emerges with the biggest Arsenal game Friend has been in charge of, a 2-2 draw at Goodison in August, 2014.

In short, he’s not yet a referee who’s trusted to take hold of the big games.

In those three games last season, Friend issued just three yellows and the only one that went to an Arsenal player was the one issued to Mathiu Flamini, but we can’t hold that against the referee. It was Mathieu Flamini, after all.

Friend is also, you might remember, the referee who was removed from a Tottenham match last season because their fans were concerned he couldn’t be impartial as he was a Leicester fan.

In short, expect an average performance from an average ref.

As long as the two sides don’t make it difficult for him, we should just see mild frustration as he lets a few yellows go, but nothing beyond that.

Famous last words? Probably…

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