I don’t like Anthony Taylor.
You probably worked that out if you read my preview of him in the run up to Sunday’s game against Aston Villa.
It’s not personal, he might be the nicest man on the planet in real life, but, well, on a football pitch, he’s a liability and it’s hard to understand just quite how he managed to achieve FIFA status.
I feared the worst when I found out he was to be the referee, just like I did when we were all told that Mike Dean would take charge of the Manchester City match, but it seems my fears, on both occasions, were misplaced.
What’s going on?
On Sunday, by Taylor’s usual standards, he had a good game.
There were probably two major calls, one of which he got wrong, more on that in a minute, and the other he got right– the penalty for Brad Guzan’s foul on Chuba Akpom in the second half.
Having not made a major mistake in the entire game by that point he was presented with a great opportunity to return to type but he refused to take it and pointed to the spot. The penalty was clear, but that hasn’t stopped referees like Taylor in the past waving away appeals.
I don’t think I was the only one who was surprised when he gave it.
As for the call he got wrong, well, that was less Taylor’s fault and more that of his linesman as he flagged three hours late for an offside he’d just imagined, thus denying Mesut Ozil another goal on the day. The referee in that situation has to trust his assistant.
As the game went on I noted down any decisions I felt that Taylor had got wrong and looking back over the list, they were all minor calls – a shove here, a tackle there, a handball on the edge of the box. Not once did I find myself outraged at anything Taylor decided to do. Or laughing at the ridiculousness of his decisions.
Compared to how Taylor usually ref’s games, this was practically perfect.
I moan about referees a lot, I know this, so it strikes me as odd that in the past three matches, when we’ve had two of what I would consider to be the worst referees in the league who clearly don’t like Arsenal, that I find myself not at all annoyed with how they conducted themselves.
Perhaps it has something to do with Arsenal winning, although I wouldn’t bet on it – I’ve found myself plenty angry at certain refs even when we’ve won in the past.
In truth, Arsenal v Aston Villa was not a hard game to referee.
There were very few challenges going in of real note and after sending off three Arsenal players in the last four games he’s been in charge of concerning Arsenal, Taylor didn’t even so much as book one single Gunner.
It might have helped that five of the players he seems to enjoy booking – Wojciech Szczesny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers and Carl Jenkinson – were not on the pitch.
On the day, he only issued two yellows, one to Ciaran Clark and the other to Carles Gil.
Surely this trend can’t continue, can it?
With a trip to White Hart Lane up next to face that lot, I wouldn’t count on it.