Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: S Burt, A Nunn
Fourth official: S Attwell
Martin Atkinson will take charge of Arsenal’s game at Chelsea on Saturday and that means one thing – a kick-fest.
Atkinson, who used to be one of the sternest referees in the league, now seems to have a penchant for just letting the game go. When we travelled to Stamford Bridge in 2014, he managed to book Ivanovic when he almost killed Alexis. If you remember, it was that foul that led to Wenger shoving Mourinho *memories*
This season, he’s issued just one red in 23 games but 90 yellows – just under 4 a game. He’s one of PGMOL’s most trusted officials, despite the danger he puts players in by refusing to punish heavy and hard fouls appropriately.
This will be his third Arsenal game of the season. He was in charge when Arsenal won 4-1 at the Stadium of Light. He issued 7 yellows in that game, his joint highest number, with three of them going to Arsenal players. That was also the game, you might remember, when Steven Pienaar should have been sent off in the first half
In fact, I just looked up our ref report from that game and see it was a total horror show. He ignored a stonewall penalty on Alexis, only to award Sunderland one a few moments later. He also booked Alexis for protesting that he should have had a penalty.
Martin Atkinson did NOT give a penalty for this @FA ???? pic.twitter.com/Ny0zJxCbxD
— Ahmed (@Ahmed91Gooner) October 29, 2016
Atkinson was also in charge of our game at Manchester City in December. If I’m honest, I was just a week post-surgery by that point and don’t remember much of anything as I still had loads of the good drugs, but six yellows were handed out – two of them going to Arsenal players.
That’s another thing with Atkinson. He will eventually get his yellows out. But as for those reds? In the 14/15 season he issued 11. Since then? Two. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know what ‘balance’ is any more.
In terms of Chelsea, this will be his fourth match and all of the others have been big ones – their only home defeat of the season against Liverpool (2 yellows, 1 to each side), their home win over United (5 yellows, 3 Chelsea, 2 United) and their trip to White Hart Lane (5 yellows, 3 Spurs, 2 Chelsea).
When you consider that Chelsea have only lost three games all season, to see Atkinson in charge of two of them is somewhat reassuring.