Arsenal are having a nightmare time with referees at the moment, and it appears Martin Atkinson is the match official who will be braving Wednesday’s meeting with Chelsea.
Atkinson will take charge of the first leg of the League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge. Hopefully he’ll be an improvement on the terrible trio of Mike Dean, Anthony Taylor and Jon Moss from the Gunners last three games.
Each of the three gave a penalty against Arsenal, with a few extremely dubious calls. But just in case Wenger’s side miss Moss’ influence, he’ll be fourth official for the game.
Atkinson’s record with Arsenal isn’t great, but the good news is that it’s nowhere near as bad as Mike Dean’s. With the 46-year-old in charge, the Gunners have won 23, drawn nine and lost 14. That’s a win rate of 50%.
Wednesday’s referee has shown six red cards to Wenger’s men in those 46 games, and five to their opponents. So he has a slight bias towards sending Arsenal players off. But then, who doesn’t? Meanwhile, he’s given seven penalties to the Gunners, and 10 penalties against them. So maybe we’ll make it four matches in a row that a spot kick decides the game.
Hopefully not, because the good news is Atkinson will have some help. For the second time ever in competitive football in England, VAR will be in use. The Video Assistant system allows the referee to review goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity, if necessary.
If Atkinson gives a penalty for ball-to-hand, or Chelsea score that penalty with a double-touch, it should be overruled fairly easily. Let’s hope so anyway.