Kevin Friend will take charge of Arsenal’s game against Manchester United on Monday night at Old Trafford but that’s unlikely to be the problem…

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Match referee Kevin Friend gives a yellow card to Jack Grealish of Aston Villa (not pictured) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on August 31, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 31: Match referee Kevin Friend gives a yellow card to Jack Grealish of Aston Villa (not pictured) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa at Selhurst Park on August 31, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Kevin Friend will take charge of Arsenal’s game at Old Trafford on Monday night having taken charge of four games this season, issuing 18 yellows and two reds.

The only refs to have issued more yellows than Friend this season have also refereed at least two games more. None have issued more reds.

Last season, Friend took charge of just two Arsenal matches, the season before that four, and the one before that three. We won one and lost one of the games he took charge of last season (3-1 at home to Burnley, 1-0 defeat at Everton) while he flashed 12 yellows.

Somehow, he managed to show Arsenal four yellows to only one Everton card. Against Burnley, he showed five to Sean Dyche’s men and only two to Arsenal.

With United, he also refereed four and three matches two and three seasons ago, but last year he got handed four, only one of which United won (2-0 at Chelsea, losing 3-2 at Brighton, drawing 1-1 at home to Wolves and 2-2 at Southampton).

He issued a total of 16 yellows in those four games, evenly split at eight apiece for United and their opponents.

Friend is not a bad referee.

When I hear his name I don’t cringe like I do when Mike Dean, Anthony Taylor, or Jon Moss are named.

Last season, however, he seemed to bow to pressure from Spurs when, two days after Mauricio Pochettino accused the FA of having double-standards in relation to Tottenham, Friend declined to send off two of their players for blatant red card challenges against Southampton.

Daily Mail 7 March 2019

First up, we had Kevin Walker-Peters taking out a Southampton player who was clean through on goal but that was only a yellow.

Then, we had the pick of the bunch when Moussa Sissoko received a yellow for a rake down an Achilles, a two-handed shove AND a Harry Kane-style headbutt.

This season, he’s already come under heavy criticism for booking Jack Grealish for a dive, ruling out a Villa goal, despite VAR showing the 24-year-old had been fouled.

Friend is a ref that can make a mistake, that’s for sure. Then again, he is only human. On the whole, he gets more right than he does wrong and in this current age of awful officials, we should be grateful for whatever good we get.

What Arsenal really need to be more concerned about is the fact Mike Dean will be in charge of VAR…

  • Referee: Kevin Friend
  • Assistants: Scott Ledger, Richard West
  • Fourth official: Chris Kavanagh
  • VAR: Mike Dean
  • Assistant VAR: Stephen Child