Martin Atkinson’s performance during Arsenal’s match at Brighton on Saturday was one of the worst we’ve seen and while we can say blaming the referee for a defeat is refusing to accept how poor Arsenal are, Arsenal and the referee can both be sh*t at the same time.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - JUNE 20: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal appeals to referee Martin Atkinson during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal FC at American Express Community Stadium on June 20, 2020 in Brighton, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – JUNE 20: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal appeals to referee Martin Atkinson during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal FC at American Express Community Stadium on June 20, 2020 in Brighton, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

25%.

That’s how many of Arsenals Premier League matches Martin Atkinson has been in charge of this season. When you add in his role as fourth official or VAR it rises to 30%.

There are 21 qualified referees deemed fit and competent enough to take charge of Premier League matches. That, in itself is a point of contention, but let’s take them at their word that they are indeed fit and competent.

‘Textbook refereeing’ says referee as Arsenal branded arrogant by player and media

Why, then, does PGMOL insist in giving Atkinson so many of our games?

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Referee Martin Atkinson is seen prior to the Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on October 29, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 29: Referee Martin Atkinson is seen prior to the Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on October 29, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Arsenal have had, in total, 13 different referees this season in the Premier League, which doesn’t sound too bad until you break it down and realise that of the 30 games played so far, just four referees have taken charge of 20 of those games – that’s two-thirds or 66.66% if you prefer:

  • Martin Atkinson – 7
  • Mike Dean – 5
  • Chris Kavanagh – 4
  • Anthony Taylor – 4

When you take in total involvements either as ref, assistant ref, fourth official, and all the VAR people, Atkinson’s total is even worse. He has been involved in a full 30% of Arsenal’s matches as he was the fourth official for our match against City midweek.

Michael Oliver is widely seen as the best referee in the country.

He has been involved with Arsenal four times but only once as referee. The rest he was the VAR operator.

This matters.

It is impossible for referees not to form biases, conscious or unconscious, when they are in charge of the same players so often. It simply cannot be fair. I don’t know if the same thing happens with other teams and referees, but it shouldn’t.

It is perhaps, then, no coincidence that Arsenal have sat at the top of the yellow card table, for the majority of the season, receiving more per game than any other side. They also needed fewer fouls to pick up a yellow than everyone else, too.

It’s worth noting that before we got a better mix of referees towards the end of the first part of the season, Arsenal were some distance clear at the top in both categories but that gap narrowed when new faces were put in charge.

Now we’re back to Atkinson, Taylor and co and look what’s happened…

At what point does it become acceptable for the club to start asking questions and for them to actually stand up to officials who can make a game or player’s career yet are held accountable by no-one like they run their own little dictatorship?

Question us and be punished is their mantra while they refuse to speak to the media to explain their decisions or take blame for the mistakes.

Players, managers and even fans are required to say sorry when they get something wrong.

Why not referees?

Thankfully, for  our game against Southampton on Thursday, none of the above are involved.

  • Referee:¬†Graham Scott.
  • Assistants:¬†Simon Long,¬†Derek Eaton.
  • Fourth official:¬†Simon Hooper.
  • VAR: Lee Mason.
  • Assistant VAR:¬†Neil Davies.
  • Replacement official: Mark Pottage