Michael Oliver will take charge of Arsenal’s game against West Ham on Saturday, a referee we rarely see in charge of Arsenal matches these days.
That doesn’t mean I won’t ultimately find disappointment but it’s unusual to see a referee’s name beside Arsenal’s and go ‘huh’ instead of ‘ffs’.
Oliver was involved in just six Arsenal games last season and only three times as ref, two of those coming after the enforced break when Martin Atkinson vanished from Arsenal’s life. Contrast that with Atkinson who took charge seven times before the break (and was also fourth official twice and in charge of VAR once) and had no involvement at all after.
Arsenal only won one of their games with Oliver in charge last season, drawing 1-1 at home to Wolves a few weeks before Unai Emery was sacked, beating the same team 2-0 under Mikel Arteta at their gaff and losing 2-1 to Spurs.
This is a trend under Oliver for Arsenal. Despite having a reputation among Arsenal fans of being a good ref for the Gunners because of that red card he flashed at Angel di Maria a number of years ago at Old Trafford, we do not do well under him.
In fact, since 2014 Arsenal have won only five of 21 games he’s taken charge of, making him Arsenal’s worst ref in terms of win percentage (23.8%). Losing eight and drawning eight, maybe it’s a good thing we don’t get him that often.
Across those three games last season, Oliver issued 16 yellows, breaking with the rest of the refs in booking more opposition players than Arsenal at a rate of 9-7.
For West Ham, he was in charge of six games in total, none of which they won. They lost four and drew two, ending Oliver’s games with a goal difference of minus four and 10 yellow cards to their opponent’s eight.
Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett will run the line while Darren England, who was fourth official for Arsenal three times last season, will take up that role again. Burt also ran the line for Arsenal three times last season while Bennett did five.
Chris Kavanagh will be in charge of VAR.