Things to watch differently in the Premier League this season #3 – Referees

Bored of the diving debate yet? Bored of hearing about Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Young? Isn’t violent conduct in football more serious? Don’t add to the football cliche production line. You never know, these things might all be linked.

This article came about when Differentgame looked to see how many fouls Wayne Rooney committed last year. The 26 yr old forward claims to have been born again in relation to discipline and says he’s been a changed man since the Montenegrin incident this time last year. He’s only been booked once in forty odd games and he committed less than one foul per game in the EPL last season.

However, what really struck us when browsing through the Whoscored database was the fact that Jamie Carragher committed just 5 fouls in 21 appearances last season. Jamie Carragher. 5 fouls. All season.

A quick re-ordering of players by fouls conceded per game ensued. There’s not one defender in the top-20 in there:

There’s a fair amount of players despised by opposition fans there. We dare say there’s one or two that are despised by their own fans. A good chunk of those above are, for all intents and purposes, players that play(ed) up front – we count 8 of the 20. There’s only maybe Parker out of the 20 you’d classify as someone asked specifically to ‘sit’ in front of the defence and do little more.

Let’s cast aside reputations for a second. Are we seriously expected to believe that the forward players in particular foul more than they are fouled? That the likes of Phil Jagielka, Rio Ferdinand or Carragher are committing only 1 foul every 2, 3 or even 4 games?

Do we really expect the forward players to put up with the shirt tugging at corners, the pushing, the shoving and being obstructed without reacting? Even when the vast majority of free kicks are going the other way? Do we blame them entirely for taking the law into their own hands? These players are often reacting in a dangerous way. The divers are reacting in their own way.

Until referees start applying the rules properly instead of shying away from important decisions, it will continue. The players only operate within the framework of the law, and if it’s not being applied properly can they be blamed when so much is at stake?

Detractors will state that players are now going out of the way to deceive referees so their job is more difficult. It’s not difficult to see what happens at corner kicks. They’re stood 5 yards away facing them. They can see it on TV week in week out. It’s not just players cheating the game. It’s referees and authorities too who don’t have the guts to apply the laws properly.

So next time you see Fellaini fling an arm at someone or Bale fling himself out of the way of a wild challenge, don’t be surprised and get all outraged. Think back to what’s gone on before then and what the referee did to stop it.

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One Response to Things to watch differently in the Premier League this season #3 – Referees

  1. Steve @OptaHunt Fenn says:

    Interesting point, but I’d take issue with a couple assumptions here:
    1 – not all of these fouls are retaliations. Sometimes they’re the aggressors, illegally bulling their way through innocent defenders.
    2 – not all fouls are bad. The smartest of these fouls by an attacker are diffusing counters before they can begin, leading to innocuous free kick far from goal.
    The second point reminds me of a study (which I can’t find right now) that above-average foulers are more likely to go into coaching. These players often learn rules and tactics in order to exploit them, and often carry that over to the sideline well.

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