Ref in Focus: Taylor’s whistle-happy style will prevent another Battle of the Bridge

When Tottenham and Chelsea face each other at Wembley this Sunday, there’s nothing the neutrals would enjoy more than another contest as foul-tempered, dramatic and violent as the famous Battle of Stamford Bridge; a notorious encounter deserving of a place on the Premier League’s historical mantle piece, not only for its role in Leicester City’s shock title win but also for producing a record number of yellow cards as the 2-2 draw descended into chaos.

The presence of referee Anthony Taylor, however, suggests Sunday will be a much different game. Although Taylor is one of the Premier League’s most prolific referees when it comes to waving yellow cards, ranking third for yellows per match last season, it’s the lack of leniency in his decisions that suggests the players will make a more concerted effort to keep their behaviour in check.

Whereas Mark Clattenberg – the man in the middle of the battle of the Bridge – ranked 17th for fouls per tackle last season, Taylor came eighth, whilst awarding the fourth-most fouls per match of all 19 referees who featured in the top flight throughout 2016/17.

At first glance, that suits Chelsea far more than it does Tottenham. The Blues produced the third-least fouls of any Premier League side last term; Spurs, on the other hand, committed the tenth most, seemingly connected to their high-pressing philosophy. That being said, only two sides committed more fouls than the west Londoners last weekend, when Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas both saw red in a 3-2 defeat to Burnley.

Taylor’s other curious knack is the frequency in which he awards penalties; he issued ten in 30 games last season and was the only referee to award one throughout the entire Premier League on the opening weekend of 2017/18. He’s also not too fond of draws either, with only 13.3% of his games last season result in a point apiece. To give some perspective, the only referees who oversaw a lower percentage of draws both officiated less than ten games.