Much like goals, refereeing decisions change games whenever they’re made – whether they’re awarded rightly or wrongly is another matter. And whilst they may have limited bearing when Chelsea stroll to a relatively routine win over one of the Premier League’s rank and file clubs, they tend to have a huge impact on the big occasions, involving two teams with very little to choose between them.
The north London derby this weekend is one such occasion; although Spurs have been by far and away the better team throughout this season, there’s no questioning the quality Arsene Wenger still has at his disposal – and derby days are always a bit of a leveller, when passion and pride is seemingly held in equal esteem as actual talent.
Therefore, all eyes will be on Andre Marriner this weekend, as he officiates a particularly significant north London derby with the hosts on course to finish above the visitors in the league table for the first time in the Premier League era. But how will Marriner’s style affect the match – and which team does it better suit?
Well, the first point of note is that Marriner ranks a lowly 17th out of 19 for fouls per match in the Premier League. Although Spurs are by no means a dirty side, the stats suggest Marriner’s reluctance to blow the whistle will suit them better – Arsenal are in the bottom three for fouls per match this season, whereas Spurs commit the seventh most.
They also rank eighth for tackles, with Arsenal one place higher, so perhaps it’s good news for both clubs – and the neutrals – that Marriner likes to let the game flow; only one referee has awarded less fouls per tackle than the 46-year-old this season.
More worrying for Spurs, however, is Marriner’s low home win bias – just 36%, which is the 16th-lowest in the league. Indeed, away wins and draws have proved far more likely with Marriner officiating this season, which suggests the Lilywhites will end up missing out on all three points.
If there’s a glimmer of hope otherwise for Tottenham fans, it’s the fact they’re yet to lose a match involving Marriner this season, winning three and drawing one, despite him awarding two penalties to the opposition over the course of those four games. Arsenal, meanwhile, have won just two of their four games with Marriner in the middle this term – drawing one and losing the other.