Generally speaking, Martin Atkinson is one of the Premier League’s more lenient referees. Last season, he ranked in the bottom half from the 19 referees to work in the top flight for fouls per match, fouls per tackle and yellow cards per match.
But so far this season, we’ve seen a more active side to the 46-year-old. He’s one of ten referees to have already issued a red card, while he’s already awarded 13 yellows from just five games – a rate of 2.6 per match putting him eighth in the booking charts. On top of that, he’s risen from 13th to seventh for fouls per game and fouls per tackle.
Based on current evidence, that spells particularly news for West Ham, with Atkinson scheduled to officiate their Premier League clash against Brighton on Friday night. The Hammers currently have the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League; 18 yellows and two reds from just eight games; and that’s cost them dearly this season.
Marko Arnautovic’s sending off gave them almost no chance of beating Southampton earlier in the campaign and they eventually lost 3-2, while Andy Carroll received a double-booking for two flailing elbows against Burnley last time out – a match that saw the Irons eventually surrender a late goal to leave Turf Moor with a single point.
In direct contrast, Brighton have behaved themselves since gaining promotion to the Premier League. Only four clubs have incurred less bookings so far this season and they’re yet to see a player sent off.
If West Ham are to avoid an upset against the Eagles on Friday night, their discipline simply must improve. And in another worrying omen for the Irons, their last match Atkinson officiated was the 4-0 demolition at the hands of Manchester United when he, rather fittingly, issued them two yellow cards.