Ref in Focus: Michael Oliver spells bad news for Arsenal

After 32 games, the most of any Premier League referee, Michael Oliver will be hoping for a quiet end to a taxing season when he officiates Arsenal’s clash with Everton on Sunday.

The Gunners have an outside chance of sneaking into the top four, but with Everton’s campaign already done and dusted Oliver will be expecting a relatively drama-free afternoon.

Yet, the 32-year-old’s previous outings this term suggest otherwise; he’s awarded almost one penalty every two matches this season – the highest average in the Premier League – and Arsenal have been amongst the biggest victims, with Oliver awarding three against them from five games.

That will be a concern to Arsenal fans and some of the Gunners’ other returns when Oliver is involved make equally grim reading; they’ve picked up just 0.8 points with Oliver officiating term, winning just one of his five games in charge.

Likewise, although the neutrals prefer matches to flow and Oliver is amongst the division’s most reluctant in terms of fouls per game, fouls per tackle and cards per game, that doesn’t necessarily suit the Gunners. They rank 15th throughout the Premier League for fouls whereas Everton come in at fifth, suggesting Oliver will be lenient towards the visitors’ more aggressive style of play.

If there’s one statistic working in Arsenal’s favour, however, it’s Oliver’s strong home bias, with almost two thirds of the games he’s refereed this season ending in victory for the hosts and only 15.6% ending in wins for the away side.

Clearly, however, Arsenal don’t have the best of luck when they come up against Oliver, which doesn’t bode well for their Champions League hopes. Everton, meanwhile, should expect a spot kick in their favour at the Emirates Stadium.