While the Premier League’s referees strive to ensure their decisions are as consistent as possible, some officials inevitably have their own distinct quirks and styles.
That particularly rings true with Andre Marriner, who lays a pretty strong claim for being the most lenient referee in the English top flight. The 47-year-old awarded the third-fewest fouls per game of any Premier League referee last season and ranks bottom on that front from the 18 officials amid the current campaign, while being in the bottom five for fouls per tackle, penalties per game and yellow cards per game as well.
Amid an era in which robust challenges are treated with greater scrutiny than ever before, some fans will look upon Marriner’s style favourably – especially for derbies or clashes between rivals where we want to see aggressive defending and crunching tackles. Similarly, in most instances, such leniency would favour the underdog, giving them greater license to assert their physicality on the opposition to compensate for lesser quality.
But if there’s one situation where that simply doesn’t apply, it’s undoubtedly when facing Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side want as few disruptions to the game as possible, because it helps their possession-based style meticulously grind down the opposition rather than allowing them to catch their breath and reorganise their defence through a succession of clever fouls.
That inevitably spells bad news for Liverpool after Marriner was appointed for their Anfield clash with the Premier League pace-setters this Sunday. City have only ever won a single Premier League game on Liverpool’s patch but there’s no question the visitors will be the favourites this weekend having dropped just four points so far this season and played arguably the greatest football we’ve seen in the English top flight during the last 25 years. So far this term, they’ve averaged an incredible 65% possession.
While Liverpool aren’t exactly known for such grubby tactics – in fact, they’ve averaged the fifth-fewest fouls of any Premier League side this season – Marriner’s presence takes away the option of slowing down the game by committing cynical fouls.
If Liverpool want to stop the opposition from building up a head of steam when they’re in possession, they’ll have to do it the old fashioned way – winning the ball back as quickly as possible.
The neutrals, though, will argue that’s exactly the kind of flowing game they want to see, and the other positive for those not aligned to either club is that just 7% of the Premier League fixtures Marriner has overseen this season have ended in draws – a lowest throughout the division.
That suggests we’ll see a clear winner on Sunday and hopefully, a healthy supply of goals as well.