To what extent do refereeing decisions decide games? Some managers would argue greatly, others would claim not much at all and a few still belong to the cliched they-balance-out-by-the-end-of-the-season school of thought.
But when you’re talking about close-knit encounters between members of the big six, such as Chelsea vs Manchester United and Manchester City vs Arsenal this weekend, one call from the referee, rightly or wrongly, can decide everything.
With Manchester United and Arsenal on the road this Super Sunday, both clubs will likely be happy to leave Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium respectively with a point.
But the refereeing returns from this season suggest both sides should be hoping for much more. Of course, we’re only talking about a small sample of games – no referee has officiated more than nine matches so far this term – but two statistics are incredibly telling.
Anthony Taylor will be the man with the whistle in west London, while Michael Oliver will be in charge up in Manchester, and the huge boost for the away teams is how few home victories both referees have overseen so far this season. Just 17% of Taylor’s six games have ended in home wins, while Oliver’s resided over a mere two from nine games.
Inevitably, refereeing statistics aren’t the be-all-and-end-all; they’re always affected by the games they’ve been involved in, which all come with their own likelihood of a home or away win. But it’s certainly an interesting trend at this point in the season and provides a numerical positive for United and Arsenal to take into their respective encounters this Sunday.