In the post-Clattenburg era, Anthony Taylor makes a pretty strong case for being the best referee still working in the Premier League. Aged 39, he’s amongst the youngest, so it’s telling of the high esteem he’s held in that the Premier League have appointed him for the biggest game this weekend and one that could have a huge impact on the title race – Chelsea vs Manchester United.
What stands out most about Taylor is that he’s an incredibly strict disciplinarian. In fact, no referee has awarded more penalties than him this season, while he also ranks in the top eight for fouls per game, fouls per tackle and yellow cards per game – which isn’t particularly good news for either side ahead of Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, Chelsea and Manchester United have committed the joint fourth-most fouls in the top flight this season, averaging 11.4 per match, although it’s the Blues who rank higher in terms of tackles, currently only bettered by Huddersfield, so they could find themselves more restricted than United should Taylor view that approach as blurring the lines of acceptability.
That also suggests Sunday’s game will be a stop-start affair, which doesn’t bode well for those watching as Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte appear likely to make it a one-goal-wins-it kind of clash where both employ defensive tactics to disrupt the rhythm of the other team.
In addition to Chelsea’s higher number of tackles, which may lure Taylor’s strict streak, perhaps the biggest positive the Red Devils can take into Sunday’s game from a refereeing perspective is that just 17% of the six games Taylor’s officiated this season have resulted in home wins.
In contrast, three have ended in draws, which Mourinho would likely view as a good result for his side, and 33% have been away wins.