If we were to separate Premier League referees into two broad categories, it would be those who shy away from big decisions and those who seemingly feel obliged to make them.
Martin Atkinson, who decided not to award Manchester City a penalty for Ashley Young’s blatant foul on Sergio Aguero in the Manchester derby, belongs to the former category – he ranks a lowly 17th out of the 20 referees to work in the top flight this season for penalties per match. Jonathan Moss, meanwhile, who has awarded eight penalties already this season and has been appointed to officiate Tottenham’s Premier League clash with City on Saturday, clearly belongs in the latter.
Indeed, aside from his incredibly high penalty return – he’s actually third for penalties per match when excluding the two referees to oversee just one Premier league games this season – Moss’s averages for fouls per tackle and yellow cards per game are incredibly telling, painting an image of a referee prepared to make big and controversial calls, the kind that can decide results in an instant.
Tottenham have already experienced that under Moss this season. They’re actually yet to win a Premier League fixture with the 47-year-old in charge this term, but he did award them two penalties in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield.
City, meanwhile, will argue that refereeing decisions have been as much of an issue as lapsed focus during their recent run of three defeats – Mohamed Salah scored an offside goal at Anfield, Leroy Sane had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside at the Etihad Stadium and then there was of course the Young challenge last Saturday.
But there’s another key bad omen for the Lilywhites here, in addition to the fact they’re yet to win a game with Moss in charge this season; just 29% of the games he’s officiated have resulted in home victories, which is actually the lowest return of any referee to be involved in more than one top flight clash this season. City’s poor luck with referees might be just about to turn around, at Tottenham’s expense.