Ref In Focus: Mike Dean ensures both West Ham and Chelsea will have to walk a fine line on Sunday

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Mike Dean will take charge of his fourth Premier League fixture of this new campaign when he oversees proceedings between West Ham United and Chelsea on Sunday.

As with any official who has been involved in the Premier League for a long time, Dean comes with baggage. Fans will remember past errors and poor decisions and inevitably prepare themselves for the worst.

However, the stats suggest that both sets of supporters ought to have some cause for optimism, albeit tinged with nervousness, concerning Dean’s authority over this match. The numbers indicate that we’re likely to see an open, flowing affair unhindered by a whistle-happy referee, but one that could also feature contentious decisions.

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Over the course of the 2017/18 season, Dean took charge of 25 games in the English top flight. During those matches, the 50-year-old averaged only 19.96 fouls per game – of all the 21 referees who officiated in the Premier League last time out, 16 of them averaged more fouls per game than Dean.

Likewise, Dean also ranked 17th in terms of fouls per tackle. His average of 0.56 fouls per tackle suggests that he won’t be overly harsh in his judgement of challenges for the ball. 

However, when he does see a foul, he tends to punish it. Only three referees showed more yellow cards than the 93 brandished by Dean last season, and all of those three presided over more games. Dean’s average of 3.72 yellow cards per game last time out was the highest amongst all of the referees to have taken charge of more than one Premier League fixture.

Equally, Dean has shown himself to be unafraid of dealing out more severe punishments. Last season, he ranked 7th for average red cards shown per game, and sent off three players over the course of the campaign. On top of that, Dean was placed 9th out of the 21 in terms of penalties awarded per match, having given an average of 0.24 spot kicks per game.

These stats tell us that Dean will allow the game at London Stadium on Sunday to proceed with as few interruptions as possible, but that those interruptions could easily prove very costly for either side. Both teams will know that, with Dean, there’s a fine line between ensuring an open, uninterrupted encounter and one which sees him doling out his cards on a regular basis.

This approach is likely to best suit the Blues, whose attacking play will probably be less reliant upon set piece threats, meaning they’ll appreciate Dean’s reluctance to give too many fouls. What’s more, Dean’s tendency to show plenty of cards ought to offer Chelsea’s forwards some measure of protection from reckless challenges.

The Hammers, though, can take some hope from the fact that, last season, the home side emerged victorious in 44% of the games that Dean oversaw, with the away team only claiming the three points 28% of the time.