Howard Webb and Liverpool: An Inconvenient Truth

Howard Webb appeared to deny Luis Suárez a clear penalty in Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat to Arsenal on Sunday, much like he did when Liverpool lost at Chelsea over Christmas.

Needless to say, Twitter exploded in anger at Webb’s performance, and his negative impact upon the Reds.

A prominent Twitter account (@SG8Official_, who have over 70,000  followers) tweeted that Liverpool have now lost seven games in a row when Webb has been the ref, and needless to say this got countless retweets. I’m told the stat was quoted on TalkSport this morning too.

Except that this stat isn’t close to being accurate, as the Reds have only lost the last three with two victories prior to that, so I thought I’d take a closer look at Liverpool’s record with Howard Webb, to see what the true picture is.

At face value, the Reds’ have not done well with Webb as their referee, winning seventeen of the forty-one matches, with eight draws and sixteen defeats leading to an average of just 1.44 points per game (albeit six of the matches have been in cup competitions, so don’t have points per se).

However, a quick look at the Liverpool matches that Webb has taken charge of reveals an uneven balance between home and away, and also difficult and easier fixtures:

Opponent Home Away Neutral Total
Arsenal 4 3 0 7
Man Utd 2 4 0 6
Chelsea 1 3 0 4
Everton 2 1 1 4
Spurs 3 1 0 4
Birmingham 1 2 0 3
Portsmouth 0 2 0 2
Stoke City 1 1 0 2
Hull 0 1 0 1
Sunderland 0 1 0 1
Luton 0 1 0 1
Norwich 0 1 0 1
Newcastle 0 1 0 1
QPR 0 1 0 1
West Ham 0 1 0 1
Charlton 0 1 0 1
Swansea 1 0 0 1
Total 15 25 1 41

That’s a far from straight-forward fixture list; sixty-one percent of the matches have been away from home, and the same percentage of the matches have been against teams from the Premier League’s top seven (though strangely none against Manchester City; anyone know why?).

Almost one-third (thirteen out of forty-one) fall into both camps: away from home and against a top team. Is it any wonder that Liverpool’s results haven’t always been great when Howard Webb has been their ref?

A look Liverpool’s record in league games since 2004/05 (when Webb first refereed the Reds) reveals that the ‘Pool would average 1.69 points-per-game from fifteen at home and twenty-five away, so considering the difficulty of the Webb fixtures, I don’t think a drop to 1.44 is that surprising.

There are also examples of games (with Hull City away this season being the most recent instance) when Liverpool have been so poor that they’d have still lost the match regardless of who was the referee.

Let me be clear: Howard Webb has made plenty of poor decisions in Liverpool matches, and I am not trying to defend him here. Rather than being pro-Webb, I am anti false-stats, and so I thought it was worth compiling his record for the purposes of adding some context to the “facts” that are being bandied around cyberspace.

Related articles you might like:

Howard Webb, Penalties, and Manchester United – The stats suggest that Webb favours United over the other top English sides…

Who’s The Ref? – The Liverpool stats for various refs.

Ref Justice – A look at how the men in black have been treating the Reds.

Ref Justice 2: When Will It Even Up For Liverpool? – Further to the above piece, the Reds are still getting a hard time from refs.

Please check out my other articles, and follow me on Twitter or via Facebook. Thanks.

4 thoughts on “Howard Webb and Liverpool: An Inconvenient Truth

  1. How many penalties and red cards has Webb issued against Liverpool in those big games, and what given for.
    It is not about the points, it is the key decisions that inevitably lead to the points.

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