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.

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Ref Justice 2: When Will It Even Up For Liverpool?

Earlier in the season, I wrote an article looking at how unfairly referees had been treating Liverpool. Although the league campaign was only six games old, Brendan Rodgers had already felt compelled to mention in an interview how the Reds were not getting the rub of the green from officials, and that prompted my earlier investigation.

The bad news is, it is still not any better, and at the business end of the season, the cost of the errors by refs is looking increasingly expensive.

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Blame Suárez

I was fascinated to see the independent referee assessing website ‘Debatable Decisions’ reveal on their website exactly which decisions they have awarded for and against each team in the Premier League so far this season.

As Liverpool are currently 19th in the division for ‘decisions’ difference (with their tally of five four but eleven against) I was keen to see the breakdown.

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Who’s The Ref?

Before virtually any game of football nowadays, but especially before a significant match against a major rival, fans will always ask the above question.

But does it matter? Do any of them appear particularly pro or anti-Liverpool? This article will provide you with the stats, but you will have to make your own mind up; the main thing to remember when reading this is that there is no way to prove any bias on the part of referees, and this is not an attempt to do so. This has been compiled as people have shown an interest in the figures following a number of online articles about refereeing recently, and is intended to be taken for the light-hearted (albeit statistically accurate) piece it is.

To assess the refs, I have looked at three statistics: penalties, yellow cards, and sending-offs, both in favour of and against Liverpool. Of course, a big part of debating a referee’s performance is arguing over the “that was a nailed on penalty, ref” calls; the ones that got away, in other words. Needless to say, statistics on things that don’t happen are thin on the ground, so we’ll have to make do with what I have been able to track down.

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Howard Webb, Penalties, and Manchester United

Let’s be clear before we start: I’m a Liverpool fan, and I don’t like Manchester United. But despite that, this is a simple presentation of facts, and hopefully not some bitter tirade or conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. Having read various interesting statistics recently, I thought I’d do a little research (via the excellent Transfermarkt site) and present the numbers; what you make of them is up to you.

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