Ref Review: Controversy for Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City & Liverpool

‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless you’re a Premier League referee hell bent on giving out red cards as we enter 2017. Fernandinho, Sofiane Feghouli and Simon Francis all fell foul of some controversial sending offs over the New Year period and‘s Mark Halsey is on hand as ever to look over the biggest talking points.


Michael Oliver (Watford vs Tottenham Hotspur)

When a referee looks at an incident like that handball you’re looking at the pace of the ball, the distance to the player and has he made himself bigger? You can forgive the referee not giving it because he’s so close to the ball, I don’t think there would have been any complaints had he given it though.

It’s down to Michael’s own interpretation, there’s no leadership and there’s no direction, the coaching is that poor that the referees are policing themselves. When you’re stretching to make a challenge, your arms don’t stay down by your sides do they? He has made himself bigger but his arms aren’t in an unnatural position for that situation.


Lee Mason (Manchester United vs Middlesbrough)

I don’t know what he’s thinking, I really just don’t know what he’s thinking. Lee’s really suffering from a lack of confidence at the moment, he’s not refereeing well and I’m still left bemused by how he’s disallowed Ibrahimovic’s goal.

It’s clearly not dangerous play, his leg is outstretched but as soon as he’s connected with the ball he’s brought his leg down and Valdes’s momentum has taken him into Ibrahimovic. You could argue that it’s actually a penalty to Manchester United because Valdes has clattered into him, you can understand why Jose Mourinho is once again upset with match officials.

The penalty call is one of those, is it shoulder to shoulder? Has he gone down too easy? If our referees were consistent we’d know but some of those are given and some are not, it goes back to the lack of direction at the PGMOL.


Mike Jones (Southampton vs West Brom)

Mike is one of those referees who won’t come out and caution a player for nothing. I wouldn’t be critical of Mike for sending him off, I’m not sure many would have questioned it had he let play go but I also wouldn’t criticise Mike for showing Van Dijk two cautions for the two incidents.


Craig Pawson (Liverpool vs Manchester City)

I think Craig will have been delighted that there were no key match incidents, the player’s behaviour was exemplary and it was a footballing game – as it usually is between Liverpool and Man City.

Craig would have gained a little bit of confidence back from that and that’s the kind of game he would have needed because he didn’t have a great Christmas period.


Mike Dean (West Ham United vs Manchester United)

That decision from Mike to send Feghouli off has clearly affected the outcome of the match. It’s unusual for Mike but he’s clearly got it wrong, when the challenge goes in you never look away. He’s turned his head away and then he’s looked back again and seen Phil Jones on the ground.

I think he’s guessed, it’s taking him so long to get the red card out. I think the decision he missed in the Merseyside derby was on his mind and he’s decided he’s taken no chances. If anything, Phil Jones is the one who’s come in strongly, West Ham have every right to appeal for wrongful dismissal and they’ve got every chance of getting the decision overturned.

They’ve both gone in hard, Jones has won the ball and Feghouli is a fraction late but it’s not a challenge that endangers a player’s safety. Mike doesn’t have replays but what upsets me is seeing players trying to get others sent off – we’ve got to stop that.

Mike’s recognition of challenges wasn’t up to his usual standard, I think at half-time he’d have known he was wrong because Kouyate’s was a serious foul play challenge and that was a red card without a shadow of a doubt. They’d have had to have a police escort all the way back to the hotel if he’d sent another off!

The second goal is a poor decision from Simon Long, it can be difficult at pace but they’re all walking around slowly and Simon should be spotting that. That’s two big decisions that have cost West Ham big time.


Lee Mason (Manchester City vs Burnley)

I’m amazed Lee has been given the two Manchester teams in quick succession, however I don’t think Fernandinho can have any complaints that he’s been sent off.

Lee has called it correctly, he’s given himself thinking time because maybe he was a bit indecisive and also, who’s he talking to down the headset? Nobody can help him there, he’s seen the challenge and he’s in the best position. Perhaps it shows his lack of confidence but at the end of the day he’s come to the right decision.

Sean Dyche has got a point when he says Sagna could have been sent off, kicking or attempting to kick an opponent is an act of violent conduct and should be a red card. That comes back to Lee’s indecisiveness because you should be able to make those decisions at the top level.


Anthony Taylor (Sunderland vs Liverpool)

I don’t think you could argue with either penalty, the first one the player has been impeded and hampered his progress so I don’t think you can argue that.

The second one is a clear penalty, Mane has clearly moved his arm to the ball and it’s a definite penalty. The only thing for me is Anthony has cautioned Mane for the handball to justify the decision. For me, it’s just a handball, give a handball and a penalty and move on, he didn’t need to caution Mane.

The free-kick initially was a bit soft but in Anthony’s opinion it was a free-kick so I don’t think you can be too critical of that call, but the penalty is absolutely correct. He’s just incorrect to caution Mane for the offence.


Michael Oliver (Bournemouth vs Arsenal)

Michael has done well in the first half, but he lost focus and got a little bit complacent after a good first half. He’s correct in giving the penalty, he’s played a wonderful advantage but if he’s giving that as a foul he should be disallowing the third goal for a push on Bellerin.

You look at the handball, the laws state it has to be deliberate. It wasn’t deliberate, he had no chance of getting out of the way because the ball has ended up in the back of the net. Michael has made a mistake to send Simon Francis off in my opinion, it didn’t endanger the player’s safety, it wasn’t made with excessive force. It was reckless so a caution would have sufficed, it’s another decision that has influenced the result in a big game.


You can follow Mark at @RefereeHalsey

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