Originally published by the football referee analysis website, now defunct, Debatable Decisions on April 4th 2012.
Queens Park Rangers secured three vital points at home to Arsenal on Saturday, with both their goals coming after correct refereeing decisions.
It would have been Arsenal’s eighth League win in a row but for Adel Taarabt’s storming strike – his first Premier League goal – and Diakite’s fine finish either side of Theo Walcott’s goal.
Both sides had tricky, nippy players who were more than capable of playing for the free-kick – Taarabt, Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Taye Taiwo – and the big, bruising players who would more than likely struggle with the aforementioned tricksters, as well as provide problems for the referee – Shaun Derry, Thomas Vermaelen, Alex Song, Joey Barton and Clint Hill.
It is a common complaint from fans that Mike Dean is a little card-happy. Before the game at Loftus Road, the ref from Wirral had brandished 82 yellow cards – the second highest figure in the Premier League, below Phil Dowd.
That stat, of course, could indicate a mere victim of circumstance on Dean’s part but, here, the 43-year-old certainly seemed comfortable with his whistle, blowing up whenever a player went down, even if there was barely any contact. As much as Barton and co. promote themselves as the hard men of the league, they sure know how to hit the deck to win a free-kick at the right time.
Having said that, Dean appeared to play an excellent advantage to allow QPR to score their opener. Taarabt beat Vermaelen to the ball, shrugged past the Belgian and fired in from the edge of the area to score his first goal this season after 69 shots.
QPR’s second came thanks to another well-played advantage – Vermaelen slipped, Jamie Mackie capitalised and slipped in Diakite, who fired in from 10 yards.
The main complaint from Arsenal fans appears to be that Dean was a little arrogant in his decisions, or rather the display of his decisions. In the build-up to both goals, Dean made the generic ‘advantage’ signal – two arms sprayed out straight in front – and this, according to commenters, was the visual way of saying ‘me me me me’. This seems an odd criticism to make as surely his possible over-exuberance in incidents that barely required decisions is better than most alternatives. Better to be clear in your decision-making than not.
Another grumble from Gooners is that Mike Dean is ‘against’ their team. Since 2000, Dean has refereed 32 games involving Arsenal. Of those 32, Arsenal have won 14. This theory isn’t really helped when footage of Dean apparently – although, clearly (hopefully) not – celebrating a goal scored against Arsenal appears. But, to point to 43% games won under a certain referee as a damning statistic of clear bias is beyond farcical.
Dean was maybe a little inconsistent at certain points in the match, blowing for petty fouls at times and letting the game flow at others but he should be commended for the forthright officiating throughout instead of being criticised for the rare fastidious in-moment decisions.
In total, QPR accumulated five yellow cards against Arsenal’s two, with three of QPR’s bookings coming in the last ten minutes as they attempted to break up and generally slow the play down. Whether such tactical fouls are met with fitting punishments is another argument , of course, but Dean can only really play to the rulebook in this case.
The game had a slightly unpleasant undertone with news that assistant referee Stuart Burt had items thrown at him on two separate occasions. QPR could face an FA charge after Burt was struck on the hour-mark and near the end of the match, putting a sour note on what was a decent refereeing performance.