The best referee in the country? The stats on Liverpool FC and Howard Webb



Kristian Walsh examines just how detrimental Howard Webb has been to Liverpool FC, and why that may be.

A picture can tell a thousand words, but so can the front of Monday’s Liverpool Echo.

“The best ref in the country?” it asks of Howard Webb, in a far more reasoned and family-friendly manner as those who witnessed it live, faces still reddened and flush.

When the Yorkshireman declined to give a second penalty to the Reds in the space of five minutes, a seething rage built within Reds everywhere.

Maybe it was less clear cut than it seemed, they thought; perhaps Luis Suarez stumbled, or the coming together was unavoidable, or some other rational explanation can be given for how the Uruguayan ended up sprawled on the turf.

No such luck. Television replays made it even more evident – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain barged into Suarez and sent him spinning.

Webb had got the previous decision – awarding a penalty for Lukas Podolski’s foul on Suarez – correct, but this one was very much wrong.

It was not the only decision Liverpool felt aggrieved with throughout the 90 minutes either, while Arsenal could also point to a few decisions that did not go their way.

It is something former referee Mark Halsey believes is part of a trend with Webb, who will be England’s refereeing representative at this year’s World Cup.

“Howard has made an error of judgement,” conceded Halsey. “He has not had the best of seasons.

“He has not been the Howard Webb we all know. “Perhaps he may need a little rest because he is perhaps doing too much.”

One thing must be made abundantly clear: Webb is not biased against Liverpool, and his integrity cannot be questioned.

Granted, the decision at the Emirates is probably the worst since Liverpool were refused a penalty for Samuel Eto’o’s kick on Suarez in December.

The referee that afternoon was, inevitably, Webb.

But every football fan believes every referee is biased against their team – it is human nature, after all, to remember the wrongs instead of rights.

Webb was the referee to give Liverpool their first penalty of last season, against Stoke on Boxing Day, while he also awarded the Reds three penalties last season – two in one game against Swansea.

But there seems to be a particular relationship between fans and a particular referee. Everton and Mark Clattenburg, Manchester United and Mike Riley, and most definitely Liverpool and Webb.

Even former Reds winger Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 for posting a doctored picture of Webb in a Manchester United shirt on Twitter in January 2011.

Indeed, results show that the combination of Liverpool and Webb has not been favourable to the Anfield club.

In the past five years, the Reds have lost 14 of the 22 games he has officiated, winning just six.

In comparison to his fellow Fifa listed referees who feature in the Premier League, the difference is telling.

Since 2009/10, Liverpool have won 10 and lost just four in games under Lee Probert, while they have won nine and drawn six of Martin Atkinson’s 21 games in charge.

The Reds have lost just one game apiece refereed by Andre Marriner and Michael Oliver in 16 and 13 games respecitvely.

That is not to insinuate Webb was a cause for those 14 defeats, of course, as football shifts far too quickly to even attempt lay the blame at Webb’s feet.

His performance meant little, for example, in the Reds’ 2-0 defeat against Everton in October 2010, or when QPR came from two goals down to win 3-2 in March 2012.

Likewise, when Liverpool beat Everton 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final, the man with the whistle was hardly noticed.

Just six wins in 22 games also reflects on how Liverpool have been a side who average around 12 defeats a season in recent times.

And with his status as one of the country’s top referees, Webb is a likely choice for Liverpool’s matches against bigger sides – sides they are more likely to lose against.

Of the 22 games he’s officiated since the start of 2009/10, 15 have been against United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs or Everton.

Curiously, in the previous five-year span – between 2004/05 and 2008/09 – Liverpool lost just two of the 19 games refereed by Webb.

But 14 defeats in 22, starting with a 2-1 defeat at home to Arsenal in December 2009, is staggering.

Webb is a referee who likes to use context and common sense, but sometimes that conflicts the rules of the game.

His determination to not ruin the 2010 World Cup final with a red card ultimately saw the game descend into an overphysical war, reminiscent of a saloon brawl in the wild west, with 14 yellow cards (and one red for John Heitinga) shown.

Perhaps context played some part in his decision to not award Suarez a second penalty on Sunday.

And until referees are as accountable as players and managers for their performances, the speculation will continue.

But what cannot be speculated on is how Liverpool struggle in games Webb officiates in.

Whether he is the best ref in the country is still to be answered, but he most certainly is not the best for Liverpool – for whatever reason that may be.

Posted by on Feb 17 2014. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “The best referee in the country? The stats on Liverpool FC and Howard Webb”

  1. new

    Thanks for sharing I love liverpool

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