The human brain is wired to look for and spot patterns, even where none may actually exist. Meanwhile, the football fan brain is wired to look for conspiracies and bias against their own, even where none may actually exist. At the confluence of those stands one Anthony Taylor, recently the subject of an online petition to never be allowed to referee a Chelsea match again.
Thankfully, that bit of nonsense has so far only resulted in a question being posed to Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel in the pre-match press conference, with Taylor set to referee today’s game against Brentford. Tuchel of course isn’t willing to entertain any notions of conspiracy (at least in public), and just wants a well refereed contest — which may be a bridge too far already anyway.
“I trust in the referees and I trust in Anthony Taylor that he will try to have his best performance tomorrow. We cannot – here at Cobham and at the club – get lost in ideas that there is actually something behind it. We have to make ourselves free from this and do what we need to do to win this match.
“Do we need a top referee? Yes. Do we need good decisions from VAR or none at all? Yes. Do we need a little bit of luck? Yes, and hopefully we can turn things around with Anthony Taylor.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
That said, it doesn’t take much to make more of the Taylor situation that we rightly should.
The standard of refereeing in the Premier League remains shockingly low, especially considering the amount of money present in the game — I’d argue the standard hasn’t gotten worse, we’re just being made aware of that low standard a lot more often — and Taylor has certainly been involved in more than his fair share of high profile controversies. Even when the ultimate decision may have been correct by the letter of the law (say, the Reece James red card or the Kylian Mbappé goal, just to mention a couple recent ones), Taylor’s handling of the situation was not ideal (looking at just a still image of James’s “handball” and not even checking on the monitor for the Mbappé goal).
And it certainly does not help that Chelsea’s recent record in games refereed by Taylor is shockingly bad: we’ve won just 2 out of the last 11 (since the start of 2019), and none of the last 5. We’ve lost 6 of those 11, which is the same amount we had lost in the first 27 games refereed by Taylor (winning 16).
But to accuse Taylor of anything beyond your run-of-the-mill incompetence and inconsistency is a bit of a stretch. While we all remember the red cards for James, Victor Moses (2017 FA Cup final), and Mateo Kovačić (2020 FA Cup final), those are actually the only 3 red cards Taylor has ever shown to Chelsea players in the 38 games he’s refereed for us. And sure, there have been plenty of other bad errors (Fàbregas “dive”, Alonso “foul”, Alexis non-handball, Maguire non-red, etc.), they are still relatively infrequent enough to easily disprove any claim of a conscious bias against us.
Or maybe this post was written by Anthony Taylor.