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The data behind the referee: A look back at Mike Dean's career


Famous and controversial referee Mike Dean is set to hang up his officiating boots come the end of the 2021/22 Premier League season, moving into a full time VAR position for the forseeable future, it was announced on Monday afternoon.

It brings to an end a mammoth stint refereeing in the top flight, which spans two decades since he made his refereeing bow in a game between Leicester City and Southampton.

It was, for Dean, a quiet occasion.

A largely controversy-free game was decided by just a single Gerry Taggart goal in favour of the Foxes.

Since then, however, Dean has been a divisive figure, often standing accused of making the occasion about him, rather than the football on show.

"I walk out, without being arrogant – there is a touch of arrogance and I know there is – but it’s also a lot of confidence in myself because I believe in my ability," he told the podcast.

"I do come across like a showman. If the ball comes towards me I will let it go through my legs, I love a stepover. I love what I do and the way I referee. It kind of comes out I enjoy what I do. I’ve had this the past 10 years."

Having refereed the most top-flight games since its inception (553 and counting), it is no surprise that he was the first man to show 100 red cards, while he has also produced 2026 yellow cards in that time, meaning that on average you can expect him to show 3.86 cards per game.

This is higher than his fellow officials- Anthony Taylor averages 3.54 cards per game, John Moss produces 3.4 per game and Michael Oliver, on average, shows 3.29 cards per match.

And those that feel Dean is quicker to reach for a red card have a leg to stand on too. His average of reducing a side to 10 men every 4.85 games is well ahead of any of his fellow referees. John Moss, for instance, reaches for a red card every seven games (6.92), while Michael Oliver does so every 7.5 matches that he is in charge of.

But who has Dean carded the most, and who has been let off lightly? 101 did the digging to find out.

Manchester Clubs lead the way

As the most experienced match official in the Premier League roster, it is no surprise to see that, when looking at who Dean has officiated the most, five of the top six lead the way.

He has overseen games involving Manchester United the most (83), just ahead of Manchester City (81), Arsenal (79), Chelsea (75) and Tottenham (73). Given his hometown being Tranmere, he rarely oversees Liverpool games in case of a conflict of interests.

But when it comes to win percentage, it is Chelsea that lead the way, with an impressive 64%, while Tottenham only win 45% of the games refereed by the 54-year-old. Manchester United and Manchester City sit between the two clubs with 53% and 51% respectively.

Having dished out a record 114 red cards in his refereeing career to date, it is unsurprising that quite a few come from games involving these 5 sides, but it is Manchester City who have seen the most with 11 (including second yellow cards), almost double their Manchester Rivals (6) despite having played two games fewer under Dean's watch.

And when it comes to penalties, Manchester United are in the driving seat again, having been awarded 21 by Dean, three times as many as Arsenal have been handed and four more than Manchester City, who have been handed 17.

Tottenham's poor win percentage may go hand in hand with the fact that they have conceded the most penalties under Dean, with 14, putting them two ahead of Chelsea and three ahead of the Manchester Clubs. However, Spurs have also benefitted from the opposition being a man down the most, seeing Dean show 15 red cards to their opponents.

Torres, Dunne and Koscielny

Fernando Torres stands as the sole forward among a trio of centre backs when it comes to individuals red-carded the most by Dean. Laurant Koscielny (Arsenal), Richard Dunne (Manchester City) and Mike Williamson (Newcastle) all join the Spaniard in having been sent off twice by the veteran referee, a fact that, in Torres' case, becomes even more bizarre when you consider Dean was not allowed to referee Liverpool games.

The stats suggest a love for the theatrical, whether it be cards or penalties awarded, but no clear bias towards any team. That will not stop fans suggesting otherwise, though.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.



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