There were so many bad calls in the Arsenal-Burnley match I just sweated through that I can’t figure out whether Burnley got hosed. Certainly Arsenal’s late penalty shouldn’t have been granted — Koscielny was clearly offside — but the Xhaka red card was debatable (though I think justified), and earlier in the match Jon Moss clearly missed Mustafi being fouled in the box.
Meanwhile, the outcome of yesterday’s Spurs-Man City clash would surely have been different if Kyle Walker had been appropriately punished for shoving Raheem Sterling in the back as the small man was racing all alone towards goal (that should have been a penalty and a red card). And Mike Dean, recently demoted to the Championship for ineptitude, seems to be continuing his inimitable stylings in his new setting.
All that said, Mark Clattenburg is clearly right when he says that the refs get the overwhelming majority of calls right and that disproportionate attention is given to the ones they get wrong — though he might have noted that some decisions have disproportionate effects: Jon Moss’s decisions today could possibly affect Arsenal’s hopes to stay in the Champions’ League (and maybe even Burnley’s ability to stay up, though I expect that they’re quite safe).
In any event, I think the most important point to note about this ongoing brouhaha is this: The refs are as good as they’re going to get. A great many people want to referee football at the highest level, and they go through considerable training and intense competition to get there. It is highly unlikely that there’s a substantial group of people out there who could do the job better than Clattenburg and Moss and Andre Marriner et al; or that the current crop of refs could be trained in new ways that would significantly improve their performance.
No: the athletes are better-conditioned and faster than they have ever been, there are 22 of them on the pitch, and the pitch is vary large. Calls will be missed, and the percentage of calls missed is highly unlikely to decline. So the moguls of international soccer effectively have three choices: they can shrug and tell us all to deal with an imperfect world, they can add one or more officials, or they can look for technological means to implement in-match corrections of errors.
But there’s really no point in complaining about the refs. They’re not just doing the best they can, they’re probably doing the best anyone can.