Ding, Dong, Mike Dean is—okay, not dead. Retired. Finally.


There are few conspiracies as baked in as the infamous anti-Arsenal bias of Mike Dean. With news of his retirement, I thought it would be well worth revisiting whether or not this Dean was as ever as bad as we assumed. It all started, apparently, on one august day in August at Old Trafford. Blame a water bottle. Blame Lee Probert. Maybe, just maybe, don’t blame Mike Dean. Hear me out.

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember all too well the moment in question. 8 August 2009. We went into Old Trafford and had the audacity to take the lead courtesy of an Arshavin goal just before the half. It would not stand. Man U would find an entirely earned equaliser and then the winner. Arsenal had its own equaliser disallowed, but that’s not the real story, however. The real story is that of Wenger kicking a bottle of water and getting sent to the stands by Mike Dean on the advice of Lee Probert.

After the match, Wenger was offered an apology. League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan said that the decision was “completely out of context in the game and it was followed by the nonsense which followed over where Wenger should sit. I’ve spoken to Keith Hackett and he fully recognises the situation was an error and an apology will follow to Arsène Wenger. Lee Probert totally failed to manage the situation and created a needless pressure point, taking the focus away from the pitch in a big event with only a minute to go.”

That’s all water under a bridge or off a duck’s back, depending on your idiom. Let’s take a good, hard look at Mike Dean’s role, having sent Wenger to the stands in the first place and cementing his legacy in the minds of Gooners everywhere as an anti-Arsenal agitator ever since.

First, the stats under Dean:

  • before the infamous send-off: Arsenal went 16W 9D 2L. Not terrible. Such a rate of return would see us claim 70.4 points from 38 matches. Not great, but, again, not enough to get the tar or the feathers ready…unless that’s your cup of tea.
  • after that send-off: Arsenal went 11W 11D 13L. That’s abysmal. That’s a rate that would see us end on 49.9 points. Mid-table. Probably closer to relegation than to European competition. Warm the tar. Pluck the feathers. Find the pitchforks.
  • after Wenger’s retirement (here’s where it gets interesting): 12W 2D 2L. Extrapolate that out to 38 matches and we finish on 90.3 points. Um, pour a few pints. Dean’s going to help us win the league!

It would appear that Dean’s anti-Arsenal bias is almost entirely confined to Arsène’s time at the club after the incident at Old Trafford. Perhaps he chafed at the idea that he got it wrong on the day in August and set his mind to extracting a few ounces of vengeance against the man who made him look so bad. Ever since Arsène stepped down, then, Dean seemed to be compensating for his misplaced anti-Arsène vendetta. 90 points? That would be enough to win the Prem more often than not. This might be a bridge too far, but, if anything, it starts to feel like Mike Dean, despite his reputation, might actually be biased in favour of this club.

Will wonders ever cease?

Still, all the while, I can’t resist the impulse to say f*ck Mike Dean.

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11 thoughts on “Ding, Dong, Mike Dean is—okay, not dead. Retired. Finally.

  1. Stan Adams

    The Prince Andrew of referee’s everyone knows he was a dickhead but he just never got what he deserved a la Randy Andy.

  2. jw1

    Next steps in Howard Webb’s PGMOL revamp– had better be technology testing for the aged-out referees still in charge of VAR ops. Lee Mason is example one, and Mike Dean number two– of how Webb allowed out-to-pasture officials continue to influence outcomes– not just of games, but the PL title run.

    Confounding how VAR works almost flawlessly on the continent– and PGMOL hasn’t adopted those methods and technology outright.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Amen. Never understood why we’ve been putting half-blind pensioners in charge of technology. They have probably still have VCRs with 12:00 blinking in their living rooms.

  3. mike in atlanta

    Anthony Taylor refereed six of our matches last season. That’s something Webb should fix if he wants to be taken seriously.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Don’t know what this says about the state of referees in the Prem, but he’s become one of the better ones.

      For what it’s worth, we went 4W 2D 0L in those 6 matches, including big wins over Tottenham, Brighton away, and Man U.

  4. mike in atlanta

    Jon you can see how easy it could be to corrupt a ref knowing he may be assigned a multitude of games for one team.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Sure – but in this case, you’re possibly insinuating that Taylor is on the take…for us. At a risk of sounding flippant, I don’t think the PL refs are competent enough to pull off any match-rigging shenanigans.

  5. consolsbob

    Referees have who are actually professional in their approach to the job is what we need. No more personality refs, no more cosy chats with players. Just professionals holding all players and managers to account within the actual laws. Hold them accountable for failure to do that.

    Most of us in our careers were expected to perform adequately. It is all we need.

  6. palladio43

    Why is it that PL refs are adjudged, if not deemed, to be incompetent, biased, or the like? The Premier and Championship Leagues both boast that they have full-time referees, which would or should imply a level of competence and professionalism that would not require such criticism as we hear all season long. In the US, major league baseball umpires, NHL refs, and NBA refs, among others, are full time employees and/or positions with pay commensurate to their experience and skills. We obviously do not read or hear as much criticism as to their calls or decisions, although we still see missed fouls, missed balls or strikes, close and disputed plays, and the like.
    NFL refs, however, are part time and free to work elsewhere both from about January through late summer and during the week between games. They seem to make more bad calls and are often seen to be bad or saved by instant replay reviews. At best, some of them are as bad as PL refs. Given how often we criticize PL calls associated with being offside, as opposed to whether a yellow card should be a red card, or whether a goal had been scored, it is hard to fathom why US football fans are not screaming for virtual reviews of every single ball placement after a tackle given how these are arbitrary and imprecise judgements by a linesman who thinks he knows where the ball went dead and then walks it imprecisely back toward the playing portion of the field. The irony here is that after two or three downs of “eyeballing” where the ball went dead, there is a seemingly precise measurement often taken using a chain and three officials to determine whether a first down has been earned or had failed with the decision made to a fraction of an inch.
    In the PL and the rest of the (non-US) football world, we have accepted imprecise decisions for years without question until technology came along that allowed for chips inside the ball or other tricks and, of course, the virtual decision making as to goals and, sometimes, offside calls. As full-time employees without any distracting jobs or commitments, there seems no reason for error and it seems that either these folk are ill-trained, more than just incompetent or biased. It is not as if the speed of the game is the issue, since ice hockey seems to move faster. Thus, why do we have these problems or is it that, with the rise of technology should we believe that imprecision should disappear from sports? Alternatively, is it that with the parallel rise of large-stake gambling and millions invested into each squad, winning has taken on a different meaning that has little to do with playing the game for the joy of playing?

    1. A Simple Truth

      palladio—I get the gist of your commentary, but I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that, as one must fully comprehend how each respective league administers it’s instant replay in order to properly assess the situation, as this isn’t an apples-to-apples situation…for most American sports there’s a limit to the amount of times one can seek replay assistance and oft-times there’s an actual punishment should you ask for a replay and it doesn’t return with a result in your favour…so while it appears that the ultimate goal is to “get it right”, the fact that limitations exist suggests that they care only up to a point

      take the NFL for example, they don’t want a bunch of time being wasted with non-footballing activities so they put stringent rules in place regarding the amount of times one can go to replay…that said, they don’t want mistakes made at crucial moments, like the last 2 minutes of the half and game, so during those times the replay booth has carte blanche to review any play as they see fit…the reasoning behind this particular approach can be traced back to a playoff game between the Saints and the Rams when a blatant pass interference was missed on the field which cost the Saints a playoff victory…of course, the fact that they’ve gotten into bed with the gambling industry has likewise influenced such matters, as they don’t want to give the impression that any one official could intentionally impact the outcome during the most crucial of moments

      both the NBA and MLB have differing replay rules, the latter being more limiting, as they’re far more concerned about the length of their games, whereas in the NHL if you ask for a replay, of which you likewise have a limited amount, but the play in question isn’t overturned, you will be assessed a 2 minute minor penalty…all have their own origin stories which have intimately impacted their decisions in this regards…in the main, they’ve each tried to find a balance between an acceptable level of human error, so as to not totally undercut their respective officials or the natural flow of things, the importance they place on the “exactness” of how they measure each aspect of their respective sport, which is why the analytics-friendly era in baseball has them contemplating robot umpires behind the plate, and how much each viewing minute means to them from a purely dollar and cents perspective

      the problem for the PL is that they haven’t put the onus on the teams to go to replay, but instead left such matters up to the replay officials themselves…this might seem like a small matter, but it’s not, as it shifts all the focus/blame squarely on the officials…now if the relationship between the officiating classes, the teams and the respective fanbases had been a relatively healthy one, this might have been a far less arduous transition, but as we both know this was the probably the worst time for such an implementation

      the very fact that most of the PL officials are well-known to most everyone involved, more so than in most other sports, and each fanbase believes that there are particular officials who either favour or despise a team or two, invariably complicates matters, especially considering that the booth officials are former on-field officials…maybe they would have been in a much better place if they had outsourced the whole operation, but the refs would have undoubtedly resisted just such an attempt for fairly obvious reasons…now I do like that they’ve tried to focus on offisides leading to goals and red card confirmations, but the very fact that a deep distrust exists between the fan and the officials negates the underlying science of it all…personally I think the only sport who got things right is tennis, but it’s not like you never see players going apeshit in that sport…Cheers

      btw—sorry about the length


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