Analysing teams, players and tactics is not just a matter for managers and TV pundits. On Monday night, I watched Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Thierry Henry provide a terrific insight into the approach of Arsenal and Liverpool in Sky’s build up to the big game.
Referees have to be aware – or make themselves aware – of some of these nuances of football in their preparation for a game.
At PGMOL I used to impress on referees the need to arm themselves with knowledge of the players and the possible tactics that teams might use.
Pierluigi Collina, as the world’s top-performing referee in my time in office, practiced this in detail. For instance, he understood the likely impact that substitutions might have on the game when they took place.
This preparation has certainly been followed by top FIFA referees.
In the Premier League we have seen recent instances of referees invading the space of players and getting in the way. Michael Oliver was even hit by the ball at Arsenal on Monday evening.
Oliver is a very fine young referee and getting close to the action is vital, but reading the games – and the teams who play it – is also important.
I felt sorry for Michael that an impressive evening’s work was spoiled by a poor offside call from an assistant in ruling out a good goal.
In the main, however, (apart from some avoidable errors highlighted on Ref Cam and our Ref Show), I rated it a reasonably good weekend all round for PGMOL referees.