The award of penalties and alleged bias on the part of match officials has again been the subject of much debate this season – but who is really suffering in terms of spot-kicks?
“How are we to interpret the refereeing decisions that are going against us? … They haven’t given us a penalty yet and I don’t think that’s normal.”
Those were the words of Diego Milito after Inter’s 1-0 loss to Serie A rivals Lazio on Monday evening. Such conspiracy theories are nothing new in Italy, of course, but, as the Calciopoli scandal of 2006 underlined, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the referees are not doing right by you.
However, do the stats offer any kind of support for Milito’s claim? Well, Inter are in the unusual position of having reached the halfway point of the 2013-14 season without having received a single penalty. They are not alone in that regard, though, as Parma, Atalanta and Chievo have also yet to earn a single spot-kick.
Of course, one could claim that the smaller sides never get anything off referees, anyway, but Sassuolo are in the relegation zone and yet they’ve benefited from four penalties already this term – which puts them joint-sixth in the overall spot-kick standings.
It may come as a surprise to Roma captain Francesco Totti but that’s one more than leaders Juventus. Interestingly, it is fourth-placed Fiorentina and ninth-placed Genoa who top this particular table, with six penalties apiece.
That means that the Viola and the Rossoblu, on average, are awarded a spot-kick every three games. However, that’s not the best average in Europe’s ‘Big Five’ Leagues.
No, that honour/advantage belongs to a Bundesliga side. Bayern Munich? No. It’s lowly Hoffenheim. The 12th-placed team in Germany’s top flight have won seven penalties in just 17 games, one more than Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, and two more than the reigning champions.
The statistics in Spain are also somewhat surprising. There is an assumption that officials always favour Real Madrid and Barcelona, but it is Atletico who have racked up the most penalties after 18 rounds of action, though Diego Simeone’s men have only scored five of their seven spot-kicks. In fairness, both Madrid and Barcelona have received five apiece, but then, so too have Rayo Vallecano and Levante.
In France, though, it is leaders Paris Saint-Germain who top the penalty standings, with seven in 19 outings. Nearest rivals Monaco have received just three.
By complete contrast, Arsenal, who top the Premier League, have earned just two penalties this season. North London rivals Tottenham have four, though, one ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, who have been involved in plenty of simulation controversies of late.
However, spare a thought for Cardiff City, as they’re the only side in the English top flight yet to win a single spot-kick this season. Proof, surely, that money can’t buy you everything.