The Analyst: Christmas cards aplenty as referee Craig Pawson plays The Grinch

Christmas may be the season for giving, but its cards of the red and yellow variety that these Premier League referees like handing out on Boxing Day.

Not content with being one of the few leagues to forego a Christmas break, the Premier League actually ramps up the amount of games played over the festive period.

The Boxing Day fixtures have become a staple in the Premier League's calendar, but fresh from their Christmas celebrations, are referees more prone to being lenient the day after their festivities?

Well, in order to test that theory, Planet Sport takes a look at which referees have preferred yellow and red cards over the Christmas kind in recent years.

Who gives the most cards over Christmas?

Craig Pawson tops the list of referees for cards shown over Christmas

From the seven most active referees over the last five seasons, Craig Pawson stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to dishing out Christmas cards.

Having taken charge of 120 matches in the last five years, Pawson's 452 cards handed out gives him an average of 3.76 per game.

However, that number is dwarfed by the amount of cautions he's awarded in his post-Christmas clashes. His 31 in five matches means he averages 6.2 cards per game.

That's not good news for Newcastle and Manchester United players - Pawson takes charge of their match on December 27.

Following behind Pawson is Anthony Taylor, although even his 4.6 cards per game over Christmas looks measly in comparison.

Anthony Taylor, referee. Premier League

However, when his average of 3.52 over the regular season is taken into consideration, there's still a big increase when it comes to officiating during the holidays - he takes charge of Burnley vs Everton on Boxing Day.

In a similar fashion, both Jonathan Moss and Martin Atkinson also average more cards in Christmas clashes than they do throughout the rest of the season, with Moss rising from an average of 3.63 per game to 4.4, and Atkinson climbing from 3.2 per game to 3.6.

At the other end of the spectrum, Andre Marriner takes the title as the most merry official, boasting the lowest average of cards shown over Christmas with just two per game over the last five seasons.

That'll be music to the ears of Leicester and Liverpool players, who have Marriner officiating their game on December 28.

Michael Oliver and Mike Dean also see their averages drop for their Boxing Day appointments, although the latter still averages four per game.

Penalty pointers

Michael Oliver, Premier League, referee,

While Pawson takes the title of The Grinch when it comes to cards, fans of Liverpool and Leeds may be thankful COVID has postponed their fixture on December 26. Michael Oliver, who was due to take charge of the clash, has awarded four penalties in his last three Boxing Day clashes.

He pointed to the spot twice last season as Arsenal won 3-1 against Chelsea, with Lacazette scoring the first while Jorginho missed his chance to claw the Blues back into contention.

Given his Boxing Day card record, it's no surprise that Pawson follows closely behind Oliver in terms of penalties given. Both he and Martin Atkinson have awarded two spot-kicks over the past five seasons of Boxing Day fixtures.

Remarkably, Andre Marriner's season of good cheer continues - only he and Anthony Taylor have been penalty-free in their last five festive fixtures.

Red cards over Christmas cards

Mike Dean tops the list for red cards shown over Christmas games

In terms of which referee is most likely to brandish a Boxing Day red card, look no further than Mike Dean.

The 53-year-old is never far from controversy, and tops the list having awarded two red cards in his last five Christmas crackers.

While he hasn't been appointed as a referee for a Boxing Day fixture this year, Dean does take charge of VAR in Manchester City's clash with Leicester. Ironically, that's the exact same fixture where his last festive red card came - sending off Fabian Delph in the closing minutes of Leicester's 2-1 win back in 2018/19.

Only Martin Atkinson and Anthony Taylor join Mike Dean in having sent someone off on Boxing Day, but the duo have each only brandished one red card in the last five seasons.

Which means Andre Marriner completes the hat-trick of Boxing Day good deeds! The 50-year-old ranks lowest for cards given, has not pointed to the spot once over the last five seasons and has not sent a player off - be more like Marriner this Christmas.

READ MORE: 4-3, 4-4, 3-3, 6-1, 5-2: Remembering five classic Premier League Boxing Day matches

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