I may be nuts but I’m not crazy:
Crying foul – the league table that will amaze all Arsenal fans
By Proud Kev
Whenever we mention referees, there are certain people who roll their eyes and believe we are all conspiracy nut jobs. For what it is worth I may be nuts but I do not easily buy into conspiracy theories.
So putting conspiracies to one side, I thought I would research the subject regarding fouls and look at the actual statistics. Once I had the statistics available and added them to my own held views, I wanted to produce some evidence based opinion.
Question: Is there a ‘type’ of team that commits the most fouls?
I had always assumed the answer to this was yes.
What never fails to surprise me is the number of obvious fouls that get ignored, despite the referee standing in a perfect position. Every team will be affected by this and by applying the rules of averages you would expect this to even out. However, I have always believed that the English approach to the game favours the physical teams. We know that compared to the continental referees, our officials allow a more robust game but was this application of the rules being carried out consistently?
I assumed that possession based teams with their more technical players and with more of the ball would attract more fouls. Conversely, I expected the teams that have less of the ball would commit more fouls, as they are working harder to recover the ball and need to find parity. For example, the tactic of rotational fouling.
At this point, it is also useful to remind ourselves of Paul Scholes and the Neville Brothers recent comments, in which they advocated the ‘smashing’ of skilful players. Comments that reinforce the British values of the game we invented.
Adding all these things together led me to an assumption based hypothesis. However, when I collected the information and compiled my league tables, I realised two and two doesn’t always make four.
How good are you at predictions?
Let’s play a little game and see how well you can predict the answers to the following questions. Be honest and see how accurate your predictions are. Can you:
- Name the 5 PL teams with the highest combined possession/pass completion stats
- Name the PL team with the lowest combined possession/completion stats
- Name the 5 PL teams who commit the most fouls
- Name the 5 PL teams who are fouled the most
- Name the Premier League team which benefits the least from the referees ‘foul’ decisions.
You may find it useful to consider these factors:
Possession and pass completion
A possession based team naturally has more of the ball. On that basis alone, you would expect the team with the highest possession stats to receive the most tackles. When you add pass completion stats, the same principal applies. Likewise, teams with the lowest possession and pass completion stats see less of the ball and therefore may need to make more tackles. An alternative view may be that the reason the team has so much of the ball is because they tackle more.
We know that it is an accepted tactic to kick better players. English football embraces a physical game, with our referees offering an alternative rule book to our continental cousins. This has been proved with evidence provided previously. So it would be logical to accept that teams containing more skilful players will be more likely to attract fouls. Wouldn’t it?
Now let’s apply some weighting:
Interpretation of the rules
I wondered why so many obvious fouls are not being awarded to Arsenal. Would this have a factor on the results?
The foul on Ozil in the Swansea game was in front of the referee but he waved play on. The way Costa was allowed to manhandle and barge Koscielny in front of Mike Dean without penalty (he received a retrospective ban). Jack being put into hospital by a late McNair tackle, again in front of Dean, with the referee awarding nothing more than a goal kick. Could these errors of misjudgement affect the results?
So before we reach any conclusions, here are the possession and pass completions stats.
T1: POSSESSION STATS
This table shows the current possession stats of all teams in the Premier League. What you may find surprising is that the current league leaders have the third lowest possession of the ball:
On their own these are interesting numbers. So let’s now look at the current pass completion stats:
T2: PASS COMPLETION STATS
Arsenal and Man City are top of both possession and pass completion stats, which may not be much of a surprise. Both teams are the only ones that appear in the top 5 of both possession and pass completion. So they have the ball more and retain the ball than anyone else.
Leicester are at the bottom of the pass completion table and also appear third bottom on possession. The current league leaders not only don’t seem to have much of the ball, they also appear unable to pass it accurately to a team mate.
So logic would suggest that fouls committed and fouls received would show a direct correlation to whether or not a team has much of the ball or the type of game they play.
In order to establish this, I looked at the number of fouls teams being awarded to each team and the number of fouls each team is committing.
FOULS BY TEAM
I have collected data that shows the number of fouls being awarded by match referees. This data has been used to formulate three league tables. The first shows the top 5 teams that have been awarded the most fouls. The second table shows the top 5 teams committing the most fouls. The final league table combines the data from both and produces a top 5 based on who benefits the least from the referees assessment of what constitutes a foul.
T3: FOULS AWARDED
|Pos||Team||Games Played||Fouls awarded|
So Arsenal players receive the second fewest fouls. Leicester, a team bottom of the combined possession/pass completion stats have been awarded 50 more fouls than Arsenal. Spurs are the most sinned against team, having received exactly 100 more fouls than Arsenal. These are not small margins.
Based on these stats, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Aston Villa are all fouled more than us. The stats suggest that 18 Premier League teams are fouled more than our players.
Who are the teams making the most fouls:
T4: FOULS COMMITTED
|Pos||Team||Games Played||Fouls Committed|
Again the numbers are surprising. Arsenal, despite having more of the ball and spending less time chasing it have the third highest number of fouls awarded against them. Leicester, who are bottom of the league on possession and pass completion and therefore spend more time tackling, have committed the third lowest number of fouls.
This is getting interesting. So what happens when you combine fouls committed with fouls received?
T5: COMBINED FOULS AWARDED and FOULS COMMITTED
This is the current league standings based on the difference between fouls committed and fouls awarded. This is one table you do not want to be top of:
|Pos||Team||Played||Fouls Awarded||Fouls Committed||Rating|
So Arsenal are top of the league at last. Unfortunately, this is one league table you do not want to be top of. The team who benefit the LEAST from FOUL PLAY is ARSENAL .
The negative rating of -88 is huge in a game of small margins.
Manchester City, a similar team to Arsenal in the way they play the game, are sitting midway with fouls committed and fouls awarded almost equal. A rating of -8 is what you would expect.
Meanwhile, the teams in the top 2 places in the Premier League have positive totals. Spurs in particular have benefited from our referees generosity, in fact by more than 135 fouls when compared to Arsenal. This is a huge difference that may or may not translate into points but should raise a few eyebrows.
So what does this all mean?
Based on the evidence collected we can say a few things based on the data:
- Arsenal have the highest possession stats
- Arsenal have the highest pass completion stats
- Spurs have the third highest possession stats
- Leicester have the lowest combined pass completion & possession stats
- Arsenal players commit the third highest number of fouls
- Arsenal players receive the second fewest number of fouls
- Leicester players commit the third fewest fouls
- Spurs players are the most fouled
- Arsenal are the team that benefits the least from foul decisions
I had successfully predicted the top 2 teams based on possession. I had no idea Leicester would have the lowest possession and pass completion stats that was a surprise considering their league position.
However, the biggest shock was seeing Arsenal at the top of the league table based on foul decisions. I had no idea we received the second fewest number of fouls because that did not translate into what I have seen. Likewise, do we really commit the third highest number of fouls, more than 17 other Premier League teams?
Whatever way you look at the numbers, they don’t seem to add up. I believe the above provides further evidence that Arsenal players are treated different from other clubs.
We have the situation where the rules of the game here are interpreted different to on the continent; a situation that encourages robust, physical challenges with less protection to technical players. We know ex-players who provide our punditry encourage physical challenges and sneer at possession football.
We know that Ozil being grabbed around the neck and pulled backwards was deemed by the referee and Danny Murphy as a fair tackle. We also know that when Paddy McNair put Jack Wilshere into hospital with a reckless tackle, Mike Dean thought it wasn’t even a foul. The same referee thought Costa grabbing Koscielny’s face and barging him to the ground was acceptable. We know the head of PGMO, Mike Riley, ignored the rules of the game in the 50th game and allowed Manchester United to kick lumps out of Reyes and Ashley Cole. We also know what happened to Eduardo, Diaby and Ramsey.
Yet Arsenal have been awarded the second fewest number of fouls so far this season. Less than Stoke, WBA, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Leicester etc. Are we really expected to believe this?
Whatever way you look at it, none of this makes any sense unless you reach the obvious conclusion. Referees are somehow being more lenient towards fouls made on our players by the opposition, and less tolerant towards challenges we make.
Now you may want to call me nuts but I really don’t think I am the crazy one.
This article is exactly what Untold Arsenal was set up to publish: original research which makes new and previously untold revealtions, and I’m really pleased that Proud Kev chose Untold as the medium through which it would be revealed.
If you feel all this work is worthwhile, could you please do one thing to help? If you have a Facebook account go onto Untold Arsenal on Facebook and Like and Share this story. I do hope you have a moment to do that.