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October 2016
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When it comes to the chances of getting a card for a foul, it certainly doesn’t even out in the end.



By Goonermikey

Following on from the superb special ref review of the Chelski v Spuds game by Usama and Walter, I was prompted to have a basic look at how different teams and players might get treated.

Now before I start, let’s be clear….yet again…..



Nonetheless, I do suggest … previously…….if you look in enough places and there are enough things pointing in the same direction, there is perhaps more than a 50/50 chance that you’re on to something.

So today following on from the review mentioned above, I took a cursory look at the teams which had committed the most fouls this season to see how the Spuds fitted in and not unexpectedly, we found them in close contention for the most fouls committed this season.  The Spuds had committed some 436 (third highest), just 19 behind the leaders Man U with a rather unhealthy 455 (I’ll come back to them).

When looking at yellow cards the Spuds also sat in second place with some 70 – fair enough one might say.  Yet I was fascinated to learn that they were only one of two clubs not to have picked up a red card all season.  (NB unless I say otherwise, a red card includes one produced for a second yellow or a straight red).

Now that just seemed a little odd to me.

The average number of fouls committed is 391.6 and the Spuds commit way above average but no red cards.  So I compared this with the two ‘cleanest’ teams in the league; that’s Everton with only 294 fouls (over 140 less than the Spuds) and Arsenal with 335 fouls (over 100 less).  By comparison, to the Spuds lack of reds, these two received five and four red cards respectively.  Hmm……

Now bearing in mind there have been 58 red cards handed out so far this season it seems strange that over 15% of those would go to the two teams which commit the fewest fouls.

Strangerer and strangerer when Spurs and Man U (I said I’d come back to them), as two of the worst three teams in the Premiership (the other is Palace), have received the grand total of just one red (Man U got a second yellow once – someone must have used a machete!).

So, that is to say, two teams responsible for 11.5% of the total fouls committed in the EPL this season have received just 1.7% of the red cards.  Hmmmm……….

Now there’s obviously an argument that perhaps the Man U and Spud fouls are all minor infringements while Arsenal’s, for example, are more aggressive and pushing the disciplinary boundaries, hence the differential.  So I looked at that too and what I found was the following:

Fouls committed % of total fouls in EPL Yellow cards % of total yellows red cards % of total reds
Arsenal 335 4.3% 38 3.4% 4 6.9%
Spuds 436 5.6% 70 5.6% 0 0%
Man U 455 5.8% 63 5.6% 1 1.7%

Arsenal commits 4.3% of the total fouls and receives 3.4% of the total yellows (which might actually suggest the average severity is less than most teams) yet still we receive a disproportionately high number of red cards.

Meanwhile, as we can see, both the Spuds and Man U receive yellows almost directly in line with the number of fouls they commit but even combined they have received between them just a quarter of the number of reds Arsenal have received. Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….ok I’ll stop that now!

So where does this take us?

Well, if we have a quick look at the Fair Play League quite rightly Arsenal is at the top of that league despite the disproportionate number of red cards.  (Everton slip down to fifth because of the number of cards they’ve received.)

What is completely ridiculous is when we look at Man U.

Don’t forget, Man U has committed the highest number of fouls in the premiership.  This is over 16% more than average and some 55% more than the team committing the fewest fouls (Everton).  Yet they are actually in the top half of the fair play league by virtue of the disproportionately low number of cards they receive.  Anybody would think Riley was a Man U fan………..

So that all even’s out in the end…………………………………


It’s also interesting when you look at the individuals who commit the most fouls but not quite in the same way.  I have to admit this takes a lot more time to gather data on, so I haven’t gone into this in too much detail (maybe some other time).

However, I did have a quick look (virtue of at the top six with the highest fouls-per-game ratio.  NB this is based upon players who have made at least the average number of EPL appearances – this is how the website records it btw not a contrivance on my part.

Anyway, what I found for starters was that not one of those players had a red card to their name but that wasn’t too surprising really when we find that half of the six played for Man U and the Spuds.  What we did find, however, was that yet again, despite being some of the worst offenders in the league Man U players particularly were being cut considerable slack (just like on that famous day when we should have reached 50 unbeaten………who was the ref that day?!!!)

The table speaks for itself really.

Player Team fouls per game yellows mins played fouls fouls per yellow
Lamela Spuds 2.0 8 2295 66 8.3
Gueye Villa 1.9 10 2986 65 6.5
Yacob WBA 1.8 8 2764 60 7.5
Felllani Man U 1.8 2 1070 32 16.0
Lucas Liverpool 1.8 8 1863 47 5.9
Schneiderlein Man U 1.8 3 2205 52 17.3

Just for comparison I looked at six of our ‘worst’ offenders all of whom commit around half the fouls of those six above.  Just to see what we might find.

Well blow me down, every one of them picks up cards more often than the Man U players and two of them actually pick up cards more often than any of the six worst offenders in the league shown above.  Hmmmm…………whoops sorry!

Fouls per game yellows mins played fouls fouls per card
Flamini Arsenal 1.1 3 1089 18 6.0
Coq Arsenal 0.9 7 1557 23 3.3
Koscielny Arsenal 0.9 3 2757 29 9.7
Elneny Arsenal 0.9 3 773 9 3.

(NB.  The Coq has received 5 yellows and a red, which I have counted as 7 yellows)

What’s amazing is that whilst at 0.9 fouls per game Mo and Coq are two of several players with the equal 107th worst record for fouls per game in the premiership yet seemingly pick up a card for just drawing breath!  Unbelievable really.

So once again, I reiterate that none of the above is conclusive but yet again it all seems to point in a certain direction.

I hope it frustrates you lot as much as it did me when I discovered it all……….

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17 comments to When it comes to the chances of getting a card for a foul, it certainly doesn’t even out in the end.

  • Ash

    You’re totally disregarding the fact that individual challenges could be horror tackles where as the spuds and united’s yellows may have been professional fouls. Also both these teams make tactical substitutions. You can’t get sent off if you get taken off the pitch. Where as we tend to leave it until 70 mins to make a change.

  • Mick

    Horror tackles?
    What you mean like the ones Dier has been getting away with of which there were two or three in the Spurs/Chelsea match last week.
    Or Fellaini who likes to throw his elbows into opponents faces.

  • Col

    I think certain teams quite cynically rotate the players picking up yellows within the game to avoid red cards, but allow them to bully the opposition. Arsenal probably don’t play this game and end up being punished with more red cards. If you have a large enough squad, suspensions for yellows are not much of an issue.

  • Rich


    Wouldn’t say he’s disregarding that at all. It’s left completely open for anyone to interpret it as they wish.

    There is, pretty much, only one possible interpretation ,however, if you want to believe those stats are healthy and normal- i.e the refs have done their job to a reasonable standard overall: though we foul a lot less than other teams, our fouls tend to be more serious offences; and through judgement or luck Utd and Spurs have avoided fouls worthy of straight reds and avoided committing offences worthy of double yellows in a game.

    In the same vein, you’d have to believe whereas Fellaini, Lamela and Schniederlin commit many more fouls than Coq and Elneny, they tend to be less serious offences and the former group are experts at knowing what type of fouls to make and how many to avoid earning bookings or double yellows; whereas Coq and Elneny have no skill or judgement in this department.

    That’s the only case to be made for anyone who wants to say the stats are not weird and instead correctly represent what occurred on the pitch, i.e the refs did their job fair and competently.

    Does that tally with your experiences watching these players? Does Fellaini for instance seem to exercise excellent control over his fouls and never commit a lot of them in the same game, or make fouls worthy of yellows and reds? Does Lamela become a clean player once booked? And do Coquelin and Elneny tend to commit more serious fouls?

    I’m pretty sure the same pattern has been in operation for many years now, with us committing far less fouls than most yet picking up more bookings than you’d expect for those fouls. It is a curious picture. A generally clean team, who aren’t able to draw from that the great practical benefit of playing cleanly- avoiding sendings off and suspension; or yellows to our defensive midfielders which make them have to be careful.

    Were there not probably a few hundred players who committed fouls as or more worthy of two yellows as Coq’s against Palace, none of which got a fraction of the attention?

    We are…inept foulers, next to the experts of Spurs and Utd; or we are not as intelligent as them; we dont get the benefits from excessive fouling in terms of disrupting the opposition, yet we get the sort of punishment excessive cynical fouling deserves. We are bad at fouling, in short. Or we are just extremely unlucky, this year as last year. It’s a pretty safe bet we’ll be unlucky again next year. It shouldn’t be possible to predict that, but it is.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Here is a listing of all the fouls (taken from our Referee Review) from the Arsenal v Man United game at the Emirates this year, A long list I’m afraid.
    Min 1 Darmian on Theo – called correctly
    Min 4 fSchweinsteiger on Gabriel should have been yellow card and penalty – neither giver
    Min 8 Ramsey on Young – correctly called
    Min 22 Young on Ramsey – correctly called foul and yellow card
    Min 26 Sanchez on Darmian – correctly called
    Min 29 Darmian on Sanchez – correctly called and yellow card
    Min 32 Schweinsteiger on Cazorla – not given
    Min 32 Monreal on Martial – not given
    Min 32 Ramsey on Depay – correctly called
    Min 34 Schweinsteiger on Cech – advantage correctly given to Arsenal
    Min 35 Schweinsteiger on Coquelin – advantage correctly given to Arsenal
    Min 42 Ramsey on Young – correctly called
    Min45 Cazorla on Rooney – correctly called
    Min 45+1 Schweinsteiger on Walcott – foul correctly called but this was his fifth foul of the game which (in our opinion) should have earned a yellow card which was not given. In fact this should have been his second yellow card of the game and he should have been sent off.
    Min 45+2 Schweinsteiger again – foul correctly given by now definitely second yellow card
    Min 46 Cazorla on Fellaini – correctly given
    Min 51 Smalling on Theo – not given
    Min 51 Coquelin on Rooney – correctly called with yellow card (breaking up promising attack)
    Min 52 Carrick on Ramsey – foul correctly given but no yellow card despite this also breaking up a promising attack
    Min 55 – Rooney on Ozil – correctly given with yellow card breaking up counter attack
    Min 57 Blind on Theo – correctly called
    Min 58 Fellaini on Bellerin – advantage to Arsenal correctly played
    Min 59 Martial on Sanchez – correctly called
    Min 60 Fellaini on Coquelin – correctly called
    Min 62 Fellaini for deliberate handball enabling Rooney to shoot on goal – neither foul or yellow card given
    Min 63 Young on Bellerin – correctly called
    Min 64 Ozil on Blind – correctly called
    Min 64 Carrick on Cazorla – correctly called
    Min 69 Smalling on Cazorla – correctly called
    Min 72 Fellaini on Coquelin – Advantage to Arsenal correctly played
    Min 73 Fellaini on Sachhez – foul correctly given but the referee didn’t issue a yellow card for Fellaini’s fourth foul of the game. In fact this should have been his second yellow card and he should have been sent off,
    Min 76 Valencia for foul on Ramsey – correctly called
    Min 81 Msrtial on Monreal – correctly called
    Min 90 Fellaini on Bellerin – foul correctly called but still no yellow card or sending off

  • Menace

    You make the mistake of not understanding the leverage of the PGMO foul system. An Arsenal foul has a cannon with it, where as a Spuds foul has a chicken. The Arsenal foul is heavier & the Spuds fowl is not in the Laws. 😉

  • Leon

    I can’t remember the last time we had a dirty player at Arsenal. Of the current squad only Flamini sticks out as someone who could be reckless & was “a red card waiting to happen”, and Arteta knew when to foul and “take one for the team”, but a true mean fucker has not played at Arsenal since I don’t know when. Peter Storey probably.
    I would guess that the only opposition player injured by one of ours this season was Phil Jagielka [early in the season], when he was kicked by Ox Chamberlain.

  • Florian


    The chicken always plays the ball 😀 Oh wait, he actually sits on it doing nothing.

  • Menace that was extremely droll. You sure Blacksheep didn’t write it?

  • Pete

    Leon – Vieira and Bergkamp both had a nasty streak if provoked. Bould and Keown certainly knew how to let a striker “know they were there” but weren’t really thuggish.

    Today, Coquelin and Wilshere can occasionally be reckless but, think you’re right, no one really dirty or nasty. Oh and Gallas did a bad foul a few years ago (which he got away with).

  • Leon


    Yeah, It’s died out, and now replaced by rotational & professional fouling.

  • finsbury

    pgMOB Rules Football. Ok?

    It’s football (closer to Rugby in fact but with less protection for certain clubs) Jim but not (association football) as we know it.

  • Gord

    I don’t suppose you have green blood Finsbury?

    Never a topic too pon farr.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Ash

    Several people have already pointed out the flaw in your argument but just for clarity, I haven’t totally disregarded the fact that there could be a difference in the severity of the fouls.

    If you read the whole article you will actually see that I said, “Now there’s obviously an argument that perhaps the Man U and Spud fouls are all minor infringements while Arsenal’s, for example, are more aggressive and pushing the disciplinary boundaries, hence the differential. So I looked at that too………”

    It always helps to read an article and fully digest the contents before leaping in with a premeditated theory of your own which you neither wish to substantiate nor see in the context of the article

    In any event, I have learnt quite quickly to preface an article (as I did here) with a phrase akin to, “I DO NOT PUT THIS ARTICLE FORWARD AS IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE OF ANYTHING,”……….….just so someone doesn’t think I’m putting it forward as irrefutable evidence!!!! It is evidence nonetheless; not just an opinion.

  • ob1977

    Great article and the points to me speak for themselves, especially when you put this together with the suspicious lack of penalties this season, in fact the very suspicious swing of penalties for and against since the 08 season when compared to other “top 4” teams, this in turn coinciding with the appointment of the “50th game” ref after his performance in that game, and Utds cards/pens ratios, to run referees.

    If after all that you dont come to the same conclusion that at the very least there is something a little suspicious (and quite probablly something blatant) going on, and should be analysed further by someone, anyone in a position of power, and if not why not, then you will never accept what is in front of your eyes, and the PGMOL/FA/PL/FIFA/UEFA may as well have carte blanche to carry on printing money as they have been…

    I support Arsenal, I love Arsenal, I have though unfortunately grown to hate football…

  • ob1977

    I should have added that I also love Untold Arsenal, and thank you for all your hard work and insights into the game that otherwise without you would have just been going around my head slowly driving me insane…