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October 2016
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Arsenal won the Fair Play League this season. I wonder why the media didn’t mention it.

By Tony Attwood

There is a preliminary question to answer here which is, “which fair play league?” because I have come up with three of them.  I know its a bit nerdy to go through all of them, but since no one else has, and since we have been publishing the fair play league tables in the match previews this year, I thought I really ought to pull it together.

I will start with those from the Transfer Market web site.  I can’t quite see how they do their points total but it looks like it is one point for a yellow, three for a second yellow and five for a straight red.

Arsenal are published as top of the list I guess because they committed fewer fouls than Leicester although doing the points totals in this manner, the clubs end up equal.

I have placed the top five clubs in the actual league table at the end of the season in bold, to highlight how fair play relates to league position.

One interesting factor is that the number of fouls doesn’t directly link to the position in the fair play table as Arsenal with 349 fouls came top and West Ham (State Aid Utd) with only a handful more came 18th.  Five straight reds didn’t help them however.   Aston Villa got just on twice as many yellows as Arsenal.

This table deals with league games only.


# Club Fouls  Yellow Y/R Red Points
1.160 25 34 1.405
1 349 38 2 2
2 407 45 3 0
3 353 53 0 1
4 308 41 3 2
5 400 61 0 0
6 381 60 0 1
7 420 58 3 0
8 462 59 1 1
9 464 64 1 0
10 401 62 2 0
11 424 50 1 3
12 441 72 0 0
13 408 60 1 2
14 409 56 2 3
15 425 54 3 3
16 386 65 0 3
17 407 58 1 4
18 379 57 0 5
19 449 73 1 2
20 417 74 1 2

Here’s the FA Version – which includes all games.  They do have a version for league matches only on their web site but it hasn’t been working for the past two weeks (which was when I first tried to put this article together).  I have been waiting since then, but have finally given up.  If you try the link at the start of this paragraph you might find it working now.

I am in each case publishing the table exactly as published by the originator – and in this case the FA put their dirtiest team at the top and the nice guys at the bottom for some reason.  All I have done once again is emboldened the top five in the actual league table.

# Team Games Cautions  Dismissals  Disciplinary Points
1 Watford 44 83 4 378
2 Aston Villa 44 83 3 364
3 West Bromwich Albion 45 79 3 350
4 Manchester United 47 78 2 332
5 Liverpool 48 75 3 330
6 Crystal Palace 47 74 2 318
7 Chelsea 44 64 6 316
8 Newcastle United 41 65 5 314
9 Norwich City 42 68 3 304
10 Tottenham Hotspur 43 76 0 304
11 West Ham United 45 67 6 302
12 Stoke City 46 64 5 300
13 Manchester City 47 74 0 296
14 Southampton 42 59 6 288
15 Sunderland AFC 41 66 2 284
16 Everton 49 54 6 280
17 Swansea City 41 65 1 260
18 Leicester City 43 57 3 258
19 AFC Bournemouth 44 60 1 250
20 Arsenal 45 51 4 234
  • Caution 4 pts
  • Denial of a goal scoring opportunity or dismissal for 2 cautions 10 pts
  • Violent conduct, serious foul play, spitting or offensive and abusive language 12 pts

Arsenal are once again top (or bottom) of the league, with Leicester and Bournemouth close at hand, but other teams have changed position dramatically – Man U in particular moving from being a mid-table team to one of the dirtiest.

Finally Footstats, whose wide array of statistics I have been using in recent articles – my particular thanks to them.  This is interesting as it has some extra details in terms of fouls and fouls per card.


Pos Team Played
Total Fouls
per Card
Yellow Red Pts Fouls
2 Arsenal 38 39 4 47.0 350 8.97
11 Everton 38 44 5 54.0 315 7.16
1 Leicester 38 48 3 54.0 405 8.44
9 Stoke 38 51 4 59.0 419 8.22
16 Bournemouth 38 52 1 54.0 362 6.96
7 West Ham 38 56 5 66.0 381 6.80
6 Southampton 38 57 6 69.0 416 7.30
18 Newcastle 38 58 5 68.0 414 7.14
10 Chelsea 38 58 6 70.0 408 7.03
15 Crystal Palace 38 60 1 62.0 465 7.75
4 Man City 38 61 0 61.0 409 6.70
8 Liverpool 38 61 3 67.0 422 6.92
19 Norwich 38 61 3 67.0 417 6.84
12 Swansea 38 62 1 64.0 392 6.32
17 Sunderland 38 62 2 66.0 396 6.39
14 West Brom 38 63 3 69.0 392 6.22
5 Man United 38 65 1 67.0 472 7.26
3 Tottenham 38 72 0 72.0 452 6.28
13 Watford 38 74 3 80.0 460 6.22
20 Aston Villa 38 75 3 81.0 431 5.75

This is the table that gives me pause for thought.  We started off with a table that shows the top five teams in the league in the top 12 teams for fair play.   But now we have a much bigger spread because this table is organised by yellow card order.

The points totalling system here is simple – one for a yellow, two for a red.  So by and large the position that a club has in the league depends on the number of yellows.

Fouls per card is interesting – ranging from 5.75 fouls per card up to 8.97 fouls per card – from Villa at the foot to Arsenal at the top.

Of course there are so many factors at play here, such as the severity of the foul, the leniency of the referee and of course where the foul takes place.   But the figures do show that Arsenal commits more fouls per card than any other team.  Although we might take it that some of our fouls are invented for the benefit of the referee, so they are used to break up promising moments, but can hardly be turned into cards.

Finally the same table as before but presented in the order of the number of fouls awarded again, starting with the dirtiest team, and ending up with the cleanest.


Position Team Played
Total Per Game Fouls
per Card
Yellow Red Pts Fouls Yellow Fouls
5 Man United 38 65 1 67.0 472 1.71 12.42 7.26
15 Crystal Palace 38 60 1 62.0 465 1.58 12.24 7.75
13 Watford 38 74 3 80.0 460 1.95 12.11 6.22
3 Tottenham 38 72 0 72.0 452 1.89 11.89 6.28
20 Aston Villa 38 75 3 81.0 431 1.97 11.34 5.75
8 Liverpool 38 61 3 67.0 422 1.61 11.11 6.92
9 Stoke 38 51 4 59.0 419 1.34 11.03 8.22
19 Norwich 38 61 3 67.0 417 1.61 10.97 6.84
6 Southampton 38 57 6 69.0 416 1.50 10.95 7.30
18 Newcastle 38 58 5 68.0 414 1.53 10.89 7.14
4 Man City 38 61 0 61.0 409 1.61 10.76 6.70
10 Chelsea 38 58 6 70.0 408 1.53 10.74 7.03
1 Leicester 38 48 3 54.0 405 1.26 10.66 8.44
17 Sunderland 38 62 2 66.0 396 1.63 10.42 6.39
12 Swansea 38 62 1 64.0 392 1.63 10.32 6.32
14 West Brom 38 63 3 69.0 392 1.66 10.32 6.22
7 West Ham 38 56 5 66.0 381 1.47 10.03 6.80
16 Bournemouth 38 52 1 54.0 362 1.37 9.53 6.96
2 Arsenal 38 39 4 47.0 350 1.03 9.21 8.97
11 Everton 38 44 5 54.0 315 1.16 8.29 7.16

Now we see the top five clubs spread out – as some (Man U and Tottenham) have clearly used the foul as part of their tactics to get them up the league, and Arsenal in particular have not.   Man U committed 122 more fouls noted by the referee than Arsenal during the course of the season.  That’s quite a lot.

So there we are – whichever way we look at it, Arsenal are the fair play winners.  Everton committed fewer fouls but had so many more cards that they slipped down the table.

Yes Arsenal are the Fair Play champions of 2015/16 – funny thing is I don’t recall this being mentioned in the press.  Or on TV.  Or on radio.  Or in the bloggettas.

Why is that?

Recent Posts

And on the Arsenal History site…

The full index to all the series is on Arsenal History Society Web Site 

22 comments to Arsenal won the Fair Play League this season. I wonder why the media didn’t mention it.

  • laos gooner

    We wouldn’t want the media stopping opposition fans singing same old Arsenal,always cheating now would we? Truth in the media is usually very hard to find. Besides this is fact and we only get repeated opinions which we are meant to believe when repeated often enough. Well done on being nerdy, I had only seen one table but can now confidently use factual comments when dealing with over inflated spuds, thanks

  • You spoil us, it’s nice to be vindicated, but I want retribution and compensation and a football league which is truely the greatest and attracts the maestros and lotharios and mercurial talents.

    I like how this supports the suggestion of teams acknowledging the obvious bias of referees and adapting their game to make better use of it.

    Interestingly enough it would seem Pulis (WBA), Stoke (Hughes), Sunderland (Big Sam) Bilic’s Hammers and a few others decided to play football this term,I liked it. My favoured team (Arsenal discounted)definately West Ham.

    I’d have loved Leicester a lot more if it wasn’t for the assistance ever since the 1st 3rd of the season presented them as candidates for top four. Kante, was as important as Vardy and Ryad. That back two were getting plaudits for being handsy and every MOTD after a leicester game, get Keown and Shearer out for a nice objective analysis on fouls.

    I know I could have said Spurs, but the rely on the whole team being 6ft and the game being a little scrappy while they try and create a passing passage that works. Chelsea found out just how much Jose’s player hype tactics works and just how unsustainable it is. United through away a good thing and replaced it with Mr 3 season wonder, rated but overated. LVG couldn’t have finished any higher and had the Foxes not turned up a 5000/1 the highest sporting odds recorded officially, we would be looking at at top four finish. You can’t play to win with half a team.

    Blind and Mata have come good but Jose doesn’t like them so it’s sell before you buy. Valencia and Young woudl be my first casualties, followed by Herrera and Bastian to MLS. Rojo also, they don’t suit the mandate.

    Pep is going to find it’s harder than he though and meanwhile we are first t strengthen, the future is Orange.

  • Gord

    Fouls per card is a screwy stat for me. The issuance of a card is on the basis of individual behavior, whereas the total cards is a measure of the group.

    What would be more useful, is how many fouls the person who was carded, had received up to the issuance of the card.

    Many cards are issued to correct behavior that can lead to injury, so let us have a ratio of cards to injuries. Other cards are related to stopping scoring chances, so let us have those cards to goals, shots at goal, or shots on target. Are there other categorizations?

  • Polo

    Why is that? It’s obvious because it’s Arsenal and it doesn’t fit in with the Arsenal bashing narrative. If Arsenal was at the opposite end of the tables the media would endlessly point to it until the end of next season.

  • Tom

    Being the “cleanest” team in the PL isn’t helping us at winning the title and personally, I wouldn’t mind to see Arsenal go back to being more like they used to be when Veira, Keown and Pires applied a fair dose of cynicism to their game.
    Fabregas was our last cynical player who did the little ” unsportsmanlike ” deeds , like time wasting or standing in front of the ball at opponents free kicks to make sure our wall was set up properly.

    Every title winning team in any league has to have some level of gamesmanship which includes strategic fouling and Arsenal could use more of it.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    That trophy will go nicely with the Charity Shield and the Golden Gloves ! And the second place finish .Fair play always . Whatever comes after that is an added bonus .
    Go Gunners !

  • Pat


    No we didn’t win. We were second.

    If we committed the same kind of fouls other teams get away with, we would be punished. There is evidence. Lots of people have said this many times on this site, so I don’t really know why you are coming back with this tired line.

  • Pat


    Just to add. Do you mean being top of the fair play league isn’t something to be proud of? And still managing to come second?

  • omgarsenal

    Tom…..imagine how the officials would relish battering us with cautions and red cards IF we followed your wishful, wistful ruminations about the good old days of ¨tough¨ AFC strategic fouling and gamesmanship!!! Wenger’s approach is to play Football, not Mourinhoball or Pulisball. You claim that we’d do ¨better¨ IF ONLY we’d hack our opponents down a little bit more and destroy them with things like rotational fouling, brutal tackles etc. is ridiculous.

    1) We came 2nd this season and are top of the fair play leagues….Leicester is right beside us and they won the EPL, does that not raise doubts about your theory?

    2) What the game needs is MORE teams playing Football, not Rugby… a retired referee, we love a skilled team that gets on with the game and hate gamesmanship, cynical fouling and timewasting….and I am certain Walter would concur.

    3) AFC have always been known as a Footballing team first and NEVER as hackers. Hacking,cheating and brutality are diametrically opposed to Arsenal’s fundamental philosophy so don’t hold your breath that it will change anytime soon. Tough football is fine but gamesmanship and brutality is anathema to the Arsenal and Wenger and LONG may it stay that way.

  • Matthew

    “AFC have always been known as a Footballing team first and NEVER as hackers. Hacking,cheating and brutality are diametrically opposed to Arsenal’s fundamental philosophy so don’t hold your breath that it will change anytime soon.”

    How far are you going back when you say “always”? Do you remember long balls, boring Arsenal, 1-0 to the Arsenal etc, etc? The way we went on at Chelsea’s boring title season in 14/15 was the same way people used to complain about us, especially when we won the double in 1971 and we were compared unfavourably with the Spurs team that did the double in 1961.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘None but the brave , none but the brave deserve the fair.’
    To be brave in the face adversity , honest by nature , gallant and chivalrous in demeanour should always be the steadfast hallmark of a true gentleman .
    The rest are just been born men .

  • Tom

    Omg , Pat
    I didn’t care when the media complained about Arsenal red cards when the club was winning the league( I was laughing about it actually ), and I don’t care about Arsenal being top of the fair play table now.

    Just because many people say something on here , it doesn’t make it gospel,Pat.

    However, let’s suppose what you say is true, and if Arsenal started fouling more cynically they would’ve been punished even more disproportionately than they have been thus far.Then maybe the club should do something about , don’t you think?

    After all, we are talking about one of the richest clubs in the World. A club that’s part of establishment and not some new comer from lower divisions.
    Show some fight against the PGMOL and use the evidence from Untold and other sites.

    Btw, Pat, how did Arsenal manage to win the league with the likes of Veira and his temper, or Keown and his in your face style of defending.

    Tell me with a straight face you didn’t enjoy Keown abuse Ruude Van Nestelrooy after his panalty miss.
    I loved it.

  • Ajay

    Being the fair play winner shows that we played football. But I agree with some of Tom’s views. We were not the Invincible simply because of pure football, rather because of some steel and no push overs like Viera who could get into others faces and rub some salt into their open wounds and still play football. My limited point is that players should first play football but should also know how to rub off the opposition with out having to break legs or play rugby. It’s a fine line I know but that is also an art.

  • insideright

    Giving away few fouls in the ‘wrong’ areas has led to us conceding fewer free kicks via which the opposition can bombard our penalty area – often obstructing our keeper in the process. Such changes can take time to work through into improved results but there appears to be some correlation with an improving final league position year by yea over the past three years. The fact that Granit has such a bad reputation re cards looks like it might be a move in the opposite direction but it will be interesting to see how Wenger uses him to win us the ball in midfield.

  • To have come 2nd in the EPL and finish up winning the Fair Play Trophy is one hell of an achievement considering the physical nature of the English league. I would rather see Arsenal play the way they do because if they got down and dirty like the rest do we would have players red carded every other match and are league position would be much longer and more than likely out of the top four. We play football the way it should be played and to do so when under the microscope of the likes of Dean and cohorts who are waiting for any little reason to screw you over is to be applauded. Watching Arsenal when playing in full flow is a beautiful thing to behold and I for one never what that to change, it’s why we are The Arsenal.

  • Matthew, I’m sorry to say I don’t understand your comment at all.

    You quote a statement about Arsenal never being a cheating or brutal team, and then talk about what I take to be the Graham era with its low scoring very tight defence. I lived through the Graham era and have written a fair amount about it on the Arsenal History Society website but I don’t recall them being called hackers, cheats, or brutals. Boring yes. But violent cheaters? No. The time Graham’s team got two points removed from the match at Man U was not violent. there was the usual pushing and shoving that games between the two engendered at that time, and the incident was something like 15 seconds long and involved pushing and shoving.

    So sorry, I really can’t see any connection between what you quote and what you conclude.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Matthew

    To follow up on what Tony and others say. I did not see the Graham teams as hackers but look what happened when we got into a brawl not one tenth as unedifying as the Chelski v Spuds game a short while ago. We got docked points while the other two just got a fine that wouldn’t even cover the cost of their Christmas party. That is what would happen again if we adopted your tactics.

    – In 1988 Paul Davis got a 9 match ban for punching Glenn Cockerill
    – In 1999 Vieira spat at Ruddock (a known thug) and got a 6 match ban and fined £45,000
    – In 2008 Martin Taylor got a 3 match ban for effectively ruining Eduardo’s career (even when FIFA called for an increased ban the FA refused)
    – In 2010 Shawcross got a 3 match ban and seemingly defended by the whole of football and the media for GBH on Ramsey’s leg.
    – Roy Keane is still revered throughout the footballing world and treated with respect despite admitting that he deliberately broke Haaland’s leg by stamping on it.
    – Henry is as close to the anti-Christ as possible in many circles because a ref didn’t give handball against him in a game against the Irish Republic (yet nobody mentions the dive for the penalty which won an earlier group game for the RoI).

    You see, that’s how things work.

  • Mick

    To name but a few!
    You could fill many a page with similar examples.

  • markyb

    The ‘Pires started and invented diving the low life Frenchie’ is another one

  • markyb

    Van Bronckhorsts second yellow from Durkin at Liverpool for failing to claim a penalty.

    Petit being second yellowed for a gallic gesture at a linesman by Steve Tolly Poly Dunn (Who incidentally failed to spot that Liverpool had two Goalkeepers in the 2001 Cup Final) Etc Etc

    Been going on years and years

  • Jambug

    Goonermikey & others


    Cant wait for the usual suspects to wriggle there way out of that one !!!

  • Jambug

    I see they haven’t even tried. Well there’s a surprise.

    Good work lads.