Sporting v Arsenal: tackles, fouls and cards – what Arsenal can expect


By Bulldog Drummond

This is the first time we have attempted to compare the stats of Arsenal with those of a team playing in another league.  And of course, this comparison comes with difficulties, but still, it is worth considering, in my view.  Figures as ever come from WhoScored.

So here is our regular tackles, fouls and yellow cards per game.  By way of introduction, because these are tables including a non-PL team, one check that we made at the start was the number of shots per game. This is an important base figure because it does not involve any interpretation – a shot is pretty much a shot.   And interestingly we found that Sporting’s total comes in at 8.0 shots per game, and Arsenal’s at 8.2 shots per game.

This is reassuring as it strongly suggests that we can do some comparison of the figures we regularly look at, between clubs from other countries.

The oddball figure in all this is yellow cards – so much so that in the column “Yellows” I have included the number of yellow cards followed by the number of games.   Sporting have got 68 yellows in 23 games – that is running at just on twice the level cards for Arsenal as the final column shows.

Now of course we don’t know what sort of referee we are getting for this game, but I am hoping the Arsenal forwards and mid-field are ready for some very robust treatment from the opposition defence.  


Team Tackles pg Fouls pg Yellows / GaMes Yellow PG
Sporting CP 17.3 13.3 68 / 23 2.96
Arsenal 14.5 9.5 39 / 26 1.5


So when we come to the comparisons we see that Sporting can put in far fewer tackles than Arsenal before getting a yellow card against them, and they have to commit fewer fouls before the yellow card comes out.


Team Tackles / Foul Tackles / yellow Fouls / Yellow
Sporting CP 1.30 5.84 4.49
Arsenal 1.52 9.67 6.33


What we should note is that although Sporting are getting twice the number of yellow cards as Arsenal, they are by no means top of the yellow card league in Portugal.  Vitoria de Guimaraes for example is on 77 yellows in 23 games.- a rate of 3.35 per game!

The difference here is amazing and before we go on it is worth considering the Portuguese top league in a little more detail when it comes to yellow and red cards.  By way of comparison, we might note that in the Premier League the range of yellow cards is between 31 (Brighton and Manchester City) and 64 (Fulham) while red cards range between 0 (eight clubs) and 4 (Wolverhampton Wanderers).


Team Yellow Red Possession%
1. Vitoria de Guimaraes 77 6 48.8
2. Santa Clara 72 6 42.4
3. Vizela 72 5 42.4
4. Chaves 69 5 46.0
5. Boavista 68 5 47.0
6. Sporting CP 68 2 62.5
7. Portimonense 68 2 49.2
8. Pacos de Ferreira 67 7 47.6
9. Casa Pia AC 66 4 42.1
10. Maritimo 65 6 48.5
11. Rio Ave 64 3 47.0
12. Arouca 63 4 47.5
13. Famalicao 58 4 47.3
14. Estoril 58 4 49.3
15. Gil Vicente 57 3 52.6
16. Braga 53 6 54.1
17. FC Porto 45 4 57.5
18. Benfica 39 3 66.0


So the question is, are players in the Portuguese league a bunch of hearty roughs, or are the referees in Portugal more card happy than those in the Premier League?   Sadly I can’t tell you, but watching this game might help us decide.

We might also note in passing that Arsenal have scored more goals than any club in Portugal, and although their shots per game is lower than Benfica (the top club) it is above the clubs in second, third and fourth position.

In terms of possession, Sporting has 62.5% while Arsenal have 60.6% but this probably reflects the fact that outside the top clubs in Portugal, possession rates decline fairly quickly so it would appear that for many of the games the top three clubs are having it fairly easy.

Arsenal just have to be careful to avoid getting upset about some of the tackling that will go on – and in this regard the multi-national nature of the team might well help.   Xhaka will be able to repay in kind while Saka knows exactly what it is like to be kicked to pieces.  But that is how a lot of European games go.

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