Arsenal v Palace: this ref doesn’t see the fouls that others see, which benefits Palace



By Bulldog Drummond

  • Referee: Stuart Attwell.
  • Assistants: Lee Betts, James Mainwaring.
  • Fourth official: Andy Madley.
  • VAR: Darren England.
  • Assistant VARSian Massey-Ellis.

Stuart Atwell is right at the foot of the table for seeing fouls per game…


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles Yel pg
5.Craig Pawson 17 23.94 0.69 4.06
6.Peter Bankes 14 23.93 0.69 4.21
20.Stuart Attwell 18 19.28 0.58 3.56


And the same is true for fouls per tackle


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles Yel pg
4.Darren England 12 21.58 0.71 3.67
5.David Coote 14 23.07 0.69 3.50
17.Stuart Attwell 18 19.28 0.58 3.56
19.Anthony Taylor 20 20.25 0.56 3.55


In terms of yellow cards per game he is mid-table


Referee Games Fouls pg Fouls/Tackles Yel pg
3.John Brooks 11 21.91 0.66 4.55
12.Stuart Attwell 18 19.28 0.58 3.56
17.Simon Hooper 19 19.89 0.56 3.26
18.Jarred Gillett 12 17.17 0.53 3.17
19.Michael Oliver 21 21.43 0.60 3.14


So comparing the referee and the clubs we get this


Club/Ref Tackles Fouls Yellows
Arsenal 14.7 9.5 1.48
Crystal Palace 18.7 12.1 2.30
Stuart Atwell 33.24 19.28 3.56
Atwell per team* 16.62 9.64 1.78


* The Atwell per team figure takes the figure per game and divides by two, thus assuming that each of the two teams in each match are on average behaving the same in terms of tackles, fouls and yellow cards.  It’s not a perfect set of data because obviously, no two teams do behave the same, but it gives a rough indication of how the referee behaves, and we don’t have any further data to give a figure per club analysis.

Arsenal are the second-lowest-tackling team in the league – only Manchester City does it less.  Palace are the fifth highest tackling team.  That is Arteta’s achievement, having found highest as the highest carded club in the league when he arrived.  The tackling was reduced to reduce the fouling and the fouling was reduced to get rid of the cards which had hit over 80 per season.

As a result Arsenal are now the third-lowest-fouling team in the league.  Palace are the second highest – only Leeds are worse.

In terms of yellow cards Arsenal are the seventh lowest club which shows that in relation to fouls and tackles Arsenal are being penalised far more heavily than other clubs – which of course was another reason why Arteta introduced the “don’t tackle” approach as soon in his first full season at the club.

Crystal Palace are the second-highest recipients of yellow cards in the league having a total of 62 compared to Arsenal’s 40.   Palace are also second only to Chelsea for players being sent off this season, having seen three red cards (Chelsea have four).  Arsenal are one of eight clubs without a red this season.

The really spooky figure in this regard is Everton who have the second-highest number of yellow cards in the league (over half as many again as Arsenal) and yet have not one red card.  I imagine every club has reps watching Everton to see how they do that.

And so we move on to the comparative figures


Club/Ref Tackles /foul Tackles / yellow  Fouls / yellow
Arsenal 1.54 9.93 6.42
Crystal Palace 1.55 8.13 5.26
Atwell per team* 1.72 9.64 5.58


What the figures show is that Arsenal and Palace are treated much the same in terms of the number of tackles before a foul is given, but Arsenal are able to get away with more tackles than Palace before a yellow is given.  Therefore Arsenal can foul more before a yellow is waved.

Referee Atwell generally allows more tackles before calling a foul than either Arsenal or Palace are accustomed to, and although the difference looks small it is actually 12% more than either club is used to.   However, Atwell allows fewer tackles on average before a yellow card is waved, and fewer than Arsenal normally get.

Pulling all that together Atwell gives out yellow cards for fouls more readily than Arsenal normally get – but of course this is Atwell’s average, and Arsenal are an below average team in terms of tackles, fouls and yellow cards.

  • From top to bottom in terms of numbers Arsenal are 14th in the yellow card table; Palace are 3rd.
  • Palace are fourth in the tackling tables, Arsenal are 19th
  • Palace are second in the fouling table, Arsenal are 18th.

So pulling this together Palace are likely to be much more the focus of the referee’s attention than Arsenal.  Unless their interim manager has told them to stop trying to tackle like Vieira did at Arsenal.

And one other funny bit of evidence from this area of the game: Fulham need just two more yellow cards to have achieved double the number of cards that Brighton have received this season (64 to 33).  Arsenal as we have seen are on 40.

Next up we’ll have a look at the referee in terms of his home/away bias.





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