Arsenal / Chelsea Tackles, fouls, cards and why Chelsea are perhaps a little boring




By Bulldog Drummond

For some years we have been looking at the variance between the way referees handle different clubs in regard to the relationship between tackles, fouls and yellow cards.

However this season, because of the vast increase in the number of yellow cards given out for non-tackling offences the relationship between fouls and yellows has become harder to measure.  For a short while, one of the sources of data that we regularly use did oblige us with a list of yellow cards that were for tackling offences – but for the moment that seems to have gone.  We hope it returns soon!

If you are of a suspicious mind you might imagine that the PGMO asked for that data not to be reported, but of course we could not possibly comment.  (Well, actually we could, but to continue)…

We are still publishing the yellow card data however, and here’s the data drawn as usual from figures within WhoScored.  


Team Tackles pg Fouls pg Tackles per foul Yellows
Liverpool 17.3 12.4 1.40 15
Everton 20.3 11.6 1.75 13
Tottenham 20.0 11.5 1.74 27
Chelsea 16.6 11 1.51 26
Arsenal 17.4 9.5 1.83 12
Manchester City 14.1 8.8 1.60 15


So what do we know?

Tackles: Everton at 20.3 tackles per game are the top tackling team in the league while Manchester City are the lowest tackling team: Everton are putting in 44% more tackles than Manchester City.  If this continues by the end of the season Everton will have put in 771 tackles while Manchester City will have delivered around 235 fewer!!

Tottenham as we can see are the other high-tackling team.  But Everton have only had 13 yellows while Tottenham have had 27!  We can imagine from this that a) some of the Tottenham tackles are pretty wild, and b) Tottenham are picking up yellows for time-wasting, kicking the ball away, not retreating for a free kick, saying something naughty to the referee, and goodness knows what else.

Fouls: Manchester City are again the lowest team in this group.  Wolverhampton at the other end of the table are out on their own with 14.3 fouls per game – they are running at over 62% more fouls per game than Manchester City.

Tackles per foul.   And this is where it gets interesting for when we look at tackles per foul we see something else.  Arsenal can put in 1.83 tackles before giving away a foul.  With Liverpool at the other extreme, it is 1.40.  Which suggests either all the refs are biased against Liverpool and in favour of Arsenal (stop laughing), or Arsenal are 31% better at tackling than Liverpool (which is of course the project Arteta started when he first joined the club as manager: cutting the yellow cards by half, by cutting the rate of tackling).

Last season Arsenal were putting in 1.52 tackles per foul, which means that the change of personnel and the change in the tactics have together allowed Arsenal to use tackles more effectively.   Last season Liverpool were on 1.44 tackles per foul.   So Liverpool’s ability to tackle without fouling has declined slightly, while Arsenal’s has increased considerably.

Yellow cards.  But it is the yellow card data that is the most intriguing, and a shame that at the moment we can’t separate yellows for fouls and yellows for other things.  But we can still consider the numbers.   Tottenham have two and a quarter times more yellows than Arsenal this season.  Last season it was only 44% more.

If they carry on like this Tottenham will end up with 128 yellow cards this season.  Assuming that five of their team are particularly responsible for these that means an awful lot of missed games through suspensions.

There is one other statistical point that is worth noting before the game against Chelsea, and that is the issue of possession.

At the moment, prior to the Chelsea v Arsenal game, Chelsea are averaging 63.5% possession per match.  Which is very curious given that they are 11th in the league.

This is strange not just on a simple logical basis [if they have all this possession how come they are not higher up the table], but also from the fact that the top five clubs in terms of possession are…


Team Goals Possession% League Pos
1. Manchester City 17 64.5 3
2. Chelsea 11 63.5 11
3. Tottenham Hots 18 61.4 1
4. Arsenal 16 60.7 2
5. Brighton and Hove Albion 21 60.4 6


Possession is of course not a guarantee of a high league position, but the two stats are normally closely aligned.  The next three teams in the possession table are Newcastle, Manchester United and Liverpool.  At the foot of the possession league are clubs that we might feel could be in line for relegation: Sheffield United, West Ham United, Luton Town and Nottingham Forest.

So what are Chelsea doing?   We can only imagine that they are holding on to the ball and passing it around at the back or in midfield, but not using it to build attacks.  In other words, they play around with the ball and the opposition just let them get on with it, before suddenly nicking the ball.

Backing this premise up is the fact that Chelsea have only conceded seven goals this season.  Only Arsenal and Manchester City have conceded fewer.

It would be too silly to say one can get the blues by watching the Blues, but I wrote it anyway. 


5 Replies to “Arsenal / Chelsea Tackles, fouls, cards and why Chelsea are perhaps a little boring”

  1. I don’t have the numbers, but it seems to me Chelsea had more games against peers (lower table teams), thus, more possession and less goals conceded.

    Then again, this is just a hunch.

    No game will come easy and Arsenal better be prepared to fight…which I think they have learned these last couple of years.

  2. Chris

    “I don’t have the numbers, but it seems to me Chelsea had more games against peers (lower table teams)”

    You are correct, and to be fair I have published these figures numerous times, initially replying to an article you also posted on. Assuming it’s the same Chris of course.

    The numbers clearly show that both Chelsea and Spurs have had very easy starts, although one or two Spurs fans are claiming otherwise for Spurs, although quite how I don’t know.

    I worked the following out by giving each team played a value in direct proportion to where they are in the table. For example Sheff Utd are in 20th so you get 20 points for playing them, Forest are 13th so you get 13 for playing them, and so on.

    So by definition the higher your aggregate number the easier your accumulative games have been. Using that method this is how I see the relative ease of fixtures so far, with the appropriate totals, as depicted by the method described. Again hardest at the top.

    Liverpool 71
    Newcastle 78
    Man Utd 78
    Arsenal 83
    Man City 94
    Chelsea 94
    Tottenham 104

    For a bit more detail these are Chelsea’s opponents and points:

    Liverpool……………4th = 4pts
    West Ham………….7th = 7pts
    Luton………………17th = 17pts
    Notts Forest……..13th = 13pts
    Bournemouth……19th = 19pts
    Aston Villa………….5th = 5pts
    Fulham……………12th = 12pts
    Burnley……………18th =18pts

    Which actually equates to 95 points which is indeed 5 teams in the bottom half.

    Spurs have also played 5 in the bottom half, but even more telling is that those 5 are all in the bottom 6.

    As you may, or may not of seen, I also used this rudimental approach to see how difficult the next 5 games will be, and Chelseas case they are by quite a way the toughest. All the stats are in my posts on recent articles.

  3. @Nitram,

    yep I’ve read them…just had fun reading the ‘sci-fi-fandom’ comment in the guardian.
    pathetic….or maybe it’s ChatGPT who did the piece…

  4. Even the dreaded ‘Supercomputer’ some how manages to talk out of it’s arse.

    From the Mail

    Opta supercomputer names the winners and losers for this weekend’s return of the Premier League… with Man United the favourites to win away from home – plus, who edges Chelsea vs Arsenal by just 1.6%?………the Opta computer struggled to split them, with Arsenal marginal favourites at 36.3 per cent to Chelsea’s 34.7 per cent. Unsurprisingly, the draw ranks highly at 29 per cent.

    So, Chelsea languish in 11th on 11 points.

    Their home form is played 4, won 1, Drawn 1, lost 2. They lost their last 2 home matches without scoring

    Arsenal sit joint top on almost double their points.

    Our away form is played 3, won 3, conceded zero.

    Now I know football can be ‘a funny old game’ as they say, but surely computers work on facts? You input facts in the form of data and the computer, using logic, makes a prediction based on that data.

    Given this seasons data, under no circumstances could a computer predict anything other than an Arsenal win.

    It suggests there is something very odd about the way this so called supercomputer is being programmed.

    Maybe Howard Webb’s doing it? That would explain it.

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