Premier League: the hidden statistics and what they tell us



Figures from the Untold Team.  Article by Tony Attwood

When starting to do serious academic research one is taught that one should always have an aim in mind, rather than just go round collecting data in the hope that it might turn something up.

That is most certainly true.  But when the data is already available there is never any harm in perusing it, just to see what one finds.  Maybe there will nothing, but you never know…

To a degree this is a notion that has captured some football writers of late, although it can occasionally be said that some of their statistics are getting so obscure it is difficult to imagine what they would prove in the end.

But we thought we might have a go at just putting some figures together from the clubs we have labeled the Big 7, meaning the seven with money and with pretensions of winning stuff.   And we thought we would have a look at a few key issues where we could find the numbers very easily.  Just in case they told us something.

So we have chosen the numbers of players who have started a league game this season (starters), the number who have played all 13 games, the number of players who have been given at least one yellow card (and in this column we include subs as well as the starters), the number of yellow cards that the club has collected and the number of players who have only appeared as a substitute but not as a starter.

Figures come from


Club Starters All 13 games Players with yellows (inc subs) Club yellows Subs only
Tottenham 16 7 16 29 5
Arsenal 20 4 10 15 2
Manc C 23 2 12 17 2
Liverpool 23 2 12 16 2
Newcastle 22 0 14 23 0
Manc U 23 1 16 20 3
Chelsea 23 1 15 29 1


“Starters” is the first item that really jumped out.  Tottenham are out there on their own, just using 16 players to start league games (and to be clear this is all about league games only).  Arsenal are on 20, and the rest are on 22 or 23.  So any talk of Arteta not being sure what his best team is would be nonsense.  He’s more sure than most.

But above all it is the Tottenham figure that stands out.  Using only 16 players as starters looks good, but what if they pick up some injuries?  They will be bringing in players with no experience in the starting XI.  That might work, but could be a problem.

Thus Tottenham have seven players who have started all 13 league games.  Arsenal are in a midway point here, but we were all surprised that Manchester City only have two such players.  But then they have invested in such a quality squad over the years that presumably they can afford to do that.

Players who have got yellow cards is of course a different metric from the number of cards received, so we have split that into two columns.   We know Tottenham are the Prima Yellow club – although now they have been caught up by Chelsea.  But are those yellows all heading toward certain players?

Both Tottenham and Chelsea have 29 yellows and they are spread among roughly the same number of players (16 and 15).  Those numbers are starting to look problematic.

Finally, we looked at the number of players who have never started a game but have come on as subs.  We thought this could be a good ploy – such players are presumably ready to step into the breach when injuries come.

So who is doing well out of all this?

For players who start a game, most clubs have used 22 or 23.  Arsenal have 20, and Tottenham 16, the latter presumably because they are not in Europe and so don’t need to spread the load.  Mind you nor are Chelsea.

For us the feeling is that having used 23 players already is a sign of uncertainty.  Tottenham’s 16 looks great given they are top of the league but what happens when suspensions (look at all those yellow cards) and injuries come along.  They have the most settled team by far, but that could turn against them.

And quite what Chelsea and Tottenham are doing collecting virtually double Arsenal’s number of yellow cards I have no idea.

As for Tottenham’s policy of having five players who are only used as subs – presumably, these guys are ready for the injuries and suspensions when they come along, so that looks like a good move. 

But pulling it all together I would note not for the first time that Chelsea and Tottenham are risking a lot by picking up yellows as if they were going out of fashion, and Tottenham may find their starting XI unsettled when they have to start bringing in all those back up players who have had such limited experience this season.

Arsenal on the other hand really have reduced their yellow card level to a new low, and that is amazing in a season when referees are giving out the yellows by the ton.

It is also very interesting to see the exact parallel lines that Manchester City and Liverpool are running along in all these metrics.  Are they really copying what each other do?

As for the surprise – for good research should always throw up a surprise – yes five of these clubs have already used 22 or 23 players to start league games.

4 Replies to “Premier League: the hidden statistics and what they tell us”

  1. This, and the previous article and the issues of evidence, the media and the truth got me thinking. ( I have had a drink though so I’m not offended if you leave now!!)

    Firstly, in my experience, people with opinions hate facts and statistics since it blows them out of the water Yet, ironically they argue that a “statto” is boring…I get it all the time in my local. For me, however, the only benefit of my University education was that I learnt to research and substantiate arguments. I learnt that opinions are worthless if there is no evidence to back them up.

    For many though, evidence is not want they want to see if it challenges their unsubstantiated opinion. And this is where the Untold assertions clash with both the media and many fans.

    Bertrand Russel was a British mathematician and philosopher who graduated from Oxford in the late 19th century and is attributed with the famous quote, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” Little has changed since then!

    The one certain thing is that football “journalists” and pundits are filled with certainty (as are those who regurgitate the nonsense they read in the media). The rest of us look for evidence which may (or may not) support a theory we have spent some time considering.

    The only certainty is that a well researched theory, supported by clear evidence is 99.9% more likely to be true than a stab in the dark by a bloke who drinks in the local, has a loud voice and, in his profession is most likely to be heard saying, “do you want fries with that”!! (In his spare time, of course, he’ll be shouting “Wenger out” or “Arteta out” on any other nonsense upon which he is completely unqualified to pass an opinion!)

    This is why I love UA so much and despise the media and, indeed, many other sites that pretend they support the club but merely promote negativity based upon amateurish, unsubstantiated opinion.

    Apologies for the rant but believe me, it took me a hell of a lot longer to type (and correct) it than it did for you to read it!

  2. Here’s a new one.

    I made a comment on the BBC about why the media never questioned the fact that the PGMO had a North West bias. They barred the following comment : “The media need to just stop! They dictate the agenda. They are not experts but just choose to make up stories to suit their own agenda. Hence if you’re not from the North West of England you’re not worthy. Which is exactly why the media go so easy on the PGMO who are heavily NW biased. They won’t say a word about it, irrespective of the bias/incompetence/corrupt behaviour. Only in England!”

    My comment was about refereeing decisions involving clubs from the North West. The reason it was barred was, “We reserve the right to fail comments which…

    Are considered to be off-topic for the discussion or are derailing the discussion onto a different topic.”

    The topic in hand was a refereeing decision which benefitted a club from the north west of England. I’ll translate, “it’s barred because it was to close to the truth and we don’t like to hear people expose the way the media deal with the truth!!!

    Even more reason for UA to keep up the good work!

  3. Mikey

    “This is why I love UA so much and despise the media and, indeed, many other sites that pretend they support the club but merely promote negativity based upon amateurish, unsubstantiated opinion.”

    Same reason I’m here Mikey. Untold is an oasis of reason in a dessert of nonsense.

    Don’t get me wrong, the opinions of you, me, all the other contributors and Untold itself are not necessarily always right. But they are always argued and supported with either ‘evidence’ or ‘statistics’.

    But what attracted me even more than that was how supportive UA and most of the posters were of the club, the team, and the players. And this was at a time when it seemed the World and his dog had turned on us, and Wenger in particular.

    I absolutely love Untold Arsenal along with so many of it’s great contributors such as yourself.


    I have posted under the influence many a time, and take my word for it, you done okay!!!

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