How yellow cards are earned, and which clubs avoid them, and which ones don’t



By Tony Attwood

Continuing from the last article (Chelsea get double the yellows for fouls that Man City get.  But only commit 27% more fouls) we might now also notice that it is Tottenham Hotspur who are getting twice as many yellow cards as Manchester City for what are now known as “other offences”.

All thoughts on what “other offences” are will be welcome.  We do know that they are not diving offences since Who Scored also lists those separately, and I rather think that answering back at the referee goes under “unprofessional”.  I would guess time wasting is one such example of “other offences”.

But let us leave that for a while and stay with the tackles, fouls and yellow card tables, and return to the approach that we used across a number of seasons, but had to abandon because of the number of cards given for non-fouling offences, and my inability to read the stats properly.

Here we have a chart along the lines of recent seasons, bringing together tackles, fouls and then yellow cards in relation to each other.  And there is an important point here, we are at last able to talk exclusively about yellow cards in relation to fouls.

But to get to grips with this I think we need to have a look at the full chart as provided by WhoScored.  Now this table is interesting in that it includes situations in which two yellow cards are given to a player resulting in a red.  This table includes the two yellow cards as yellows, whereas their general total chart takes those two yellows out of the yellow count.  

In this table I have taken the seven clubs we tend to track (the big seven) and a couple of other clubs because their figures are quite interesting in relation  to the reason for yellow cards being given out.


Team Fouls Unprofessional Other Total
Wolverhampton W 15 5 17 37
Tottenham Hotspur 16 2 14 32
Chelsea 20 2 9 31
Newcastle United 14 2 11 27
Brighton & Hove 13 2 10 25
Manchester United 13 2 9 24
Liverpool 10 3 10 23
Manchester City 9 5 7 21
Everton 14 1 2 17
Arsenal 11 0 6 17


It is unfortunate that the “other category” is particularly large and yet there are no explanations yet that I have found from the League as to what makes up the “others”.  Hopefully that may come soon.

But from what we know, taking all yellows into account Wolverhampton have now got more than twice the number of yellow cards for all reasons, as Arsenal have .  Tottenham are two short of double the number that Arsenal have received.

So what is the effect of this rush toward card hell?

In this last weekend’s games (round 10 of the matches) just five players were suspended.  Two more have now reached five, according to the Premier League’s own site.   Nine players are lurking on four cards, and some of those may be expected to make it to five and a suspension next time around.

But where it gets interesting is the 36 players are now listed as having picked up three cards in the first 10 games.  If they carry on as they have been they will soon be coming up to suspensions themselves.

In fact overall 53 players have 3+ cards, and the rule is that any player getting five cards in the first 19 Premier League matches will serve a one-match ban from a PL match.  Which means that in the next nine games we will probably see most of those 53 players get banned.

Additionally, players who tot up 10 yellow cards in League matches up to and including their team’s 32nd fixture will get a two-match ban.  Given that the average rate of cards is 4.61 per game this season, and there are 220 games to go before the 32nd fixture, that suggests that in the games up to that point we might well see over 1000 more cards by the time of the 32nd game!!!

I wonder if PGMO thought any of this through at all?

But back to our figures.  We can now make a much more accurate stab at the table we’ve been running in recent years…


Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Tottenham 1.76 12.44 7.06
Arsenal 1.70 15.27 9.00
Manchester United 1.61 12.69 7.85
Liverpool 1.39 16.30 11.7
Chelsea 1.50 8.05 5.35
Newcastle United 1.26 11.65 8.5
Manchester City 1.65 15.44 9.33
Variation 40% 102% 119%


The variations here are enormous.  Tottenham is putting in 40% more tackles before they get a foul than Newcastle which sounds good, but isn’t when we look at how many tackles and fouls they can put in before picking up a yellow card.  No wonder Tottenham is at the top of the yellow card table – they keep on tackling and fouling and getting cards.  It is so obvious you might think they would stop, but then I suppose being top of the league encourages them to continue.

The good news is that Arsenal have reached the level of Manchester City in terms of fouls per yellow.   Only Liverpool, who in the world of tackling and referees are, as they have been for years, on their own, and thus exceed this.

More on this soon.

8 Replies to “How yellow cards are earned, and which clubs avoid them, and which ones don’t”

  1. Numbers! What a nuisance! I don’t suppose the PGMOL realize they are about to become record setters?

  2. It depends on the type of foul does it not. Like the difference between shirt pulling and potential stud raised leg breaking tackles. Or tackles in the opponent’s half compared to potential goal scoring fouls near the penalty area.

  3. @ daveg

    Absolutely correct, of course it does but nobody has access to that level of information without studying 90+ minutes of every game. Having said that, it also depends on whether a foul is actually called as such. We have all seen instances of players being adjudged as having fouled an opponent when there was little or no contact as opposed to numerous instances like Raya wiping out Jesus a couple of weeks ago which was not called as a foul. Let’s face it, Xhaka picked up cards for breathing too closely to some players!!

  4. Whoops, I know Raya may not have had his best game against Chelsea but I obviously meant “Sanchez wiping out Jesus”!!

  5. Mikey/Daveg

    How about when Onana wiped out the Wolves forward at Old Trafford in added time?

    Don’t think VAR even looked, and if they did, and still didn’t give it, that’s even worse!

    Other times they look and look and look again, to find the contact contact to award a foul/penalty. They did it for us this very weekend.

    I’m not saying that’s wrong. It was a slightly tricky one to see in real time. They took a look. Took their time. But they got it right. A clear foul. On the line. A penalty. That’s exactly what VAR is far.

    And lets get this right. We wasn’t ‘favoured’ by VAR. Ultimately VAR corrected an on field error.

    But my point is, the level if inconsistency regarding what is a foul and what isn’t is ridiculous. Players totally wiped out by keepers not given. Not looked at. The merest touch put under the microscope on other occasions.

    But it’s this latitude that I believe the media actually wants. It’s this latitude that gives referees and VAR the ability to manipulate results. The problems we’ve had recently are that some of their manipulation has been so blatant, and some has upset the wrong clubs.

    The problem the media currently has is that the referees are SOOOOOO bad they cant even cheat properly!!!

  6. @ Nitram

    “The problem the media currently has is that the referees are SOOOOOO bad they cant even cheat properly!!!” Pmsl

  7. You can get lots of them. I’ve never seen so many adverts in my life. I find them distasteful whilst I’m eating my lunch. A lot of people on the internet seem to feel the same as me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *