Newcastle v Arsenal. Arsenal’s astonishing tactical progress clear for all to see




Arsenal play away at Newcastle on Saturday evening (UK time) so we will take our regular look at the defensive figures.   We’ve now got the yellow card numbers clarified with the aid of WhoScored’s additional data to separate yellow cards for fouls, and yellow cards for all sorts of other misdemeanors so we can continue with the format that we have been using for several years now.

In this first table we look at the top three clubs and Newcastle United who are currently lying sixth, seven points behind Arsenal.


Team Shots pg Tackles pg Fouls pg Yellow for fouls PG Yellow total PG
1. Manchester City 6.8 13.9 8.4 0.9 2.1
2. Tottenham Ho 12.7 19.9 11.3 1.6 3.2
3. Newcastle Utd 11.5 14.7 11.9 1.4 2.7
4. Arsenal 8.4 16.8 9.9 1.1 1.7


Now looking at that first column – shots per game, one would immediately assume that Tottenham H and Newcastle U are knocking in the goals at a far faster rate than Arsenal and Manchester City.   And yes if we were looking at the other end of the pitch we’d see Newcastle have got 0.3 more goals than Arsenal per game but otherwise Arsenal are resolutely there at the top in relation to goals scored by these four teams.

So the first observation is just how much more energy Newcastle and Tottenham are putting into shooting, but for only a limited reward.   In Newcastle’s case it is 3.1 more shots per game for a reward of 0.3 more goals per game.  With Tottenham they are putting in 4.3 more shots per game for a reward of … 0.1 fewer goals per game.  Which seems a bit of a waste of energy.  But I am sure they know what they are doing.  They are, after all, Tottenham Hotspur.

In terms of tackles per game Tottenham are putting in the fourth most in the league, Arsenal are 11th, Newcastle are 18th  and Manchester City 20th in the league.

Now the point about tackles is that they are dangerous because so many are called out as fouls, so interceptions and keeping the ball cab be a better ways of stopping opponents.

But when we look at the fouls committed  Mancheseter City are 20th, Arsenal are 19th, Tottenham are 10th and Newcastle 4th.  This is Newcastle’s weak spot, they commit fouls at the level of Sheffield United and Luton Town.  Arsenal have transformed themselves during Arteta’s time in charge.

As for the yellow cards for fouls (and remember these card figures are all about cards for fouls, not for any other reason), Arsenal and Manchester City look like they will again be vying to become the least-carded team.   (When Arteta arrived Arsenal were the most carded team in the league).

But when we do look at the yellow card totals irrespective of why they were waved, we are starting to see some real patterns here…

And we must note the top four clubs for possession are Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal in that order.   Newcastle are seventh.    But in terms of total yellow cards Newcastle are sixth.  Arsenal are 19th.


Team Yellow / Red cards Possession%
1. Wolverhampton Wanderers 32 / 3 47.1%
2. Chelsea 30 / 1 62.0%
3. Tottenham Hotspur 30 / 1 62.2%
4. Sheffield United 29 / 1 37.8%
5. Nottingham Forest 29 / 2 39.1%
6. Newcastle United 27 / 0 54.4%
15. Manchester City 18 / 2 63.0%
16. Luton Town 17 / 0 36.3%
17. AFC Bournemouth 17 / 1 42.5%
18. Crystal Palace 16 / 0 41.8%
19. Arsenal 15 / 1 60.9%
20. Everton 15 / 1 42.1%


So let’s pull some of this together to get our usual analysis – figures are of course per game


Club Tackles Fouls Yellows for fouls
Newcastle 14.7 11.9 1.4
Arsenal 16.8 9.9 1.1
Manchester City 13.9 8.4 0.9


And the ratios…


Club Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Newcastle 1.23 10.50 8.50
Arsenal 1.70 15.27 9.00
Manchester City 1.65 15.44 9.33


So we can see that Arsenal are continuing their drive to follow the Manchester City model, which began when Arteta joined the club and started to wrest control of Arsenal games back from the referees by cutting the level of tackling.

Arsenal are now able to put in more tackles before getting a foul called than Manchester City, which is a stunning achievement. 

However they are still 14.7% more likely to have a tackle called as a yellow card offence than Manchester City, but that difference is small and getting smaller.     Manchester City can commit more fouls than Arsenal before getting a card – but only by under 4%.  That’s now a tiny difference.

So as we can see, in this area Newcastle are lagging behind Arsenal in handling the referees.    Arsenal can put in 38% more tackles than Newcastle before having a foul called, and 45% more tackles than Newcastle before having a yellow card waved.  Arsenal can also commit 6% more fouls than Newcastle before getting a yellow card.

This drive of Arteta’s to make Arsenal’s defence work like Manchester City’s is indeed working, and irrespective of what one thinks of Manchester City, they are the team that are winning most things, and therefore copying their methodology seems a fairly good idea.

More later…

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