Arsenal v Burnley: Who will tackle, who will cheat, what will the referee do?




By Bulldog Drummond

Yellow card numbers have exploded this season in a metaphorical sense, and so although we have been running a table of yellow cards for several years considering the relationship between tackles, fouls and yellow cards we can now, (thanks to WhoScored), separate yellow cards in general (which includes yellow cards awarded for fouls) from the total for yellows given out for other reasons.

We can also see the growth in tackling this season.  For example, last season Tottenham committed 616 tackles in league games.  At the current rate they will knock up 771 tackles – an increase of 25%.

But last season Tottenham committed 425 fouls in the whole season.  This season at the present rate that will be 433 – an increase of just under 2%.   This highlights how it is the non-tackling yellow cardage that has increased and which is threatening to remove a variety of players from Tottenham before the season gets much older.

Taking all the yellow cards together Tottenham are currently getting 2.82 yellow cards per game.  Last season Tottenham got 1.97 cards a game.   This reveals an increase in cards by an amazinig 43%.  This will take them from mid-table for yellows into the top four, hob-nobbing with Chelsea, Wolverhampton, Newcastle United and Sheffield United – clubs not always associated with stylish football.  Journalists seem to be unable to cope with the new image of multi-carded Tottenham and so are pretending it is not happening.

To avoid this contradiction between the journalistic image of Tottenham and the reality of a club sinking under the weight of its cards, while being at the top of the yellow card table most of the media now don’t report Tottenham’s cards total. Nor Newcastle’s.

It is also interesting that in 2019/20 Arsenal were top of the yellow card table with 86 cards – and that absolutely was reported with much excitement.  Arteta came along and the following season Arsenal got 47 cards – a decline approaching 50%.   So such changes can be made if a club really wants to do it.

Now onto the tackles, fouls and cards table, and of course the extra column showing yellow cards given for fouls as opposed to anything else.


Club Tackles Fouls Yellow Yellow from fouls
Arsenal 16.3 9.8 1.45 1.09
Burnley 14.4 10.8 2.00 1.64
Manchester City 13.1 8.4 1.73 0.91
Tottenham Hotspur 20.3 11.4 2.82 1.64


Certainly, as things stand in terms of yellow cards Tottenham are not only out on their own from our mini-selection above, but also when it comes to yellow cards given because of fouls they are playing the same game as Burnley.  Tottenham and Burnley using the same tactic: who would have thought!

So we now have two yellow card columns – the first for yellows in total, irrespective of the cause, and the second just those from fouls.

However at this point the table reporting gets slightly more complicated because some of the yellows are then converted to red cards.  Where two yellow cards become a red, the yellow cards are no longer counted and just the red is counted.

Thus in terms of the yellows handed out Arsenal have picked up 16 yellows and 1 red with the total number actually being 18 yellows; two of them being converted into a red.    I am taking the figures exactly as WhoScored present them as they seem to be as near to being official reporters of such things as anyone, so in this final table we have the cards by causes, not by the final result of referee conversion of two yellows to a red.

OK that is all a bit messy but at least we can see that Chelsea and Tottenham have now each picked up exactly twice as many yellow cards as Arsenal.

So let us now see, for a small number of clubs how referees are handing out all these yellow cards that they are waving around.

In this case we are looking at yellow cards from fouls, the yellow cards for unprofessional conduct and finally other issues not related to fouls that have resulted in yellow cards being waved around.

This last category appears to include time-wasting, not taking the kick from the right spot, foul and abusive language, a lack of respect for opponents, playing too aggressively, being dangerous, improper celebrations, dissent by word or action, entering, re-entering or deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission, failure to move back the full ten yards at a free kick, or otherwise inhibiting play in an improper manner. 

The Yellow Card Table


Team Fouls Unprofessional Other Total
Chelsea 23 3 10 36
Tottenham Hotspur 18 3 15 36
Newcastle United 16 3 13 32
Burnley 18 0 8 26
Manchester United 15 2 9 26
Liverpool 11 3 10 24
Manchester City 10 5 7 22
Crystal Palace 12 1 8 21
Luton Town 12 0 6 18
Arsenal 12 0 6 18


More later.


One Reply to “Arsenal v Burnley: Who will tackle, who will cheat, what will the referee do?”

  1. What will the referee do?

    I think we can all answer that question – thus: “whatever he can to screw Arsenal”

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