Why do Tottenham players get fouled more than those of any other club?



By Tony Attwood

We know this is the season of change; one only has to look at the yellow cards table to see that more cards are being given than ever before.  As things are going Chelsea will get an all-time record 129 yellow cards in league matches by the end of the season.

Although as we have noted not all clubs are picking up more yellows this season than last season – but that is a general trend.

Partly this is because of new rules such as an automatic yellow card for whenever more than one player from a team approaches the referee, or indeed when a player runs from a distance to confront the referee.  And when there is more than one member of the coaching team in the “technical area”.  These and other new enforcements all add up.

But what we do see is that different clubs are responding to the changes in how cards are given out in different ways.  Chelsea’s players seem to carry on regardless (as where Nicolas Jackson racked up seven yellows in 11 matches, or Marc Cucurella got five in seven), while Arsenal continue to cut their yellow card rate as they have done since Arteta joined the club – when Arsenal were the most carded club in the league.

Of course the media, when they delve into this focus on things like dissent, which always seems to annoy journalists.  As the Mail shouts out, 61 players have been booked for dissent this season.

But what I have not seen reported is the fact that no club gets fouled (in the eyes of referees) as much as Tottenham Hotspur.  And this is not just that Tottenham get one or two more fouls against them in games – they are way out in front.  Indeed according to WhoScored, Tottenham Hotspur players have been fouled 74% more than the players of Sheffield United.

Now in one sense, one could say that this is to be expected since Tottenham have scored 14 more goals than Sheffield United and so pose a greater goal threat.  Yet Tottenham are only the seventh-highest scorers in the league, so that is still a bit weird.  Manchester City have scored the most goals but they are halfway down the league table of “fouls against”.

What’s more Tottenham players are fouled 41% more times than Arsenal players yet the two clubs have scored a similar number of goals.

But could it be that Tottenham are themselves a dirty team and so the fouls against them are for relatiation?   No, the figures don’t back that up.  Tottenham are eighth in the table of fouls committed, so pretty much mid-range.

Style of play however, could be a reason why Tottenham are fouled so much, and here we do find one link – it is not exact but there is a relationship between the number of times a club is fouled and the number of dribbles that the players execute.

But the problem is that being fouled a lot doesn’t actually help a club.  Yes a free kick is given, and it is true that clubs that are fouled a lot tend to be higher up the league – but that is a bit of a circular argument.  Clubs are higher up the league generally because they score more goals, which means they attack more which means they might be fouled more.

So is there a benefit from getting all these the free kicks?  Well not really; for despite getting more free kicks from fouls than anyone else Tottenham are only the seventh-highest scorers in the league so that is not much of a link.

Thus we have a conundrum.  Referees consider Tottenham to be fouled more than any other team.  But why are clubs in the rest of the league fouling Tottenham so much when they aren’t a much stronger threat going forward than anyone else?

And here is something very strange.   While this season Tottenham are the most fouled club according to referees, last season Tottenham were the 17th most fouled club being fouled 9.3 times a game on average.

So last season in each match there were on average 9.3 fouls per game against Tottenham, but this season the rate is 14.5 fouls per game against them.   That’s an increase of 56% – a figure so high that one might think that the rest of the league had all conspired to decide to foul Tottenham a lot.

Or, I suppose, it is possible that having lost their main goalscorer, the club has told its players to go down if tackled, in order to get more free kicks.

Now of course there is no proof of that, but the question remains what other explanations are there for the club that was the 17th most fouled in the league last season, suddenly becoming the most fouled in the league?  And not just that, a club that is getting fouled 70% more than the least fouled club?

And one might also ask why is the media not noticing?  I mean, a jump of 56% in the number of fouls against Tottenham from last season to this is surely noticeable.

Why not report it, and then look for an explanation?

7 Replies to “Why do Tottenham players get fouled more than those of any other club?”

  1. If you see the way they play, it’s not really a surprise, that there is a massive jump up in the amount of freekicks against them.
    For most of the time under Conte, the team was sitting back and waiting for the opponents to attack, and trying to hit them on the counter.
    This year, so far, they are averaging around 10% higher possession as well as trying to not only control the game, but playing fast football stretching the opponents in a completely different way.
    If you watch the games, one thing that often happens is receiving the ball with a man in the back, but instead of playing it back again, they turn and try to move forward. Those are very often on the end of a freekick as the opponent don’t want to let them run.
    The theory of the players going down due to not having Kane, just seems beyond bizarre. The play moves faster and they create more chances that they used to.
    The explanation is right in front of you, but you seem to want to make a strange take on it

  2. Are Spurs cowled more because they
    have a big Jewish following If that’s
    the truth then it’s not right

  3. I watched them play and they tend to run straight at the defending player. So basically they play for the foul. They cover the ball with their body and invite the foul also. They also go down easily and then surround the ref. They must be practicing this in training under the new manager. Forgive me for saying this but they play Italian football of old.

  4. They are playing faster now that Kane isn’t there, perhaps because he was so slow and held them up last season.

  5. As daveg says, Tottenham play for the foul. Not just under the new manager either. Over the last few seasons their forward players have become very good at (awful pundit expression) “winning a free kick” and “winning a penalty”, or should that be plain old Diving? I was hoping that with the diver-in-chief gone to Bayern and a new manager coming in things might change at the Lane but not so far.

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