- The media, the League and PGMO. An insidious agreement rears its ugly head
- A clue for journalists: we can tell you exactly what Arsenal are doing
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?
- How far down might these points deducations take clubs?
- Big clubs that foul less lose fewer players of their own to injury
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England
- Didn’t appreciate KO time, M1 is a disaster, but watching Arsenal is a joy