How Arsenal have avoided the yellow card revolution while others are getting hammered by refs



By Tony Attwood

Last season the number of yellow cards per club ranged from 44 to 84.   This season after just 13 games the numbers range from 17 to 44 which suggests that by the end of the season, the card with the most cards is likely to have around 128 cards – an increase of almost half as much again.

But the figures also suggest that the least carded club might have around 50 cards – an increase of just 13%.

So let’s start with Arsenal.  Last season Arsenal got 52 yellow cards.   This season the club has received 17.   That puts Arsenal in line for 50 yellow cards in the league… which is best described as “around about the same”.

Last season Tottenham got 75 yellow cards – they were in fact a middle-ranking club being 10th in the yellow card league.  This season they have had 34 cards, which put them on track to shoot up to a wapping 99 cards this season.

Last season Chelsea gained 77 cards.  This season they have already had 44 cards and at this rate will end up with 129 cards – and remember that is compared with Arsenal’s currently expected figure of 79 cards.

In other words – the number of cards received by all clubs is increasing, but some are getting a very moderate increase while some are getting enormous increases.

But why?

PGMO don’t make statements on such things, leaving it up to us to investigate, and that investigation shows that it is indeed cards for dissent that are causing the increase.  And the benefit for Arsenal is that Arteta has been cutting out dissent since he arrived in the season when far from being at the bottom of the yellow card league, Arsenal were top.  86 yellow cards for Arsenal in 2019/20.  Tottenham were second with 82.  Liverpool were bottom with 38.

Getting a card for dissent is particularly stupid since referees don’t change their minds.   And yet this season the number of yellow cards that players are getting for dissent has looked large and now PGMO is finally releasing more information to some of the media.

As a result, The Mail claims that 61 players have been for dissent, with 92 cards issued, showing that a number of players are serial dissenters.

The Mail doesn’t reveal how it got the figures, but we can now add this data to our slowly growing chart of what referees are up to provided by Who Scored.  We still have an annoying “other” column, but the data is increasing.  Here’s the yellow card table by causation.

Now there is a problem, for with this extra breakdown from the Mail, we are not getting the same totals as those provided by Who Scored – and this of course is incredibly frustrating.  After all, why can’t PGMO put out a definitive and full set of data?  

However the difference in numbers is small, and most likely by the way the two yellows for a red effect is counted.   So this is what we know, as best as we can know it…

R Team Fouls Unprofessional Dissent Other Total
1 Chelsea 29 5 4 9 47
2 Wolverhampton 19 5 7 15 46
3 Tottenham Hotspur 21 3 8 7 39
4 Sheffield United 25 2 4 8 39
5 Brighton & Hove 17 2 5 13 37
6 Newcastle United 20 4 8 5 37
7 Nottingham Forest 24 6 2 5 37
8 Fulham 21 0 11 3 35
9 West Ham United 22 1 7 5 35
10 Aston Villa 23 0 2 7 32
11 Brentford 22 0 2 7 31
12 Everton 21 2 1 4 28
13 Liverpool 14 3 4 7 28
14 Burnley 20 0 2 6 28
15 Luton Town 18 0 2 6 26
16 Manchester United 15 2 4 5 26
17 Manchester City 10 7 1 8 26
18 Crystal Palace 13 1 6 3 23
19 Bournemouth 10 2 6 4 22
20 Arsenal 13 0 2 5 20


Fulham it seems are the kings of dissent, with Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur getting dishonourable mentions. Chelsea are the kings of fouling and Manchester City rule in the field of unprofessional behaviour which is surprising given the emphasis that club has placed on being the least carded team, in the past

In an article on Quora we got some examples of unprofessional behaviour…

  • A reckless foul, like tripping, kicking, etc
  • Diving, (or simulation as the Laws call it)
  • Excessive celebration of a goal
  • Verbally distracting an opponent.

Dissent is probably the most avoidable of all the causes for getting a yellow card – to avoid it all the player has to do is shut up.  The top dissenting clubs are Fulham (with 11 yellow cards for dissent) followed by Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Newcastle United each with eight cards for dissent.

In summary, we have Chelsea at the top with 44 cards and Arsenal at the bottom with 17.  Which is to say that Chelsea have got two and a half times the number of yellow cards Arsenal have got.   Manchester City’s rise up to equal 15th could also be helpful.   And it is particularly interesting given that for the previous two years they have been resolutely bottom of the yellow card league – a factor that has helped them keep their first-choice team on the pitch for much of the season.

5 Replies to “How Arsenal have avoided the yellow card revolution while others are getting hammered by refs”

  1. Kind of ironic for Arteta to be cutting out dissent among his players while never hesitating to shoot his mouth off himself. Effective though. Sometimes a yellow card is a positive. Yesterday for instance Villa systematically kicked Rodrigo Bentacur out of the game, forcing him off in the first half, and picked up one yellow card in the process. I suspect they will be pretty happy with that.

  2. It must be nice to be able to shoot off one’s mouth on a blog with no possibility of sanctions.

  3. jod

    “Kind of ironic for Arteta to be cutting out dissent among his players while never hesitating to shoot his mouth off himself”

    Okay. Apart from the one STATEMENT about VAR being embarrassing, which I’m sure you agree with, but if not please feel free to explain why not, I don’t really remember Arteta ‘shooting his mouth off’.

    As you suggest he NEVER HESITATES TO DO SO I look forward to a list of occasions he has done so.

    Please feel free to repeat them all in their full glory for us to read.

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