Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.




By Bulldog Drummond

Moving on from our review of Luton Town (Grim Football, Fewest goals, Lowest possession rate) we can take a look at how Luton compares to Arsenal in the region of tackles, fouls and yellow cards.   And out of interest, we will throw in the media’s heart-throbs Tottenham Hotspur.   You can read more in “Who is suspended…”


Club Tackles pg Fouls pg Yellows for fouls pg Total yellows pg
Arsenal 15.8 9.5 1.0 1.50
Luton Town 17.7 11.4 1.29 2.00
Difference (AFC/LT) 12% 20% 29% 33%
Tottenham Hotspur 19.7 11.8 1.64 3.07


Arsenal remain the least yellow-carded team in the league with 21 yellow cards for all reasons, of which 14 are for fouls.  Chelsea remain top of the league for yellow cards gained for any reason, with 47 cards in total, 31 of which come from fouls.

Luton Town have received 28 cards this season (18 from fouls).  Tottenham are fifth in the league with 43 cards (23 from fouls) and thus are still running at double the number of yellow cards that Arsenal get.   At this rate Tottenham will end up with 110 yellows by the end of the season, while Chelsea will have 127.

I should add that the number of yellow cards is reported in two ways – one is the total number of cards gained (which we use) and the other is the total number less the cards issued when a player gets two yellows and thus gets a red.

But let’s now turn back to the issue of tackles, fouls and cards for fouls, and see how the ratios work.


Club Tackles per foul Tackles per card Fouls per card
Arsenal 1.66 15.8 9.5
Luton Town 1.55 13.72 8.83
Tottenham Hots 1.67 12.01 3.84


The three clubs we review here are close to each other in terms of the number of tackles they can commit before the referee blows for a foul.   But then we can see the divergence.  Arsenal can put in a lot more tackles before a card is waved (15% more than Luton Town and 32% more than Tottenham).

As for the fouls per card, Arsenal can get away with 8% more fouls before a card is waved than Luton.  That number will hardly be noticed on the pitch.  But when we come to Tottenham the numbers start to explain why Tottenham are picking up so many cards this season.   For Arsenal can put in around two and a half time more fouls before getting a card, than Tottenham!

There are two reasons for this.  The first is that Arsenal are putting in far fewer tackles per game than Tottenham and that implies they are only tackling when they have to, and so far less likely to draw the attention of the referee to their tackles. 

The second is Tottenham are fouling more than Arsenal.   (One might also put in the fact that Tottenham really are letting their discipline get out of control.  They have the fifth-highest number of yellow cards this season in the Premier League and they have the second-highest number of red cards.  Only Liverpool have received more red cards than Tottenham this season.)

But to come back to Luton, the numbers here are not significantly different between Arsenal and Luton.  I should imagine Luton are quite happy to play Tottenham because they know they will be awarded a fair array of free kicks to alleviate the pressure on their goal.  With Arsenal, they are not going to get that.

On the other hand, neither Luton nor Arsenal get fouled very much compared to other clubs.  Luton on average are fouled 10.1 times a game while Arsenal are fouled 10.3 times a game.   By way of comparison, we can see that Tottenham are fouled 14.4 times a game on average, and we have often wondered why this is so.

I think perhaps we can begin to see the reason – it is in retaliation for the relentless tackling that Tottenham puts into a game.   Only Everton tackle more than Tottenham, and I suspect other teams get fed up with this.   So Tottenham gain something of an advantage by being fouled more than any other club, but at the expense of their players being hurt more.

Of course there is no way of knowing which way round this works.   We can argue that

a) Tottenham are the most fouled team in the league because they tackle other teams a lot (they are second only to Everton in this regard).

b ) Tottenham are fouled a lot because they are dishing out a lot of nasty fouls and have picked up 38 yellows and three reds already.

But of course none of that can be proven.   But there must be a reason somewhere why Tottenham’s manager and his team insist that the players tackle more and more!


One Reply to “Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.”

  1. It’s not working for Spurs yet they continue fouling and getting carded. I can only draw one conclusion.

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