Checking the fouls tables

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Victory Through Harmony

By Walter Broeckx

As you will know by now I love numbers. I probably have bored you to death with all my numbers and to make a chance I will give you another set of numbers. This time I will try to tackle the fouling league.

So I was trying to find out: who is the cleanest team, who is the dirtiest team. Who gets many yellow cards and who are the naughty boys who get the red cards. So you can expect a lot of tables once again further in this article.

As most teams have played different games it is not just that we can take the numbers of fouls committed and list them in that order. So once again I went for the average foul per game and took this to make the final table.

As a result of my work on the ref reviews I know that the naked numbers don’t tell the whole story. I tried to count the number of not given fouls in one half of one of our games and it was a bit staggering in fact. I counted the fouls the ref didn’t give to both teams and came up with 2 fouls from Arsenal not given and 4 fouls from Wigan not given. In one half! Arsenal made 6 fouls in total in that game and Wigan 14.

So I will start with undermining my own article from the start on and say that the numbers I will give you only tell the truth for some 75%. I wished I could make them better but this is something that cannot be done. Unless I would review all the games of all the teams in the EPL. I think you can understand that I will leave it like that.

So we have to go further with what we have and those are the fouls that have been called by the refs. So curious who committed most of the fouls?  Here we go:

Team Games played Total fouls made Average/game
Bolton 24 310 12,92
Wigan 24 307 12,79
Everton 23 287 12,48
Aston Villa 24 296 12,33
Man City 24 293 12,21
Liverpool 24 292 12,17
Newcastle 23 273 11,87
Blackburn 24 283 11,79
Arsenal 23 266 11,57
Wolverhampton 23 260 11,30
Stoke 23 256 11,13
Fulham 24 261 10,88
West Ham 24 259 10,79
Sunderland 24 253 10,54
Man Utd 23 241 10,48
West Brom 23 239 10,39
Chelsea 23 236 10,26
Blackpool 23 235 10,22
Birmingham 22 221 10,05
Tottenham 23 226 9,83

Old habits never die is the idiom I would say and Bolton is the team that commits most fouls in the league so far. Closely followed by Wigan and if you add those 4 fouls I counted in the first half against us Wigan should be in front. But then again you should count the attempted assault from Robinson on Diaby (which succeeded in Diaby being out since then) that also wasn’t given as a foul they end with the same numbers.

Arsenal are halfway up the table. I think this is a good position. For years we have been called too soft. But things have changed recently. So we had some games with a lot of fouls but also some games with just a handful fouls against us. I do think our fouling is down to the oppositions tactics. If the try to play football, we will also play football. If they start to kick, we just kick back.  Not all the times but when needed we do it.

On the bottom of the fouling table, which means in fact that they commit few fouls are our current still nearby neighbours previously from Middlesex. They make fewest fouls or is it that refs don’t see their fouls? As this could be the case if you move your eyes one line higher. Because to mine and your surprise we can see that Birmingham is the team that commits the second fewest fouls in the EPL.

Okay, if you are sitting back on your chair by now then you will remember the kicking at Sagna in our latest visit at Birmingham a few weeks ago. And you will also remember that no fouls were given at all for those  and other attacks on several of out players,  which I highlighted in my ref review. So once again this official numbers only tell a part of the picture.

So the table is not the fouls made table but the fouls given by the ref table. Which is a big difference.

Making fouls is one thing. Getting fouled another. And also for this I made a table and also for this the same thing goes: this is only the fouls given by the refs and not all the fouls made on the field. Ready to see some other extraordinary numbers?

Team Games played Total fouls suffered Average/game
Everton 23 315 13,70
Tottenham 23 313 13,61
Newcastle 23 308 13,39
Aston Villa 24 287 11,96
Birmingham 22 258 11,73
Blackburn 24 280 11,67
Liverpool 24 279 11,63
Wolverhampton 23 262 11,39
Fulham 24 271 11,29
Chelsea 23 259 11,26
Arsenal 23 253 11,00
Wigan 24 260 10,83
Man City 24 255 10,63
Bolton 24 255 10,63
Sunderland 24 253 10,54
West Brom 23 242 10,52
Stoke 23 240 10,43
West Ham 24 250 10,42
Blackpool 23 229 9,96
Man Utd 23 225 9,78

So if we should believe the refs (do we really do this?) we see that Everton is the team that get most of the kicks so far this season. Well I haven’t seen enough live games of Everton to back this number but the numbers are what they are…numbers.

Arsenal again in a comfortable mid table position. But with one half checked against Wigan and 4 fouls not given in one half this also could be slightly different from the reality. But then again this also could be the case with other teams.

And after having looked at the other teams your eyes will have slid down to face the fact that Manchester United gets the least fouls in their favour in the EPL. Those poor blokes. I think the refs must hate them for some reason.

Or could there be another explanation? Could this have anything to do with the fact that some teams bend over a bit when playing United? Let us give an example. Birmingham who makes an average of 10 fouls according to the refs went to Old Trafford to lose 5-0. And they only committed (according to the ref) 5 fouls in the whole 90 minutes in that match. So it looked as if Birmingham was not playing the game they are known for. The hard tackling, rough physical game they play most of the time (eg. Birmingham-Arsenal) was completely left at home when they went to Old Trafford. They sure didn’t play their committed game over there.

So if you get a few teams like that playing against you in a non committed way you don’t need to get much fouls. As some teams rather seem to give you a free passage. Another example could be Blackburn who also committed just half the fouls they usually commit at Old Trafford compared to their other games.

So maybe after all the numbers did came up with something. Some teams go to Old Trafford and just don’t seem play their usual game of kicking a bit. They just make way. And those numbers are based on the fouls called by the refs and are a bit more correct as they have the same error margin as in the tables.


“Making the Arsenal”. You know it makes sense (after a fashion)

Herbert Chapman at Huddersfield Town

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25 Replies to “Checking the fouls tables”

  1. Regardless of these figures, I feel that Arsenal are due for a kicking from Birmingham in the CC Final at Wembley on Feb 27th. Sagna will know what I mean. And Bowyer will probably play which won’t help matters. I trust that a strong ref has been appointed, with no qualms about producing yellow and red cards where necessary.
    On the subject of the game itself, I only hope Birmingham will attempt to play football and not rely entirely on long ball antics as they did against West Ham.

  2. It’s hard to pick out single matches because we have no idea how lenient the ref is I mean in our FA cup matches there were fouls against us that were just let go. Some refs will let minor fouls go to keep the flow of the game going.

    As regards Birmingham Utd. When you lose 5-0 the occasion has obviously got to you conceding an early goal can throw everything apart, heads go down after the third and then it’s just a case of getting through the game without being humiliated or picking up cards.

    It’s kind of strange to see that very few fouls occur in United matches. Seems to me that refs may be lenient in UTD matches because I remember when we played them and there were a lot of fouls, it was a very stop start game.

  3. Tony, Walter,

    I was hoping to read the read the article on the 25 squad rule but couldn’t find it.
    With all this buy this player, buy that player drivel going on from the pundits and the blogosphere i wanted to know if we really had any room as per the 25 man squad rule and whether we would have to sell before we bought anyone in the summer

    Also i was a little unsure what would happen when a player like say Walcott, who was under 21 this season and home grown, would be 21 and have to be included in the 25 squad next season. If that is the case we would have a lot of players coming through in the next 2-3 seasons and we would have to sell the players to keep squad down to 25 which is ridiculous
    I was wondering if there were any provisions to avoid it or if there was ay talk of modifying the rule in the future. This situation would affect as the most because of our successful youth system and i am wondering if the FA would do something about it

    I know it’s off topic but would really like your inputs on it

  4. Never mind Bongo, Walter, he must be a Man U fan.

    That said, i think you should forward this post to the FA and Referees union in England, maybe it will help jog their conniving brains. There’s a mafia in that FA, i tell u!

    Invariably, them spuds are the cleanest team in the EPL! What a joke!
    Keep up the good work anyway, Walter!

  5. Walter,
    Now you are doing it again. You can’t just compile some stats and then look at a couple of data points and extrapolate a conclusion. Perhaps for a start you should check if stats differ when they at home or away? That will most likely show a big difference for all teams but we know refs are human too. Besides as you say, one game can make a big difference but that comes with small samples, only 23 approx but still better than a sample of 1 or 2?

  6. @IndianGunner

    Next season – 6 players are to registered.

    12/13 – 8 players
    Szczesny,G Hoyte,Eastmond,Lansbury,Ramsey,Barazite,JET,Murphy

    13/14 – 9 players

    The others in the 77 could be registered over the following 3 seasons – 11, 14 & 9.

    This suggests that there will be major surgery in the squad each transfer window.

    In the next 3 seasons there is no promising Right Back coming through! Hence the stories of the Vrsaljko & Van der Wiel.

  7. Correct – the likes of Brum, Stoke and Big Sams Blackburn, all physical teams go to OT , roll over without putting a proper tackle in – in contrast to what they do to Arsenal!
    Are the LMA stalwarts, aided by certain refs trying to send Fergie out on a high in his last season – or are these managers just completely subservient to their master?
    I worry about the CC final – assuming we are still in contention in the EPL, Fergie will be encouraging his mate at Brum to rough us up a bit.
    Just hope the ref is not Webb, Probert or Mason!

  8. Knowing that EPL refs are biased, terrible or both, I’m really not sure what to make of these numbers. Unfortunately, this may represent a GIGO phenomenon. Nice work in pointing out the numbers but it seems difficult to be able to make any meaningful conclusions. To make any conclusio, one would have to assume that all refs are equally competent and more importantly, unbiased. As you’ve highlighted, a difficult assumption to make.

  9. Archimedes, I will be working on this from next season on and gather those data from the first game. Or better said, I will try to do this.
    But now doing this after more than half the season gone was such big task I decided to just give the numbers as they are. Tomorrow another article related to this. But I do hope to come up with some kind of monthly chart on all those different matters.

  10. Tee song, yes the best thing would be to review all the games and look at how many fouls are missed by refs and then relate this to the refs to find patterns. And then try to see if those patterns come back with certain teams. I will try to take this matter on from next season. But the problem is that I don’t have the time to take on all the games to see what went missing from the numbers. It would be a full time job.
    But like said before, I will try to get more detailed information on refs, teams and games. And who knows what we can see.

    Looking forward to this already

  11. McLeish has apologised to Brum fans after the OT debacle. He said ‘we did not have our normal organisation or play our normal game’. He is dead right there. Bowyer, who you saw trying to maim Sagna at St Andrews- was not allowed out. Where was Gardner? Johnson was holding the door of the gift shop open for Berba. In a prevoius incarnation he was last seen trying to puree Fabregas! These statistics are interesting but the crucial facts will be the comparative team strength, tackle rate, foul rate and card rate of Stoke, Brum, Wolves and Sunderland players against Arsenal and Man U. I have done it ad hoc and I am absolutely stggered by the difference. It needs an unbiassed expert to go through the tapes and report the findings to the newspapers, the FA, the Bookmakers Association and the Police. There is a scandal here bigger than Skygate.

  12. Good old Bolton Top of a league table finaly…..send Vela there quick on loan it will make a man of him 🙂 or a lunatic one or the other 🙂

  13. Mandy makes a good point- and although its been going on for years it has become clearer this year -there are a bunch of Northern teams who roll over at OT every year- the question is why? All of them have managers who are mates with Ferguson- a mere coincidence obviously. No other club in the EPL has to work less to get a victory at home than United. The opposition roll over and our United biased referees gives the home team a helping hand whenever they can. No wonder United fans think the EPL trophy is theirs by right every year and are shocked if any club even looks like being competitive.
    Leave the EPL unregulated as it is – pretend there is no issue and it will soon become a complete farce- with the result that the public – other than the glory seeking United fans- lose interest.

  14. Walter,

    Excellent article as ever. Whilst I agree that there is evidence to suggest that teams do not put the same effort in when playing Utd at Old Trafford as they would perhaps other teams (especially Arsenal!), but could it also be the fact that they don’t commit as many fouls because they know every decision will go Utd’s way and therefore stand off/hold back in 50/50’s challenges, so that the referee simply isn’t able to give a foul against them eg. a suspect penalty decision, etc.?

    Watching the highlights of Utd vs Balckpool on Wednesday seeing a ‘blatant’ penalty (of course not given as this is Utd!) that, had it been scored would have left Utd 3-0 down and surely even they would not have recovered from that? It certainly made me wonder exactly how many decisions have influenced the final outcome of their games this season, e.g. Stoke (G Neville should have been sent off whilst the game was being drawn), WBA (G Neville should have been sent off for a professional foul and penalty given whilst game was being drawn) and of course Arsenal (Clichy penalty given, Rio Ferdinand should have been sent off for foul on Sagna).

    Overall still somewhat surprised to read that we fould more than we are fouled.

  15. Northern gooner, I had noticed from the start of the season that many of our players in midfield have changed a bit. In the last seasons when we lost the ball we let the opposition run away with it.
    But now I had noticed that we are not affraid anymore to commit a foul. We do the little pull, the little push, the little trip. I had noticed this and the numbers confirm this.

    It is another evidence of the boys becoming man. The boys didn’t do it. The man think: just make the foul.

    I had a statistic with fouls from each time in each game but I deleted it by accident but it had very valuable information.

    I will however make a more complete statistic of this from next season on. Doing this after each games will be not that big of a job compared to checking all the games now.

  16. It is an age long media-predicated belief that Arsenal players are soft as such whenever they are hatcheted, to the referee it goes down to the fact that they are whimpers and that’s why Arsenal have been the club with the most serious injuries in the EPL over the last 5 seasons (only 4 broken legs! – Diaby, Eduardo, Nasri and Ramsey). This translates to many fouls not been awarded against their opponents. It was not until the referee saw the disjointed limbs of Eduardo that he decided to issue a red card to Martin Taylor otherwise he was not planning to call for a foul.
    Manchester United have always been touted to have the best defence even if there is no evidence to justify that. The fall out of which is that however they challenge for the ball, no foul is ever awarded against them. Most of Manchester United’s defenders are at best crude and this unfortunatey go unpunished most of the time (Jonny Evans Karate kick on Drogba last season was appalling and it was in the full glare of the ref but it went unpunished as usual).
    The knowledge of this makes teams go to OT and roll over as their best efforts to tackle will result into an imaginary PK and a red card for good measure. So, what is the point trying to play football there and lose your good players for the next 3 matches?
    There have always been two rules in the EPL since its commencement, one for Manchester United and the other for the rest. Remember George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’? “All animals are equal but some are more equal than the others”.

  17. If SAF and his relationship with other managers has any bearing on this phenomenon at least we know it will come to an end when he goes (unless, of course, he’s kept on just to to continue to influence matters from the golf course).
    All industries have godfather figures and, unfortunately, the player-loaning system has probably added to some managers sphere of influence. Despite the fact that Jack obviously got great benefit from going to Bolton, maybe there should be a ban on loaning within the same division?

  18. Archimedes – they don’t like it when we question sample size… you have been warned…

  19. Archimedes and Phoenix Gunner – read the article. Notice when Walter says “the naked numbers don’t tell the whole story” and when Walter says “I will start with undermining my own article from the start on and say that the numbers I will give you only tell the truth for some 75%. I wished I could make them better but this is something that cannot be done. Unless I would review all the games of all the teams in the EPL”.

  20. Maybe that part has gone missing Paul C. 😉

    But I am planning to review not only our games but also the games from Man United and City for the next weeks when they are shown on our sports channel. I will not put them in a separate article or so. Maybe I will keep them together for a few weeks and then make an article on this.

    I hope my wife will still love me after this. 😉

  21. Paul C. – my comment was reference to a past event, but appreciate where you’re coming from

  22. Yommex
    One of the truest and best comment I’ve read in a very long time. But what can be done to restore some degree of sanity and fairness within the EPL? Will the eventual retirement of Ferguson and the financial downfall of Manchester Utd help?
    There must be an emergance of will among the game’s hierarchy to sort out this blatant favouritism, seen by all but the most blinkered. And when normality returns,as I’m sure it will, steps must be taken to ensure that never again must the basic fairness throughout the game be jeopardised.

  23. Walter if you find things are as bad as we expect we should send a send copy to certain individuals and ask why the referees are letting it go.
    Interflora should help with the wife 😛

  24. My observation is United do not enjoy the same advantage from referees when they are playing at home in the Champions League as they do in the EPL.
    The EPL has become virtually uncompetitive- United have won 11 of the 18 championships since the EPL began- and are well on there way to another- which if they win as expected- is 4 times more frequently than any one else has. United are good- but not that good. There is a structural bias in the whole system in favour of United.
    However,our referees are influenced by the crowd at OT, the media- especially biased Sky and most of all by Ferguson himself.
    There is no easy solution but big games in England could be refereed on a more neutral basis by top Refs from other European countries for starters before an independent commission looks at the competitiveness and structure of the EPL and its relationship with the media.

  25. Goonergerry
    A great idea, but expect screams of protest from Ferguson and the Man Utd faithful. They know which side their bread is buttered!

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