West Ham foul their way forward: is 17 fouls by one team in a game a PL record?





By Tony Attwood

I can’t answer the question in the headline completely since the official league page covering statistics, isn’t listing fouls per club although it lists pretty much everything else.  Now why is that?

But according to the figures in the Guardian – which I think come from official sources, West Ham produced 17 fouls in this weekend’s match against Arsenal.   Their average for the season is 10.8 fouls per game.   That puts them very roughy midtable when it comes to fouling.   17 puts the beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Which makes it rather alarming that West Ham could, according to these figures from the Guardian, which as I understand it are taken from official Premier League data supplied just to journalists, up their fouling rate so dramatically.

Now I have thought for some time that some clubs do go into matches with a deliberate policy of fouling the opposition and they do adopt this tactic just occasionally in specific games to avoid being reprimanded by the League.  But this appears to be a level of response within a match, which is quite extraordinary.

What’s more according to WhoScored Arsenal are fouled on average 10.8 times a game – so this was way up for Arsenal on the receiving end, too.

But there is another comment that is also worrying – one that suggests that Arsenal actually didn’t play very well at all.   It comes in the Guardian and says, “It will be tempting to describe West Ham’s performance as wretched, dreadful, slack, an abdication of professional responsibility because it was all of these things. But this is also to dignify it with a shape and a recognisable set of flaws. This was instead something else, an absence, a West Ham-shaped hole.”

So Arsenal not that good then, it was just WHAM didn’t turn up.  OK, that’s an argument, but it would be good then to see this expanded into a debate on “why?”

Before this game, West Ham had conceded 36 goals in 24 league games – which rather obviously is 1.5 goals a game.   Why on this occasion did that figure leap up to six goals in a game?    My reaction would be say it was because Arsenal were so good, but the media won’t have any of that.  The Guardian puts the whole reason for the result on West Ham.

To me that looks and seems ludicrous, but for all the usual sillyness that one expects in such reports there is an interesting coda.   In the final three paragraphs the article says that what might just carry Arsenal forward is its combination of “energy, will, and youth.”  On that they could be right – although I’d add “overseen by Arteta and the team”.

To overcome other teams, the article argues, Arsenal “need to make noise, to be disruptive, to be as relentless as they were against Liverpool, to be hungrier, wilder, more tightly bonded” than the opposition.

The piece continues, “It is also why Arsenal will celebrate, will seek to create their own internal story, to be wilder, more intense.   “It’s a tactic, a vibe, an attempt to write a success narrative…..

“It might come unstuck in the end. But here they replicated that same collective energy on the pitch, and reduced West Ham to a team playing a half‑remembered version of their own game.”

I really despair about most of that article, such as the comment (seemingly almost obligatory in all articles on Arsenal) that Arsenal are “still looking like a team that probably could do with a proper centre‑forward.”    I mean, having just won 0-6 and just two goals behind the media’s beloved Liverpool… really?  Do Liverpool need one as well, in that case?

Of course this was just a couple of days after the in-studio TV football commentators were saying, 

“Just get down the tunnel. You’ve won a game, three points, you’ve been brilliant. Back in the title race, get down the tunnel. I’m serious, honestly… “By all means enjoy it, but enjoy it by being disciplined!”

We have for a long time been very fed up with the Discipline Police approach that Sky and some other broadcasters adopt in which they take the view that they alone know how people should behave.

Indeed it is a sad fact that within a lot of British journalism, the constant undertone is, “we know how you should behave, and we are watching you.”

So it was great to see Arsenal being able to call that out, and for quite a few other people to turn on Sky and people like Nevillie and Carragher who have for far too long set themselves up as the absolute arbiters of what is and what is not acceptable in football, and indeed of how anything in football can be analysed and perceived.

Their view is that football only exists in the way in which they interpret it.   I think that’s wrong, but if they insist on that, then it is equally true that Sky’s football coverage only exists in the way I interpret their coverage, and I think it’s crap.  Which is not a very intellectually rigorous comment – but neither were the comments made by the Sky people.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 24 16 6 2 55 23 32 54
2 Manchester City 23 16 4 3 56 25 31 52
3 Arsenal 24 16 4 4 53 22 31 52
4 Tottenham Hotspur 24 14 5 5 51 36 15 47

13 Replies to “West Ham foul their way forward: is 17 fouls by one team in a game a PL record?”

  1. Tony Attwood, is this article a piece of spoof journalism or outright sarcasm?

    I’m a neutral, and watched the game in my local with a group of similarly neutral football supporters.
    There was a general consensus that Arsenal are one of the media and EPL favourites, receiving great favour from officials and pundits (Obvious exceptions apply).
    General consensus that Arsenal under Arteta employ Pep Guadiola tactics of ‘professional fouling and play-acting’.

    During the West Ham game, it was generally agreed West Ham were poor, very poor. (Backed-up by MotD pundit)
    It was also agreed Craig Paulson, the referee, also had a poor game, with numerous non-calls and favoured Arsenal with calls, particularly in the 1st half.
    We all seem to agree that the 1st Yellow card, given in the 8th minute, wasn’t deserving of a card and surprised a yellow shown so early in the game.
    Surprise too, that Martinelli went unpunished for a clear hand to the face on Coufal.
    Even more surprise for Gabriels clear off-ball facial punch on Kudos (?)
    Generally agreed that Paulson (And maybe the EPL) wanted Arsenal to win. (I’m not one of those)

    Just the fact that 4 yellows were given to West Ham and none to Arsenal is evidence enough.

    Also, Arsenal lead the league (7) with the most penalties this season, so your ‘they’re all out to get us’ theme is … misplaced.

    Premier league stats suggest West Ham are mid-table for fouls given/received and have just 1 player in the top 30 foul-givers in the league and he was playing yesterday.

    You noted that Perception is a personal thing, it certainly seems to be in your case.

  2. Patient, My article opens with my admitting that I am not sure about these figures. To quote the article…

    “I can’t answer the question in the headline completely since the official league page covering statistics, isn’t listing fouls per club although it lists pretty much everything else.  Now why is that? But according to the figures in the Guardian – which I think come from official sources, West Ham produced 17 fouls in this weekend’s match against Arsenal.”

    So there I am expressing doubt. Where is the spoof journalism or outright sarcasm in that?

  3. Tony
    We know the easiest way to raise an aggressive point in a non-aggressive or passive way is to question the initial statement, highlighting the point that has just been made.
    It’s a bit like one politician absolutely refuting that another politician is lying.

    The flavour of the article is that somehow, West Ham played dirty and Arsenal were victims of some premier league record in fouling, 17 – 11.
    Having watched countless games of football, I doubt that was even close to the dirtiest game I’ve seen this season.
    Watching yesterday game, it appeared to us (All neutrals) that both sides were equally ‘professional’ and that referee Paulson gave more in Arsenals favour and handed out yellow to West Ham but not Arsenal.

    My point about spoof, is that your take seems myopic when others opinions (Media/Pundits) don’t hold with yours.

    But thank you for taking up my comment and not immediately dismissing, or deleting it.

  4. I guess what I hoped as I wrote the piece was that my phrase “17 puts the beyond the orbit of Pluto” would suggest that I didn’t believe it. What I think you might not know is that prior to each game we do a detailed analysis of tackles, fouls, yellow cards from fouls and yellow cards from all events, and the numbers presented by the media just don’t match with those. So looking back yes, I can see, I should have made it clearer that I was continuing from a long running issue we have about the way referees handle these three issues. I’ll learn from that.

  5. Tony,

    in one of your pieces before the game, you did mention that probably the referee would read it and adjust his usually pro-home team attitude accordingly.

    Well you could not have been more right

    17 fouls with 4 yellows seems very light, we’ve seen referees dishing them out at a faster pace. But Arsenal with 11 fouls and no yellow seems like an extraordinary outlier.

    That being said, I’m kind of fed up of most singing carols when City score a few goals and have most of the possession and always saying ‘the other team did not show up’ when Arsenal do. Or that City proved they were the champions when they grind out a game in the last minutes of added time and when Arsenal does it is is lucky and desperate.

    FYI, Arsenal is the team that scored the most goals in the first 15 minutes. Which shows they want to take control of the game from the start – nice change from last year – and this can have an impact on breaking down a team early on.

    @Patient 67,

    I don’t know in which country you are and what press you read or shows you listen to. But the statement ” receiving great favour from officials and pundits” is funny.

    ‘officials’ giving Arsenal favors is a doubtful statement, VAR review shows this is not so much the case as for the rest of decisions, Arsenal are way more disciplined then in the past.

    ‘pundits’…. this is a real funny one. No comment

    as for the ” (Backed-up by MotD pundit)” comment… seriously you take these guys seriously ? The same who are engaging in the celebration brigade chorus just as an example ?

    As for the penalties, the thing is that VAR has visibly validated all and I’ve rarely heard much of an outcry about themas being illegitimate.

    I’ve noticed, like you, the outlier about the zero yellow cards for Arsenal. No idea. Martinelli was being pushed, he pushed back. Guess the referee figured par for the course. Eddie made a couple of fouls and I thought he better restrain himself which he did. But apart from that, I did not see much to contest.

  6. In fact, Chelsea have the most Premier League penalties with 8. Pochettino’s teams do tend to get a fair few of them, I notice.

    Arsenal may have had 7 penalties, but yesterday’s was the first since 28th October, in which time they should have had at least 5 penalties more!

    Yesterday’s penalty was the key moment of the match, as the second goal allowed us to relax a bit and score more, and this is an important point – I have lost count of the number of times (including this season) when Arsenal fly out of the traps, dominate and are then refused a big decision that turns the game on its head, but the players and the manager get blamed post match!

    I switched on the commentators at half time, to hear what they would say? Arsenal having 4 different goalscorers? Arsenal’s first penalty of 2024? 14 goals in 3 and a half games for a team that ‘should have signed a striker’? Of course not! It was all about ‘overcelebrations’!

    Distraction ‘journalism’ to push certain narratives, and the average ‘mark’, I mean supporter, swallows them whole, including certain commenters on this article…

  7. “Distraction journalism” – that is a really good phrase. I think that in fact sums up what is going on.

    Thanks for your comment Vikrant, and for the use of that phrase. An article on the subject will follow…

  8. @Patient 67, When you make statements like “and surprised a yellow shown so early in the game” it implies the rules of the game should not apply in what? The first quarter? Genius statements like that uncloak you as a Spurs supporter. Make my day…admit it.

  9. Patient 67 and all your ‘Neutral’ friends

    Perhaps one reason why we get a few penalties is that we have the second most ‘Dangerous Attacks’ in the PL, and the 3rd most in the whole of Europe.

    We have the highest number of ‘Offensive Actions’ in the opposition box in the whole of Europe.

    You tend to get the odd penalty if you spend most of the time in the opponents box.

    Hope that explains at least that little issue you and your ‘neutral’ friends have with our penalties.

    Also, whilst accepting our 11 fouls for no cards is a bit of an outlier, perhaps it would interest you to know that over the first 2 meetings between us and West Ham they managed 20 fouls without a single Yellow card. Bit of an ‘Outlier’ that one as well don’t you think?

    Can I suggest you and your ‘neutral’ friends take a look at a few of the stats available here


    so you and your ‘neutral’ friends can get your head round just why we slaughtered West Ham, and in a broader sense, why we are right in the middle of the title race. In addition to stats you can find on that site:

    We have the highest Xg expected points in the PL..

    We have the best Xg ratio between ‘for and against’ in the PL.

    That is why we are one of the best teams, not just in the PL but in Europe.

    Anyway, back to West ham. I mean, you can say it wasn’t coming. Okay, they beat us twice already this season, but how I’m not quite sure? Well I am, it’s because our finishing was poor. But over our first 2 meetings we had:

    73% possession

    44 shots to their 11

    12 on target to their 6

    Unfortunately somehow we only scored 1 goal from our 12 shots on target, whilst West Ham scored 5 goals from 6 shots on target. Absolutely remarkable. Freakish actually, but hey, it happens. But the truth is we completely and and utterly out played West ham over those 2 matches, and we continued in the same vein on Sunday, except this time we managed to convert our chances.

    Over the 3 games we have played against West ham our superiority has been remarkable.

    72% possession

    Amassing a remarkable 69 shots to West Hams 16

    Hitting the target 24 times to West Hams 7

    You and your ‘neutral’ friend can bitch as much as you like, but all the footballing stats, as well as what you would see in front of your eyes if you were not so blinkered with envy, demonstrate quite what a remarkable team we are.

    No, we may not win the title because Man City are also a remarkable team, as are Liverpool. But we are in there fighting, and we have a chance. Not because we are getting any favours from referees and VAR, or any excessive backing from the media, but because we are a bloody good side.

    Neutral? keep telling yourself that.

  10. Man City are the main proponents of tactical fouling. In their recent game at Tottenham, they conceded 19 fouls, nearly all on the halfway line to disrupt attacks. They received 4 yellow cards – one was for dissent and two werefor fouls in extra time. Spurs committed 9 fouls and got 3 bookings. There is clearly an inbalance in refsresponses. Tottenham, with strong attacking threat, have had one penalty all season. Toothless Chelsea have had 9. Its no surprise that Arsenal get penalties but Chelswa and Palace?

  11. It’s pretty clear why “patient 67” was a patient. He’s clearly been sectioned for being in a different galaxy, let alone being on a different planet!! It is patently absurd that anybody with a brain cell could disagree with the absolute logic of this article………..but thanks for the laugh patient 67. Just start taking the medication again and re-join us sane folk in the real world 🙂

  12. Gary Fox

    Good research sir, on a couple of points especially, if not quite 100% accurate.

    Firstly, in regards to patients claim that the “General consensus that Arsenal under Arteta employ Pep Guadiola tactics of ‘professional fouling and play-acting’”.

    Untold has pointed out many, many times, with the statistics to support, how Arteta addressed the yellow/Red cards we received by cutting back dramatically on how many tackles we attempted. We are hardly cynical as we resolutely try NOT to tackle at all if possible.

    Now me being me, I didn’t take your findings entirely on face value. I like to check. You are pretty accurate, and to be fair on what part of the pitch the offences took place I couldn’t check, but if you are correct, this is cynical fouling at it’s most blatant, and great research. But the amounts and timings of the cards were a little out. (according to Flashscore)

    “…at Tottenham, they conceded 19 fouls, nearly all on the halfway line to disrupt attacks. They received 4 yellow cards – one was for dissent and two were for fouls in extra time”. “Spurs committed 9 fouls and got 3 bookings.”




    Yellow Cards

    4 (Actually 5 if you include Peps)

    56 minutes Kovacic Foul
    70 minutes Dias Foul

    75 minutes PEP

    84 minutes Gvardiol Foul?
    96 minutes Doku Dissent? (I think this was for argy bargy between him and Porro)

    So yes 4 for the players and 2 of those were very late in the piece.

    So whatever way you look at it, with 19 fouls and only receiving 2 yellows up until the 84th minute seems very lenient to me.

    But, at the end of the day, and ignoring cards for dissent, and assuming gvardiols was for a foul, Man City received a Yellow card every 6.3 fouls.




    Yellow Cards

    59 Minutes Udogie Foul
    88 Minutes Vicario Dissent
    96 Minutes Porro Dissent? (I think this was argy bargy between him and Doku?)

    As we can see, and again ignoring cards for dissent, Spurs only received 1 card for 9 fouls, obviously a card every 9 fouls.

    So, 2 points.

    It does seem as if Man City’s cynical fouling is allowed to go largely unchecked, in this game anyway.

    Despite Spurs looking to of been harshly treated, with only one of their 9 fouls earning a booking, it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed.

    Spurs may indeed receive a high card count, but personally I think they have 2 of the ‘dirtiest’ players in the PL in their side in the shape of Pedro and Udogie. I honestly don’t know how Pedro remains on the pitch in a majority of games. And this isn’t just me talking. My Spurs mates think, as good as he is, he’s a red card waiting to happen every week.

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