How Arsenal made themselves the least carded club in the League



by Tony Attwood

When Arteta became manager in December 2019 his first major task was to reduce the number of yellow cards that the club was getting.   In 2019/20 (the half season that he served) the number of yellow cards from fouls reached 47. That was not the highest – Tottenham and Watford were on 59, but still high and its cause was a combination of a desire to foul to break up an attack, and the number of tackles that the referees deemed to be fouls.  (Data on cards comes from WhoScored).

By 2020/21 the numbers had risen again with seven clubs being on 60+ yellows for fouls.

As the table below shows, in the year in which Arteta managed part of the season (2018/19) the number of tackles was higher than any season since.

But it was at this time that referees started to change the way they handled fouls and in 2019/20 – Arteta’s first full season at the club – although the number of tackles came down slightly, the number of fouls went up.   As did the number of yellow cards awarded from fouls.

However, this was not just an effect that Arsenal felt as we can see this from the ratio table.  And to be clear here, where “yellow cards” are quoted we are only counting yellow cards from tackles, not from any other cause.

These are the figures for Arsenal season by season including Arteta’s i2018/19 in which as noted Arteta was only responsible for part of the season, and the current season where we have taken the figures as of today and estimated what they will look like by the end of the 38 match campaign.

Arsenal figures

Season Tackles Fouls Yellow from fouls Yellow from fouls highest
2018–19 608 410 47 59
2019–20 585 422 61 65*
2020–21 456 345 39 62
2021–22 539 364 47 77
2022–23 566 372 32 66
2023/24 (est) 593 361 39 76


What we can see is that in his first years at the club, Arteta took the number of tackles made by the players down so that in 2020/21 the number of tackles made was running at 75% of the level of tackling in 2018/19 when he arrived part way through the campaign.

Following from this the level of fouls awarded was down by 18% and the number of yellow cards given for fouls was down by 19%.  And it is important to note that this went against the general trend in the Premier League for the club with the most yellow cards from fouls was tending to rise.

However having reduced the level of tackling in 2020/21, by 2021/22 Arsenal’s team transformation was allowing the club to tackle more, while getting fewer fouls given against the team – a remarkable achievement at a time when referees were becoming ever more active in this regard.

Indeed in 2022/23, for the third year running Arsenal slightly increased the number of fouls from tackles, but the number of yellow cards from fouls again came down.

If we compare the figures from 2020//21 through to 2022/23 (that is across the three seasons), the figures are quite remarkable.

  • Tackles up 26%
  • Fouls up 8%
  • Yellow cards down 18%

Now it is true that during this three-season spell, there was a decrease in the number of yellow cards given out overall.

However, in the current season, there has been a major leap in the number of fouls and yellow cards awarded by referees following a change of approach from PGMO.  And yet, estimating the final figures for the end of the season we see that Arsenal’s tackles will be up by 5%, the fouls will be down by 3%, but the yellow cards from fouls will be up by 22%.

This last figure looks like a disaster but in fact the number of yellow cards for fouls has shot up this season across all clubs.

Indeed as the table below shows, the number of yellow cards as a percentage of tackles has almost doubled this year from the number last year.

If we expand our view and look at yellow cards given for all reasons this season, Arsenal have the smallest number – which can only be for the good.  Here’s the full table as of today – and these are yellows for ALL reasons, not just tackles.


Team YelLows Reds
1. Chelsea 82 3
2. Sheffield United 79 4
3. Aston Villa 76 2
4. Brighton 71 3
5. Brentford 69 2
6. Wolves 68 1
7. Manchester United 65 1
8. Fulham 65 3
9. Nottingham Forest 65 3
10. West Ham 64 3
11. Tottenham 63 4
12. Newcastle 59 0
13. Everton 57 1
14. Bournemouth 57 2
15. Burnley 56 5
16. Luton 55 0
17. Crystal Palace 52 1
18. Liverpool 49 5
19. Manchester City 46 2
20. Arsenal 41 2




One Reply to “How Arsenal made themselves the least carded club in the League”

  1. Great post! It’s really helpful to see the stats across seasons as it gives a better sense of what’s going on. This season, the three teams receiving the fewest cards are the top three sides in the league with AFC in the top spot. It’s certainly not the only reason these teams are out front, but is definitely a factor. Arsenal seem to be the early adapters to the ‘new’ way the PGMO are carding.

    I also think the top teams are treated differently than the rest and seem to get more match saving decisions in their favor. As Arsenal fans, we feel hard done by whenever a decision goes against the team. Arsenal’s treatment by the officials (inc/ VAR) could use a bit of the old Liverpool/ManU dusting. There’s little difference in the three teams fighting it out, therefore one or two big officiating errors could decide the title. Who gets the call? Guardiola? Arteta? or………Klopp? This isn’t a knock on Klopp, I think he’s good for the game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *