Who might Arsenal face next season: 1 – Leicester City


By Tony Attwood

Some years back we started studying Leicester City’s statistics because they seemed somewhat out of line with the stats of other clubs, and with the Championship league table looking as it is…


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Leeds United 38 25 7 6 70 28 42 82
2 Leicester City 37 26 4 7 74 33 41 82
3 Ipswich Town 38 24 9 5 80 49 31 81
4 Southampton 36 22 7 7 73 47 26 73


… it would seem quite possible that the club might come up to the Premier League again this season.  So I wondered if they were still playing the same game of having a high level of tackling. (I’m also hoping to produce a little article on what we can expect if Leeds and Ipswich come up too).  Data comes from Whoscored.

But if you want the background to see why we have had such a particular interest in Leicester you might care to start with 

Part of that earlier work involved recording not just the number of tackles, fouls and yellow cards but also the ratio of tackles to fouls in recent years.    And then comparing that data with Arsenal’s figures.

Coming to this issue again the first thing to note is that each season Leicester have been able to put in many more tackles per foul than Arsenal.  But in the last two seasons that level has crashed down, and now Leicester are just about as likely as Arsenal to be penalised for a tackle…

So while in 2019/20 Leicester could put in over a third more tackles than Arsenal before being called out for a foul, now the number is just 2%.  The clubs are playing on a much more balanced playing field.


Club Season Tackles pg Fouls pg Tackles per foul % diff
Leicester 2019/20 19.5 11 1.77 36%
Arsenal 2019/20 15.4 11,1 1.30
Leicester 2020/21 17.9 10.9 1.64 24%
Arsenal 2020/21 12.0 9.1 1.32
Leicester 2021/22 18.2 9.4 1.94 31%
Arsenal 2021/22 14.2 9.6 1.48
Leicester 2022/23 18.4 10.8 1.70 18%
Arsenal 2022/23 14.9 9.8 1.52
Leicester 2023/24 16.9 10.1 1.67 2%
Arsenal 2023/24 15.6 9.5 1.64


So how is it that Leicester are getting penalised at about the same level as Arsenal for tackles, whereas in previous years they have been getting away with many, many more tackles without being penalised?

Obviously the one big difference for Leicester this season is that they are not in the Premier League but in the Championship.   Now if that is the reason why Leicester’s tackles per foul ratio has suddenly come down to Arsenal’s level, that is worrying, because it is more than likely that Leicester will be back in the Premier League next season and it is possible that Premier League referees will once more be showing the sort of largesse toward Leicester that the statistics then suggested they were showing in previous seasons.

But we should also look at Arsenal’s figures in terms of tackles per foul, season on season.   Figures in this table are per game.


Club Season Tackles pg Fouls pg Tackles / foul Yellows for fouls
Arsenal 2019/20 15.4 11,1 1.30 1.60
Arsenal 2020/21 12.0 9.1 1.32 1.02
Arsenal 2021/22 14.2 9.6 1.48 1.23
Arsenal 2022/23 14.9 9.8 1.52 0.84
Arsenal 2023/24 15.6 9.5 1.64 1.07


As we have reported in previous articles on this subject, in 2019/20 Arsenal were top of the yellow card league with 86 cards, with 61 of them being for fouls.  This, as we have noted, was Arteta’s prime issue in his early years at Arsenal.

In effect despite the referee clamp down on foul tacklesArsenal have been able year on year to put in more and more tackles before a foul is called.  However this season’s new directive about yellow cards has seen the total number of yellow cards related to tackles rise.

Leicester have clearly learned their lesson and over the last couple of seasons have reduced their tackling level by around 9% presumably in preparation for next season.

So what can we learn overall?

Arsenal have in fact followed a most interesting trajectory which I am not sure any of the media has picked up on.

First, initially tackles were reduced dramatically – down by 28% in Arteta’s first season.   But since then they have risen, as the defence has been replaced by players who are much more adept at tackling without giving free kicks and penalties away.

As a result the level of fouls per game was cut by 22% and has stayed at this lower level. despite the level of tackles now rising to above that when Arteta first arrived.

In fact Arsenal are now getting in 1.64 tackles per foul as opposed to 1.30 in his first season at the club – that is an increase of over 26%, and is a significant part of why Arsenal has the best defence in the league in terms of goals conceded.  As the opposition attack, Arsenal are now much, much better at stopping that attack with a tackle without giving away a foul.

The number of fouls that result in a yellow card has risen this season, as it has for every club because of the new PGMO directive, but even so is still below the 2021/22 level.

Leicester playing in the Championship do not seem to be using the tactics we highlighted previously, and it will be interesting if when they return to the Premier next season as seems likely they then return to previous tactics.


3 Replies to “Who might Arsenal face next season: 1 – Leicester City”

  1. Tony,
    I still don’t understand the “largesse”. In the 15/16 season you couldn’t look at a Leicester player without being carded. Vardy had more PK attempts than most teams in the league. Everyone’s darlings. Why? Perhaps I don’t go far back enough in football to get it. Or remember it. Or whatever. But when they come back up they will find a different Arsenal. Hope Vardy enjoys going into the box against Saliba and Gabriel and White and Rice.

  2. Goonersince72 – certainly Leicester were getting away with massive numbers of tackles without being called out for fouls, until we started running our comparison stories, at which point the number of fouls awarded by referees went up dramatically. Likewise Vardy was getting awarded more and more penalties again until we highlighted the way he was getting them. Either both changes were coincidences or someone somewhere was reading our statistical reports and told the refs to tighten up on Leicester. Since then they have not been able to pull off the same trick.

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