Arsenal v Luton (and vice versa): a comparison of fouling (and referees)



By Sir Hardly Anyone

This being the holiday season in England several of us are not where we normally are, and this being the case this article is being written before the Arsenal games against Manchester City and the Luton Town game against Tottenham Hots.   But the figures in question still cover the bulk of the season, and are, I think still very valid.  We’ll up date them in later articles of course.

Figures are per game


Club Tackles per game Fouls per game Cards from fouls per game
Arsenal 15.6 9.5 1.07
Luton Town 17.1 11.6 1.37
Aston Villa 14.5 10.9 1.63
Tottenham Hots 19.8 10.9 1.34


Aston Villa as we can see have learned from the earlier experiences of Unai Emery when he was at Arsenal and took them to the top of the yellow card table – but only up to a point.  So far he has now reduced Aston Villa’s tackling and their fouling.  But as we will see in a moment, when they do foul, the fouls are particularly bad and the referees react.

Tottenham are still pursuing their bizarre tackle-tackle-tackle policy and are putting in 27% more tackles in each game than Arsenal.  Given they are 10 points behind and have conceded 19 more goals than Arsenal it is not a policy that seems to be working.

Meanwhile comparing Luton and Arsenal,  Luton are putting in 10% more tackles than Arsenal.

In terms of fouls Arsenal are still bottom of the list, and Tottenham have managed to get their fouling down despite keeping up the tackling level, so they have obviously been practising.

But what Villa have not yet learned (and this is probably because Emery has no one at Villa to advise him on the PGMO’s tactics), is how to stop getting cards from fouls.  Villa are getting more than half as many again yellow cards from fouls as Arsenal.

So lets now see how the ratios work out.


Club Tackles per foul Tackles per card Fouls per card
Arsenal 1.64 14.58 8.88
Luton Town 1.47 12.48 8.46
Aston Villa 1.33 8.90 6.69
Tottenham Hots 1.82 14.78 8.24


Tottenham through putting in more tackles than the other clubs find a benefit – they can put in more tackles before getting a foul called.  In fact 11% more than Arsenal.   Luton however don’t have the skill either to put in tackles that are not fouls, or which are not seen as fouls by PGMO officials.

Thus amazingly Arsenal can put in 40% more tackles before a foul is called than Luton Town can.

The team that is suffering most however is Aston Villa who can only put in 8.9 tackles before a card is given.  This is the sort of problem that Unai Emery had at Arsenal.  So although he has been able to get his team to put in more tackles without fouls being called, when fouls are called they are much more likely to result in a yellow card being waved.

However, when fouls are called it seems like PGMO have now instructed its men to wave cards at the same proportion for most clubs irrespective of how serious the foul is.  Except for Aston Villa – because their excessively high number of cards.  They get a card every 6.69 fouls.  The other items in our selection can get away with an extra two fouls before a card is waved.

What is odd is why Emery has not tumbled this.   Surely they must have statisticians at Villa pointing out that PGMO officials are showing cards more often for tackles than other clubs get.   But this is what Arteta realised after he took over at Arsenal, and as we have seen Arsenal then came tumbling down the league tables in relation to yellow cards.  Maybe Emery just has a blind spot or simply can’t believe that referees don’t treat every club the same.

Of course some clubs have played more games than others, but leaving that aside for a moment we can see the enormous variety in the approaches of clubs towards the PGMO officials, some seemingly assuming that everything in refereeing is fair, and others looking at the actual statistics and altering their game accordingly

Here’s the current table, for yellow and red cards from all reasons (remembering our tables above only account for yellow from fouls, and take account of the number of games played.)   These figures are up to 20 March and will of course be updated in future articles.

And we pick up on this one now to show that Luton Town is the one club with no red cards this season.  Congratulations to them.

Chelsea at the top of the yellow card table have exactly double the number of yellow that Arsenal have.  Liverpool and Burnley are kings of the red cards (and I find it interesting that when Arsenal were getting more yellow cards than anyone else, every commentator noticed it.  When Liverpool are at the top of the red card table, no one seems interested).

Team Yellow cards  Red Cards
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 3
7. West Ham 65 3
8. Manchester United 65 1
9. Fulham 65 3
10. Nottingham Forest 65 1
11. Tottenham 63 4
12. Newcastle 60 1
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

More anon.


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