Arsenal v Aston Villa: the utterly unexpected tactics


By Sir Hardly Anyone

Now here is something rather strange.  Assuming that you don’t know the answer already, where do you think Aston Villa are in the tackling and fouling statistics?  (Data below as usual from WhoScored).

The answer surprised me – although maybe you have a wider perspective than I do.  For Arsenal put in six percent more tackles than Aston Villa but Arsenal get 11% fewer fouls against them than Villa.  Indeed when we get through to the final comparison chart at the end of this piece, the difference between the two clubs is astonishing.

Of course there is nothing wrong with the basic statistics  – they just mean that Arsenal are more skilled in the tackle than Aston Villa players – but nonetheless, such a wide difference is quite  unusual.   Here are the basic figures and just by way of comparison I have included Tottenham and Manchster City as well.  Plus the shots and goals scored too, to add another perspective.


Team Tackles pg Fouls pg Shots pg Goals PG
3. Tottenham 19.6 11.0 12.8 2.10
18. Arsenal 15.5 10.1 8.4 2.42
19. Aston Villa 14.6 11.1 11.2 2.06
20. Manchester City 13.1 8.0 8.2 2.29


Top of the tackling teams is Tottenham who put in almost half as many tackles again as Manchester City do per match.   And top of the fouling group in this selection are Tottenham and Aston Villa.

On the goal scoring side, once again Tottenham are top in terms of shots per game, again taking over half as many again per game as Manchester City, but coming out with fewer goals. 

It really is blindingly obvious: if that Tottenham team wants to make an impact they really do have to improve their shooting accuracy, for such figures as these, really do show where Tottenham and Aston Villa are getting it wrong:  they are taking shots galore and just not getting the goals as a result.  They are tackling like mad but simply being called up for fouls.

It is also worth having a look at the yellow cards – and I’ll quote these across the whole season as that makes it clearer just how much of a difference there is between the teams


Team All Yellow cards Position Yellow from fouls Position
Aston Villa 83 3rd 52 3rd
Tottenham 72 8th 45 9th
Manchester City 48 19th 29 19th
Arsenal 46 20th 30 20th


This really does show the difference in style and approach from Arsenal and Manchester City (the two lowest carded teams in the league) and Villa and Tottenham.    In short Aston Villa have got 90% more yellow cards this season than Arsenal!

So let’s do the normal comparison, with all three columns on the per game rate


Team Tackles PG Fouls PG Yellows from Fouls PG
Aston Villa 14.6 11.1 1.63
Tottenham 19.6 11.0 1.41
Manchester City 13.1 8.0 0.94
Arsenal 15.5 10.1 0.97


It is pretty obvious what Villa need to do to improve their situation: improve the quality of their tackling and tackle less.   Tackling less alone however is not enough (Arsenal in fact are tackling more than Aston Villa) they are (at least in the eyes of the referees) tackling better.

Just how much difference this could make can be seen by the ratio chart


Team Tackles Per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Aston Villa 1.32 8.96 6.81
Tottenham 1.78 13.90 7.80
Manchester City 1.64 13.93 8.51
Arsenal 1.53 15.98 10.32


The success of the Arteta defensive model and the fallacy of the Tottenham approach also, can be seen from the last two columns.

Arsenal can put in 16% more tackles than Aston Villa before a foul is called.

Arsenal can put in 78% more tackles than Aston villa before a card is waved.

Arsenal can put in 52% more fouls as Aston Villa before being given a yellow card

Those three figures show the advantage Arsenal take into this match in terms of their defensive capabilities – and it is a set of figures that has been achieved at Arsenal by Mikel Arteta.  For you might recall if you are a regular reader on this site that when Arteta joined the club Arsenal were the most carded club in the league.  Now they are the least carded club.

And what is interesting of course is that Arteta took over from the man who is now Aston Villa’s manager: Unai Emery.

It all shows the benefit of having a clear strategy in defence and a fulsome understanding of what PGMO and its referees get up to.

We will, as usual have a look at our referee for this match, and what we can expect him to do, in a later article before the game itself.

4 Replies to “Arsenal v Aston Villa: the utterly unexpected tactics”

  1. Great match for our neighbours…
    losing with 71 % possession….
    and taking in 4 goals….
    and 4 yellows on 12 fouls to Newcastle 0 yellows for 14 fouls ….

    Great game !

  2. I would say Spurs have ‘bottled it’ but surely you have to be in with a chance of winning something first, before you can bottle it?

    Maybe that’s why ‘Spursy’ was invented

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