Why Tottenham concede more goals than Arsenal, and what they could do about it (but I hope they don’t)



By Tony Attwood

Tottenham Hotspur have conceded 49 goals this season, while Arsenal have conceded just 26.  Worse, for Tottenham they are two games behind Arsenal, so by the time the teams have played the same number of games, their goal excess over Arsenal could be even higher

So to help Tottenham out I am going to give a statistics-based analysis of why this is happening.  And I do this because can’t imagine anyone at Tottenham will take any notice.  After all they must know exactly what is happening and why, and they are deciding to do nothing about it.  So nothing I say will have any effect.

Overall, in the PL, the stats show that the top teams tackle less.  Except Tottenham, who are the second-highest tacklers in the league.  

In terms of tackling they are on 19.5 tackles a game, above such luminaries as Everton (19.4) Wolverhampton (19.2), Sheffield United (19.1) and Nottingham Forest 18.9).  And this is an occasion in which one can be identified by the company one keeps.

To their credit, Tottenham are only halfway down the fouling table as a result of their tackle marathon (tacklethon perhaps?)   And that doesn’t sound too bad  – except Tottenham have knocked up 76 yellow cards and four red cards this season, compared to 53 yellow and two red for Arsenal.  And if we just look at yellow cards from fouls Tottenham’s numbers are 49 cards from fouls compared to 36 from Arsenal.

To see that in a more direct manner, overall Tottenham have got 43% more yellow cards this season than Arsenal overall and 36% more yellow cards than Arsenal from fouling.

So either fouling is a key part of the Tottenham game or referees are biased against Tottenham.  Either way the result is more free kicks to the opposition and more yellow cards to Tottenham, so it would be a good idea to cut it down.

But there’s an oddity here, for Tottenham can put in 1.74 tackles before a foul is called whereas Arsenal can only get 1.55 tackles in before a foul is called.  This could suggest that Tottenham are more adept at tackling than Arsenal – but it is also possible to explain this by the fact that Arsenal only tackle when they absolutely have to, and hence a tackle is more are more likely to be called out for a foul.

But the figures are curious.  Tottenham put 24% more tackles, but only get 9% more fouls against them.  But when it comes to yellow cards from tackles, they are getting way more than Arsenal.  Here are the figures.


Club Tackles Fouls Yellow from tackles
Arsenal 15.7 10.1 1.06
Tottenham 19.5 11 1.53
Tottenham excess +24% +9% +44%


So despite only putting in 24% more tackles than Arsenal, Tottenham are getting a stunning 44% more cards from tackles than Arsenal!!!

In summary, Tottenham are conceding twice as many goals a game as Arsenal, and getting 36% more yellow cards than Arsenal, as they do so.  It is the perfect lose-lose situation.  True, they get away with more tackles before a foul is called, but when it is called, refs are much more likely to wave a card than they are against lower-tackling teams.

Now I am not saying the referees are getting this right.  Rather I am simply saying this is how it is, and it is ludicrous that Tottenham are just going on and on tackling and letting the cards mount up.

The reason for this situation from a referee’s point of view is that there is obviously no perfect way of making instant judgements on what is a yellow card-worthy tackle and what is not.  So refs give the benefit of the doubt for a while and don’t wave a card for a poor tackle, but as the tackles mount up, after a while they’ve had enough and start carding more and more tackles.

As a result of this Tottenham find as the game goes on they can get away with fewer and fewer tackles without a foul being given, and fewer and fewer tackles without a yellow being given.

To try and cope with this Tottenham are rotating their tacklers and that is reducing the number of cards they are getting as well as reducing the danger of a player being banned.  But as a tactic for defending it is not working which is a contributing factor as to why Tottenham has conceded almost twice as many goals as Arsenal while playing two fewer games.

But should I as an Arsenal season ticket holder be pointing this out?  Well, I don’t think it matters.   Tottenham must know already, and yet they just keep on with the same approach.


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