Manchester U v Arsenal: injuries and referees



By Sir Hardly Anyone

I do often wonder what would have happened this season if Arsenal had suffered the sort of injury level that the club did get for a period under Wenger.  But it hasn’t happened: as things stand Arsenal have three injured players while Manchester United have an astonishing 12.

Is it all down to bad luck, the training methods, the work of the recovery team, managers taking risks with 50/50 situations (“he should be ok so we’re taking a chance”), desperation….?  Of course I am not inside a club so I don’t know, but there are serious suggestions that different managers handle the situation in different ways – and some of these ways are very risky.

What we can say is that there is a link between the number of tackles put in and sustained by a team and the level of injuries.  Manchester City and Arsenal are the two teams that tackle the least, and second and third in the list of teams that are fouled the least.  And they get the least injuries.

That seems very clear – but as with most very clear statistics, they get very little attention in the media.  But I think we can spell it out, Arsenal and Manchester City get fewer injuries than most clubs because they tackle less and are tackled less than most.   And that happens because of their chosen style of play.  It is rather simple.

 Arsenal’s injured players are Tomiyasu, Saka and Timber, and all are at the “being assessed” stage rather than definitely out.

Manchester United’s list with 12 out would take me a while to copy down, but you can look it up through the link above.  They have more injuries than anyone else.  Sheffield United are second with 11.   But this is not just a reflection of league position – it is style of play, and a slice of luck, as is shown with Nottingham Forest having just one player out.  So tackle and be tackled more equalling the level of injuries is a tendency not an absolute rule.

To see more about Manchester United’s style of play take a look at Manchester United and Arsenal: how the wrong model leads to problems.

So we know that both over the season, and over the last six games, Arsenal have been doing better than Manchester United, even when home and away are taken into account.    But what will the referee make of it all?

According to the officials for the match are 

Referee: Paul Tierney. Assistants: Scott Ledger, Mat Wilkes. Fourth official: Darren Bond. VAR: John Brooks. Assistant VAR: Constantine Hatzidakis.

Paul Tierney is the lowest awarder of yellow cards among the ten referees who have overseen the most Premier League games this season (ie between 18 and 28 games) with 3.58 yellows a game.  Top of the tree as ever is Anthony Taylor who has given out 4.81 cards per game.  

That means that Taylor hands out 34% more cards than Tierney.   Taylor’s total is an astonishing 125 cards in 26 league games this season, while Tierney is on 86 cards.  Even allowing for the two extra games that Taylor has had over Tierney, this difference is ludicrous – there is obviously no similarity of approach between these two referees.

We might also note that Tierney is the lowest awarder of penalties among the top ten elite referees.  Again comparing Taylor and Tierney,  Taylor gives 34% more penalties than Tierney.  Again that is ludicrous for the most popular football league in the world.  (The only thing that is more insane is that the media never mention it).

So if Manchester United adopt an approach of risky tackles in the penalty area in order to stop Arsenal scoring we will know exactly why.   They too are looking at the statistics of the referee.

And this is very much not how it should be.  Clubs should not be preparing for games by taking into account who the referee is, but I am sure that is being done.  All thanks to PGMO.

In one sense however Arsenal and Manchseter United have a similarity.  In the last five seasons Manchsetr United have finished, 6th, 3rd, 2nd, 6th, 3rd – a fairly solid top six club.

Over the last five seasons Arsenal have finished 5th, 8th, 8th, 5th, 2nd.  Less of a solid top six club in fact.

But the difference is this.  Arsenal used that drop to 8th to rebuild the club in a new style and approach.  Manchester United don’t seem to have a continuous approach – to me it all looks a bit more hit and miss.   But then over this period Manchester United have had four managers, including one described as interim and one described as caretaker.  That rarely seems to do much good.

Up next: the team 

5 Replies to “Manchester U v Arsenal: injuries and referees”

  1. Plus they have the highest wage bill. Some players are in it just for the money, some players just love to play football and eat, live ,sleep football, and some players are ambitious to want more silverware, international recognition etc..
    All I know is that Manu have a very high wage bill and very little silverware or European prospects, which means very little sustainability for the future as their situation remains unchanged. If they put all their eggs in one basket and concentrate solely on the cup final, that would give them a trophy, and also a Europa entry. Will it be common sense over pride or the other way around.
    If they help Arsenal to win the league and then beat Man City in the cup final, it would give the Manu Fans, two things to cheer about and make it a decent season for the fans at least.

  2. By the way…. anyone can understand why Tierney in the first half wanted a indirect free kick in our own penalty area to be retaken when Havertz was alone on goal from the free kick???????? The ref took a clear goal away from us. Unbelievable….

  3. @ Walter
    I thought that at the time , maybe it was taken from the wrong place like all throw in’s

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