Is there a link between possession and the red and yellow cards?

By Walter Broeckx

When I run in to a set of numbers I see from football I always try to see if I can find any logical numbers in them. So this time I was wondering if we can see if there is any link between possession and getting yellow and red cards.

In general it is that when you have the ball you normally cannot get a yellow card for a foul. Let us say in 90% of the incidents it is the team that doesn’t have the ball that commits a foul and not the other way round. I think we all can agree on that (and if you don’t just let me know). And yes I know that the player in possession can sometimes make a foul when he tries to stretch himself when he made a bad contact with the ball but those are more rare than the other way round when a defender tackles the ball holding player and commits the foul.

A bit like Johan Cruyff once said: when we have the ball, the other team can’t score. But can it also be said: when we have the ball, we can’t get a yellow or a red card?

So here we go with our first table. The table based on possession. First comes the team with most possession and last the team who hardly sees the ball.

2010-2011 Possession ranking
Team Poss Yellow Red
1 Arsenal 60% 65 6
2 Chelsea 58% 59 1
3 Manchester United 56% 56 3
4 Manchester City 53% 71 4
5 Tottenham 53% 51 2
6 Liverpool 52% 63 2
7 Fulham 50% 52 1
8 Everton 50% 55 5
9 Newcastle 50% 78 2
10 Wigan 50% 67 4
11 Wolverhampton 50% 62 2
12 Blackpool 49% 47 2
13 Aston Villa 48% 71 2
14 Sunderland 48% 57 5
15 West Bromwich 48% 52 7
16 Birmingham 47% 57 3
17 Bolton 46% 67 5
18 West Ham 44% 59 1
19 Blackburn 41% 65 5
20 Stoke 38% 68 2

So Arsenal is top of the league when it comes to possession. Well this will not be a big surprise to most people who have seen the occasional game of Arsenal. And Stoke is at the bottom of this table. I wonder if they include throw in time in this table?

So according to my assumption and when we form the table on giving yellow cards we should be down at the bottom of the table with most yellow cards. Do we? Just look and remember you should see a mirror image of the first table.

PossRank 2010-2011 Yellow cards order
Team Poss Yellow
1 9 Newcastle 50% 78
2 4 Manchester City 53% 71
3 13 Aston Villa 48% 71
4 20 Stoke 38% 68
5 10 Wigan 50% 67
6 17 Bolton 46% 67
7 1 Arsenal 60% 65
8 19 Blackburn 41% 65
9 6 Liverpool 52% 63
10 11 Wolverhampton 50% 62
11 2 Chelsea 58% 59
12 18 West Ham 44% 59
13 14 Sunderland 48% 57
14 16 Birmingham 47% 57
15 3 Manchester United 56% 56
16 8 Everton 50% 55
17 7 Fulham 50% 52
18 15 West Bromwich 48% 52
19 5 Tottenham 53% 51
20 12 Blackpool 49% 47

Well we aren’t exactly at the bottom but in 7th place. So meaning that despite us having a lot of the ball we do seem to get a lot of yellow cards in a game. Wolverhampton seems to be holding the centre a bit with a 11th place in the possession table and a 10th place in the yellow cards table.

Top of the table is Newcastle who get the most yellow cards in the EPL. Not a big surprise I would say. Except when playing Arsenal then they dropped from an average of over 2 yellow cards to just one.  Arsenal suddenly turn the dirtiest team in the whole EPL with 2 and 3 yellow cards in each game and on top of that 2 red cards also when playing Newcastle.  Would it have anything to do with the presence of D & D in those games?

But let us turn to the red cards. Because when you have possession you normally cant get a red card. So we should be at the bottom of the next table in order of the red cards. And again in normal conditions this should be the reversed table of the first table based on possession.

Poss rank 2010-2011 Red cards order
Team Poss Red
1 15 West Bromwich 48% 7
2 1 Arsenal 60% 6
3 8 Everton 50% 5
4 14 Sunderland 48% 5
5 17 Bolton 46% 5
6 19 Blackburn 41% 5
7 4 Manchester City 53% 4
8 10 Wigan 50% 4
9 3 Manchester United 56% 3
10 16 Birmingham 47% 3
11 5 Tottenham 53% 2
12 6 Liverpool 52% 2
13 9 Newcastle 50% 2
14 11 Wolverhampton 50% 2
15 12 Blackpool 49% 2
16 13 Aston Villa 48% 2
17 20 Stoke 38% 2
18 2 Chelsea 58% 1
19 7 Fulham 50% 1
20 18 West Ham 44% 1

Well we are almost top of the league also in this table. So for a team having a lot of possession we sure do manage to get ourselves red carded a lot.

Have we become a dirty team this season? Did the refs give us more yellow cards for some reason? Did the refs give us more red cards for some reason? We try to find an answer to this next season when we will analyse this from the start in our ref review.

But the old and wise words from Johan Cruyff maybe still stand but based on Arsenal you cannot say that having more of the ball means having not many yellow or red cards.

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87 Replies to “Is there a link between possession and the red and yellow cards?”

  1. Great one Walter !
    The problem that we get to many cards even while we have possession is due to the total incompetence of the referees in the premier league. Thought it can be proved in lots of occasions the past season (pig-face dowd flashing yellows at will for Arsenal players but allowing thugs like barton and nolan to do whatever they want in the field). If the PGMOL statistics can be offered in public domain everyone could easily see what kind of review they have for the pig-face for that match. And about the red-cards we don’t even have to analyse since the way in which Kos was send of in the first match of the EPL season was the example as how the impotent referees are going to handle Arsenal in that season. I hope our analysis and statistics proves how incompetent these referees are though PGMOL says otherwise.

  2. @Walter: kudos for this objective work of counting possession carding. Could you add a column here, on which referees do the carding while we have possession? Of course those who demand that only seven years of League-wide stats will do will shortly come out of the e-woodwork with their ultra-cautionary cards. So, anticipating this, a few cautionary observations for us to consider:
    1 – @imagooner: on a cautionary note, can we agree that PGMOL stats cannot be demanded or invoked as the gold standard of evidence, because they are not/will going to release those stats (as you imply, right?). So, we do what is do-able in this case study.
    2- The common, chronic claim made by contributors such as Dark Prince hereabouts is that only a 7-8 year set of league-wide statistics is the basis for making valid claims about trends. Again, Walter has added another essential brick in this case study to points the way toward a powerful working hypothesis – the most advanced such study in the public marketplace (or commons, a word I prefer) to this date – that shows (a) likely incompetence and (b) possible bias.

    On the last score, I would like to see a re-do that shows the ref’s here, in an adjacent table column, of ref’s names and (in parentheses) how many red and yellow cards they awarded. The power of that presentation remains to be determined, but it would help refine and add rigor to this case study.

  3. p.s. sorry, in point 1 above, I meant to write: “…are not/will likely not be going to release…”

  4. Whilst I agree we are harshly dealt with by the majority of referees I also think that we are naive with our challenges, especially in the area between the edge of our penalty area and the halfway line. We concede far too many cheap free kicks in this area with ill judged and badly executed tackles, you can just see them coming on frequent occasions, and this gives the refs plenty of chances to punish us with cards. This bad habit is even more stupid when they must know how poor they are at defending set pieces and yet they keep making the same silly challenges. Why oh why do we keep pressing the self destruct button in this way, it is almost like saying to the opposition ‘here you are, have a free go at scoring a goal’, an invitation they often take full advantage of. Maybe we are victims of our attacking style of play, maybe our players are just not natural defenders with that inbuilt ability to get the timing right with their challenges.

  5. @mick, Walter: a fuller analysis of (now) last season would be to analyze and evaluating BOTH interpretive observations like mick’s and statistical observations like walter’s today, and see what kind of remedies – both from within the team and regarding the outside (refereeing, PGMOL, etc. etc.) prospect of incompetence (minimal) to bias (maximal) – suggest themselves. Each kind of analysis (qualitative/interpretive and quantitative/interpretive) needs the other for a full perspective. I would like us not to keep arguing whether only internal changes or only external changes are the “real” problem. Both types of analysis are necessary; neither one alone is sufficient. There’s a lot to chew on in both cases and there is always that pesky little question: what to do about it? Also, to go silent on referees until seven years of data are assembled, or, to go silent on internal problems at the team is to deny ourselves the fullest understanding that, hopefully, many of us hereabouts would desire.

  6. When you use the words “red cards” here, are you talking about straight reds, or 2 yellows equalling one red? That may make a difference.

  7. @Bob You are right to say that both external and internal factors combined contribute to the problems our team faced last season. What we who frequent this site have to be very careful of is whilst being aware of the refereeing shortcomings, whether deliberately biased (probably) or just incompetent, we do not become blind to our teams obvious inadequencies. The last thing we want is to be labelled a load of moaning minnies. It is all too easy to blame the ref for not awarding us a penalty whilst forgetting the fact that our striker missed a couple of open goals. When we do that, and I am guilty of it myself, we start to sound like childish cry babies. My daughter who is a Liverpool supporter always accuses me of making excuses when I bore her with ‘the ref was biased’ excuses, however valid those excuses may be, so a balance has to be maintained. I am the first to agree that shocking refs decisions cost us a dozen or so points last season but so did our own cock ups.

  8. Again, its sad to see that you hav not used the statistics of previous years to give any reliable conclusion.

  9. @Dark Prince: A typically machine-like, predictable response and thus, avoidance of any substantive engagement with what Walter has put on the plate. Until you offer something on your own – instead of hiding behind a demand for 7-8 years of statistics before anything of value can be said – what are you/have you really offered here? I hope you write your article, as you mentioned, for UA to post should they wish, because you clearly are smart by any measure. But constructive between now and a year from now, this little message in the bottle about there not being “any reliable conclusion” is what keeps washing up on these shores. Do you only deflate trial balloons and claim they are “evidence free” because they don’t “measure up” with 8 years of league-wide data (which supposedly will speak for itself, without interpretation, one decisive way or another, and then what, after a year of waiting for godot) to meet you single-standard of validity. Do you ever consider that reality is much too abundant, complex, nuanced, etc. to get jammed into your number-cruncher-to-be? But, then again, going by your standard of validity, all that stuff cannot be spoken of in a “reliable” way unless it conforms to your Quantitative (and a narrow one at that)straightjacket. I mean between this fortune-cookie mantra and waiting a year to comment on Der Statistiks, is that all you can offer? C’mon, add something substantive and write that article… Whatever.

  10. @Dogface: Last thing you mentioned about the Untold Ref project was you were up to the modeling/weighting of referee decision types. I’m curious as to how that’s going? Is there cause for hope on that front? Is that something quantifiable or not, after all, in your estimation? I hope it does work out and will add greatly to our understanding, albeit a year from now. Anyway, really curious and would love to hear a bit on your thoughts along the way.

  11. Sorry to seem to go off topic, but it’s really the topic going into next season: But this just in from today’s Guardian, as SAF formally announces The Drive for The Rednose 20. Perhaps this will stir our blood today and raise the pulse: Indeed, SAF is Going for It. Et vous, mes ami?:
    “Sir Alex Ferguson claims pressure will force him to seek 20th title”
    • ‘It’s our time now,’ says Manchester United manager
    • ‘The only thing you can do at this club is win,’ he adds
    Tom Bryant, Monday 6 June 2011 12.39 BST
    After beating Liverpool’s record title haul to claim a 19th championship, the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has claimed: “It was Liverpool’s time in the 80s, it’s our time now”. He also added that, such is the expectation on him and the club, that he would be aiming for a 20th title next season.
    “There’s a responsibility as the manager of Manchester United. It doesn’t go away,” he said. “I’m not going to take it easy because we won the title. Hopefully we’ll be better next season. The only thing you can do at this club is win – that’s all that matters.” Hmmmmmmmmm………

  12. @bob- as i’ve mentioned b4 in earlier articles, trends cant be made by statistics of only one year. Thats basic common sense.

  13. p.s. Liverpool in the ’80s. Ours now. Anything in between? Any spanner in the works?

  14. @Dark Prince…. Walters statistics are not taken from a single match sample in which case your theory would hold water, instead they are compiled from a whole season of 38 matches, surely enough samples to provide meaningful conclusions. They encompass all the different referees not just one, thus again satisfying the sample quantity yardstick you are so keen to quote. Your argument does not hold water, therefore your critcism is misplaced.

  15. This finding is not about a “trend”. Based on the table: I ask, did we get hard done by last season (whether through incompetence or bias or, if you must, coincidence). You are really asserting that coincidence is as likely as anything else, and that we can’t interpret until there’s 7-8 years of data to crunch. That’s bollocks, and exhausting, as you tie up energy and thought that needs to address next season with this logical roundabout of yours that goes as evidence-free as you claim about Walter’s findings. You, in effect, are claiming, straight-faced (or smirking?) that there’s nothing to talk about right now based on Walter’s carding table? Really?: that’s the only “reliable conclusion” that I could draw from your trend mantra. Trend or not aside, is there anything that you have to say about the carding, other than ‘we cannot say anything about the carding’? The latter is your logic. So since there’s nothing else to say about anything Walter produces except that it’s not reliable, how about following your own logic and not saying only that for a while?

  16. @bob, Jerry, menace & bjtgooner – please accept my apologies for my Saturday night rant, you are absolutely right, I was pissed off by something else and came onto untold and took it out on you all. I am embarrassed by my comments and hope you accept my apology. Tony, sorry its off topic but I really want these guys to see this. Cheers

  17. maybe its frusration of being kicked whilst in possession and seeking revenge. Diaby and sagna both walked for retaliation….koscienly is a rash tackler, so that explains another 2.
    I do have a slight belief in bias against arsenal…but even with stats its difficult to really find a correlation,,there are too many variables.Im hoping that video technology (as in rugby) will play a major part in the future as referees make so many wrong decisions…any lessening of their powers on the pitch is good for arsenal.

  18. @Stevie E: So welcome, what you just did! You’ve been a super contributor to my lights, and it’s been great to sharpen wits and insights with yours! Back at it, mate….

  19. @Dark Prince

    It’s either not enough data because it’s ‘only’ one season, or it’s too much data and hence too many variables across seasons with teams or referees, or the weather, or the facial hair on Cesc, with you isn’t it?

    The data is what it is. It’s there for you and everyone to see. To try and analyse it for whatever it is worth, or to add to it, to discuss the shortcomings. Objections of your sort, are just objections for the sake of objecting. It has no meaning, unlike this data, which despite it’s limitations POTENTIALLY has SOME meaning.

  20. In fact, scratch that. Data ALWAYS has some meaning. What makes the data relevant is the framework you put the data in, and what conclusions you draw from it. In this case, the framework isn’t even attempting to show a ‘trend’ (of 7-8 seasons, though why those many will be enough is anyone’s guess). It is simply giving you the stats for the season. Whether this season is an outlier on the statistical graph is not even up for discussion here (or wasn’t until you let your pet grouse out of the bag).

    When the tv shows stats of say,Wilshere running 12 km in a match, do you say, but this stat has no meaning because it doesn’t show a comparison with his entire season, or the stats right from his days in the academy, because they do not show his progress as a player. Well ya. They never intended to to show his progress as a player. It simply says he ran 12 km this match.

  21. @ Stevie E

    Don’t worry, we have all been there. I usually enjoy your points – they are normally well thought out.

    Sorry Walter, I am off topic, just in from work and looking forward to reading your article more fully.

  22. @Shard: in the “some meaning” category, which I concur with you on, I think this table would have “some more meaning” if we were to see which referees gave us the red and yellow cards this season when we did have possession (and so, when it was far less expectable, as Walter as Experienced Referee correctly and openly assumes). If these referee names were to correlate with Walter’s previous table that ranked the referees, then we have something sharper and more rigorous to consider among us. A case study that generates better insights, questions and tentative answers than we had before. Then again, we can wait a year and have nothing meaningful to discuss than how many games do we win or lose when Cesc is clean shaven or unshaven, etc. Ha! What do you think?

  23. @Shard: I was going to call Dark Prince’s mantra, in today’s context, a “straw man” – something intentionally set up to easily knock down. But I defer (happily!) to your calling it his “pet grouse”. Then again, I’m not for grouses being pets, but that’s another can of worms (and gracious me, so off topic!)

  24. My view on why we see a high number of yellow and red cards. The bias of referees is a definite contributory factor. I can’t find the figures now, but we do get more cards per foul we concede (and that ignores the fact that sometimes we are called for non existent fouls).

    However, our opponents also seem to have gotten a higher number of cards this season.Of the 64 red cards in the EPL all season, 15 were in Arsenal matches. I would think that, a few exceptions aside (on Diaby mostly), the referees have been instructed to keep a tighter leash on Arsenal games because they do not want another leg break for our team. which is good, except their motive isn’t our well being, but explaining 4 leg breaks (5 if you want to count Cesc against Birmingham) in 5 years will be a bit tougher for them.

  25. @bob

    Lol.. I think a grouse is more appropriate because it doesn’t sit still to be knocked down. A bozo the clown analogy might also be apt seeing as it just predictably keeps bouncing back despite getting knocked down.

    Oh and it is off topic but I thought I should mention the FA is hosting a seminar right now to discuss the ‘new rules’ that will be in effect next season.

  26. @Shard: I haven’t seen the “new rules” piece as yet, but, prior to the FA’s pronouncement from on high, shall we not all re-dedicate to UA as a “muzzle-free zone”! Then again, perhaps they will announce for video replay?! (Ah well, their harsh dosage of administered-reality will soon be on our plates and on the pitch and I’m reaching for the air bag as you read…)

  27. Walter, Dark Prince is 100% correct in that you will need years of data to “prove” that bias is statistically likely. What your articles do is give some substance to the feeling that anyone who watches Arsenal and is not legally blind can see many times. It is so obvious that the refs are crook that I don’t think that stats which link possession to cards will change anyone’s mind.

    I understand that you see it more easily than most because you are a ref, but anyone who sees Arshavin being tackled from behind for the hundredth time and not getting a free kick must either know that something is amiss or must have suffered from some mind altering experience.

    I assume that regular readers of the AAA suffer from a mental condition. They cannot see it. Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa. It gets more and more obvious, but they cannot see it. If having it happen before your very eyes doesn’t do the trick, stats on cards vs possession won’t do it either.

    @imagooner. You say “….to the total incompetence of the referees in the premier league.” What about Braga? And Barcelona? Throat grabbing got them nothing while “time wasting” got RvP red.

    @Shard. How Diaby has not suffered a leg break is a minor miracle.

  28. muzzle free zone just reminds me of a P.G.Wodehouse novel, Psmith journalist. “Cosy moments cannot be muzzled” (Tony might know what that was about)

    Sheeshh.. I’ve stopped making sense haven’t I? Regarding the referee and the more meaningful data collection you asked for bob, I agree that it will help, but I can’t figure out how to combine the two data tables so as to form a meaningful, rather than a confusing picture. Any suggestions?

  29. @cape gooner – diaby has had his leg broken in 2006, it really slowed his development.

  30. Cape Gooner, you are so right about Diaby this season:

    The leg breaking tackle from Robinson from Blackburn.. not even a foul given and Diaby then tried to do grab him after the tackle.

    The TWO possible ankle breaking tackles against Chelsea (one given the other not) and then again he had to limp off the field having just recovered from the Blackburn incident.

    Then the Barton tackle on him which made him so mad. I have a picture of this incident in which you can see the bone inside his leg being bent in a disgusting way. How on earth it didn’t break is a enough to keep the medical students busy for a while to search the reason. And again nothing given by the ref.

    And when I then read that some Arsenal supporters write that Diaby is always injured and useless I wonder do those fans see the games? Do they see those tackles?

    If unlucky this season Diaby would have broken his leg twice or his ankle twice.

  31. Bob your question about which refs is an interesting one which I will try to answer if I can find the data. Which shouldn’t be impossible. 😉

  32. @Cape gooner

    Nothing minor about it. Incredibly lucky, if being kicked like that in the first place can be ignored, to not get his leg broken again.

    I know what you mean Walter, and it’s not really funny, but LOL. Not even Diaby could manage to have his leg broken TWICE in half a season. One would be enough to put him out. (Thinking about it, I’ve lost the LOL-ing feeling) Also, Robinson (the $#%$) is at Bolton, not Blackburn.

  33. These statistics are very interesting, but I’m not sure how much of a pattern they show as it relates to time of possession re cards. In fact, I’d say that they bounce around a lot, and generally show a DISCONNECT between time of possession and yellow/red cards received in relation to the whole league, and not just Arsenal.

    Your general premise that the number of cards awarded should increase as possession time decreases seems sound, but your table as a whole seems to disprove that premise, and I’m not sure that it shows Arsenal as any more of an anomaly than certain other clubs. So, I’d say that what it says about the league as a whole might be a little more interesting than what it says about Arsenal specifically.

    However, I also agree that Arsenal’s position near the top of the red card table seems questionable. In general, they are much less aggressive in their tackling and the style of football that they play than other EPL clubs, so their high position in the red card table in particular raises questions.

    What I think would make that stat a lot more interesting is to look at the red cards awarded against Arsenal in terms of the impact that it had on outcomes; i.e., in how many of those matches was Arsenal leading at the time the red cards were awarded? When and how often did it cost them points and/or position in the league table?

    Also, were the cards awarded fairly? And if they were, how often did they come in response to a ref’s earlier failure to protect Arsenal players against dangerous tackles? And, obviously, who were the refs that awarded the cards?

    Ultimately, I think you’ve identified an interesting statistic, and I think that it would be worthwhile to analyze the contexts of those cards more closely and see what turns up. Considering that there are only 6 of them, maybe that’s something that I could take a look at myself.

    Could anyone give me a quick list of the matches that those cards were awarded in, or at least tell me where to find that info? Thanks.

  34. @Walter the EPL cards are directly proportional to number of ‘local’ team mambers (Man U are a special case). The issuance of cards to Arsenal for dissent are amazing considering the players rarely get in the officials face. I have observed over a number of years that referees have a rapport with ‘locals’ or stars rather than with non English speaking players. It is easier to speak to them in semaphore of yellow and red cards. I have observed TH14 many times in conversation with referees who generally were on his side (just for his shirt!!!!).

    The CL referees are biased differently and only a careful examination of their finances, gifts and family holidays will give you an inclination of why.

  35. @Shard: I think what I’m after is, for starters, simpler than what I first posed: that is, just to see which were the refs that carded us red or yellow, while we were actually in possession. It seems reasonable (that terrible word again and the statistical shit-storm it conjures)to agree, or agree to agree with Walter, that red/yellow cards are less frequently given when in possession. Assuming that’s so, then which referees were the one’s who carded us at times we were in possession. That’s it really. If there’s a further correlation between those cards by referee and those ref’s atop Walter’s worst ref’s list (from the earlier report in the recent series), then it would sharpen our perceptions of which Referees to especially focus on as next season beckons. I’ve been an advocate of UA’s having different “Watches” (Webb, Vidic, etc.); and I feel that knowing the ref’s behind our cards whilst we are in-possession will be informative and make a good case for adopting a Dowd Watch (for one wild and crazy example). If more data could be culled for the other teams, for last season, then I’d wish for Walter to add a column to this table for Cards, Red and Yellow: showing for each team (at its row, in that cell) the Carding Referee’s name; and how many cards of each type he awarded. For instance: Arsenal Webb (2 Yellow, 1 Red); Dowd (3 Y, 2 R); etc. This would be interesting and allow all of us to note (a) which ref’s do the carding; and (b) to further analyze the possible/probable impact of that Referee on our possession game (last season and for going forward). Sorry for the dull detail, but that’s my request and its rationale.

  36. @Anne

    From memory

    Song against Sunderland (Dowd)
    Koscielny against Liverpool (Atkinson)
    Sagna against ManCity
    Diaby against Newcastle (Dowd)
    Wilshere against Birmingham

    Can’t remember the 6th one. Sagna and Diaby’s were both for reactions after being kicked. Koscielny’s was a soft handball given right at the end. Song’s were fairly soft fouls called before him being sent off in in half an hour. Wilshere’s was a bad tackle.

    Oh just remembered the 6th. koscielny vs Newcastle at home, for denial of a goal scoring opportunity. Questionable in my view since it was near the touchline and he barely made contact.

  37. @mick- hahahaha….you’ll find last year’s results very interesting. But i can understand why the data for previous years aren’t used here. Its simply bcoz the conclusions will differ with the conclusions of this year.

  38. @Anne

    1. Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal – Koscielny (2 yellows) sent off near the end of the game, possibly in injury time, after we had equalised. 1-1 when the red card came, game finished 1-1.
    (Martin Atkinson)

    2. Sunderland 1-1 Arsenal – Song sent off after 56 minutes (2 yellows) while Arsenal were 1-0 up. Game finishes 1-1.
    (Phil Dowd)

    3. Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham – Wilshere sent off (straight red) in injury time, with the score at 2-1.
    (Martin Atkinson)

    4. Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle – Koscielny sent off (2 yellows) in injury time, score at 0-1.
    (Mike Dean)

    5. Arsenal 0-0 Man City – Sagna sent off (straight red) in the final minute of normal time.
    (Mike Jones)

    6. Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal – Diaby sent off (straight red) in the 50th minute while Arsenal are 4-0 up. Game finishes 4-4.
    (Phil Dowd)

  39. @bob- first of all, comparing possession with yellow cards is absolutly baseless. Possession has nothing to do with cards. It all comes down to individual player mentalities. In our team Song is the one who commits the most foul, simply bcoz he sometimes has to break down a swift counter attack. Is that anything related to possession? No!!!!

  40. @Shard- i assume you dont kno anything about statistics. Variables included in this article – Possession and Yellow cards. Thats 2 variables that can be compared, now we need to compare these variables over many years to prove a trend. Its as simple as that. Simple statistics.

  41. @Dark Prince

    Yes, Walter’s only out to deceive us all. That is why he didn’t include the previous years’ data. Shame on Walter for not paying heed to such well considered criticism, and request for more, more and more (only to claim it is too much due to the variables growing with the data set) from the likes of you, the master of the roundabout, the lord of the carousel, the personification of obfuscation. Praise be the Dark Prince, The King is dead, Long live the King.

  42. Interesting that of our 6 red cards, 4 of them were in or near injury time and didn’t affect the score. (But the suspension obviously affects the matches which come next)

    The only 2 red cards which weren’t at the game’s end did affect the outcome (both turned from Arsenal wins into draws) – both were given by the same referee (DOWD) and even took place in the same city! (Oop north, where else?)

    They were also possibly the two most debatable calls of all our sending-offs, and just happened to punish black foreign players (Song and Diaby).

  43. Shard, you are right Robinson plays for Bolton. Sorry Blackburn for giving you a bad name. 😉

  44. you assume too much is the problem Dark Prince. I may not know statistical theory very well, but having only a knowledge of statistical theory doesn’t make your point any more relevant, especially because you refuse to acknowledge the questions asked of you, and choose to lead people on a right merry ride. The points about variables was not raised by me, but by you in relation to a different post. Ya, Perhaps it’s my turn for a Stevie E type rant (no offense Steve), but in this case I think i am justified because frankly, your I-am-above-this, holier-than-thou, sneering, sniping swipes, without contributing to any debate have gotten annoying.

  45. @Wrenny:

    Thanks! You just saved me a lot of time on Arsenal TV (although I would have enjoyed the excuse to watch Arsenal instead of doing my actual job 🙂 ) Did you know all that from memory? I’m impressed 🙂

    So, based on what you’ve given us here, 4 of the 6 reds came at the very end of the match, and it’s thus highly unlikely that they impacted the score line. It would be interesting to see how much Arsenal was threatening to equalize at the times they were given, but in general, they probably didn’t have much impact on the outcome of the actual match.

    That makes Sunderland and Newcastle the only 2 cards that actually would have impacted the outcome, and both of those cards were awarded by Phil Dowd. Interesting.

    It’s also worth noting that the 3 straight reds (Birmingham, Man City, Newcastle) also carried 3-match suspensions, which also had an impact. If I’m remembering correctly, Wilshere made an absolutely horrible tackle to earn his against Birmingham, and Sagna had that head butt in the Man City match. Am I correct in thinking that the Man City player in the altercation w/ Sagna was sent off as well?

    And as for the Diaby tackle against Newcastle, I remember that one well. I guess you can’t argue that Diaby’s offense was worthy of a red card, but he was responding to an unpunished Joey Barton attempt to break his leg…

    I don’t think you can really argue against Wilshere or Sagna’s either, but were those tackles similarly in response to aggressive tackling by the other team? I just don’t remember. Maybe I’ll go back and take a look at Walter’s ref reviews of all those matches.

  46. @Dark Prince: to be honest, I think we should wait for 7-8 seasons worth of data to crunch before saying as you do that the relationship between yellow cards and time of possession is baseless. You might be right, but jeez, to jump to a “reasonable conclusion” like you just did seems a bit rash and interpretive and qualitative and illogical and anti-statistical to me. Hmmmm, I’ve got to take a harder look at my entire modus operandi (so to speak)….

  47. @Dark Prince: Yikes! “It all comes down to individual player mentalities” – have you exited the roundabout? This is sooooo subjective and interpretive that I, for one, cannot bear the thought of allowing such a concept/mode of analysis to be applied on the pitch to Alex Song. However, I’ll make you a deal: I’ll allow for that approach for Alex Song; IF and ONLY IF (logical construct) you allow for me/others to apply it to say, PHIL DOWD. How’s that – a win/win situation, no? Or need we wait a year for the 7-8 years of numbers to crunch to be able to speak meaningfully and seek truth in one another’s company hereabouts?

  48. @Stevie E:

    Just saw your Sat night “rant” and I didn’t think it was all that bad. Maybe I’m just sympathetic because I’ve had my own moments on here in the past (who? ME? Surely not 🙂 ), but cheers mate. Thanks for all your valuable and interesting contributions to the debate.

  49. @Anne
    Only the games and players were from memory, for the timings of the cards, the scorelines at the moment of sending off, referees, etc., I needed ‘s match reports 😀

    RE: Wilshere and Sagna. Wilshere had got a bit of an elbow to the face from Zigic moments before his lunge but it wasn’t too violent, more like an accidental clash of face and arm (Jack is 5’8, Zigic is 6’7). Besides that I don’t recall Wilshere getting much rough treatment in that game.

    I don’t remember Sagna getting roughed up against Man City either, but that game did come 4 days after the away game at Birmingham when Sagna was first stamped on by Bowyer on his thigh, and then had his Achilles raked by Bowyer’s studs. I think he went into the City game a bit wound up because of it, and overreacted to Zabaleta.

  50. @Shard:

    Just noticed that you already answered my question about Sagna’s card also being in response to a bad tackle. Thanks. That’s more time you just saved me (my employer thanks you too, btw 🙂 )

    Interesting that the ones that were for 2 yellows were also soft yellows… Think I’ll still go back and look at Walter’s ref reviews on this. In fact, in light of the work Walter’s already done, it might not be too difficult to go back and check all the yellows as well…

  51. @Anne: Sagna’s send-off was not a wash. This guy had been MUGGED in plain sight of the officials TWICE in a previous match (I think vs Birmingham officiated by the evil twins Peter Walton-Martin Taylor – again I may have their names wrong as I’m not checking now, but will if pressed) and finally couldn’t take any more. It’s way too narrow to call it a wash, even IF (and I don’t recall either) his antagonist was also sent off in the match. That sending off was not a wash – its seeds were planted by an outright assault in one or more prior matches. So, yes, I am with you in terms of context; but context in real time is not necessarily that very match. This stuff needs careful work and analysis by us all, as we’re now doing. And this to me, is what’s exciting about the UA community.

  52. @Anne

    Just to clarify. I didn’t make myself clear earlier since I thought you would check it yourself anyway. Sagna in all likelihood did not have to bear much of a bad tackle in the match (though i am not sure), it is more like what Wrenny, and now bob have said about it being something of a baggage from matches past.

    Bob, i think you mean Mike Oliver as 4th official (again from memory) martin Taylor was the Birmingham oaf who broke Eduardo’s foot. Not quite a referee though probably one in waiting 🙂

  53. @Wrenny: you allude to Dowd’s possible anti-Africanist if not worse bent. Maybe yes or not, but I applaud you for raising the point in a non-sensational way. In fact, I’ll join you in suggesting something similar being at work in the DOUBLE ATTACK on Sagna – for me, also our best and most consistent back this season – at Birmingham. Martin Taylor, the 4th official at that match, also screwed us as referee in a subsequent match, if I remember correctly. There’s toxic stuff afoot and they can’t be quantified, only keenly discerned. Then again, the track records of Joey Barton might in fact be quantifiable, on and off the pitch. Anyway, A+ for moxie (Brooklynese for courage!)

  54. @Anne: thanks on my Martin Taylor slip up, but if there’s such a thing as KARMA for that Birmingham match, well then, need we look any farther than their relegation! That’s it: perhaps Karma will be our 12th man one of these seasons. (And if so, please, let it derail that train now steaming toward Rednose 20).

  55. @Shard, sorry mate – meant thanks to you on my too quick substitution of Taylor for Oliver. Then again, to me, judging by Birmingham horror standards – last season and prior- they’re peas in a pod.

  56. @bob:

    I’m not sure I’m due any thanks on your Martin Taylor slip up. Are you sure that was supposed to be directed at me? 🙂

  57. @bob

    LOL..So what’s your excuse for mixing up Anne and me huh? 🙂

    great find. I don’t really have time to go through it right now, but it should prove useful.

  58. @Shard
    And Dowd’s stats go all the way back to 2001. Dark Prince will be pleased 😉

  59. @Shard, Wrenny, and Bob:

    Thanks for re-clarifying the Sagna situation. I guess the ultimate question is, what are the implications of all this (if any)? Is Arsenal’s high red card tally more to do with the fact that refs are awarding questionable reds, or the fact that opposing sides are basically allowed to beat up Arsenal?

    Neither situation would be good, but it makes a difference in terms of the nature of the problem. And I do think it’s interesting that Dowd awarded both of the most high-impact reds, and that both of them occurred in the same geographic area.


    Btw, thanks for pointing out the geographical link. Not being from England, I didn’t pick up on that. Phil Dowd is from Staffordshire, which I don’t THINK is in that same area (although I fully admit that I’m a complete dunce when it comes to geography. Hopefully I won’t look like a complete fool for saying that, but I’m willing to risk it 🙂 ).

    What do you guys think? Anything to be made of the geographical stuff, or just coincidence?

  60. @Wrenny:

    Wow, 10 years worth of Phil Dowd stats…I knew I if I came on here I would find SOME excuse to not do any real work for the next week…Thanks 🙂

  61. @Wrenny What is really annoying is the FA did FA to Bowyer after the game…..and we think FIFA is corrupt!! It was one of the worst assaults in the season. Bowyer will probably get an OBE for service to sport.

  62. @Stevie E, it takes a big person to do what you just did and is accepted. We all have those days.

    UA, excellent work as usual. It’s disturbing to see the number of cards we get based on the number of possession we hold.

  63. @Wrenny, all: I didn’t realize the extent, but speaking of the unspeakable Lee Bowyer against Sagna that day at this year’s Birmingham Crime scene, his remarkable Wikipedia entry reads like Sagna has hardly the only recipient of his favors: Sorry, but after reading it, I’m amazed he was allowed to be in the EPL at all, let alone free to roam amongst how shall I say, international players!

  64. @Shard- thanks for the sarcasm. But honestly (and logically), the fact of the matter is that in order create a link between 2 things (in this case, possession and cards) you need to show the same statistics for atleast some period of seasons. Or else the link created will be highly unreliable.

  65. @bob- when i said that possession and cards dont have a relation, it was my personal point of view. Yes, to prove any link though you have to get data for previous years as well. But to prove a little to what i’ve said, let me give you some stats as well:-

    Now both of us has to agree that Arsenal has more possession in EPL than any other team since last 5yrs. Hopefully you can agree to that. Now i got hold of our fair play table for last couple of seasons. And here are the results….

    Arsenal’s rank in fair play table – 8
    58 yellow cards and 3 red cards

    Arsenal’s rank in fair play table- 4
    56 yellow cards and 1 red card.

    Arsenal’s rank in fair play table- 17
    65 yellow cards and 6 red cards!!

    Now that my friend doesn’t show any trend.

  66. @bob- as for d player mentality is concerned. The reason i took the example of Alex Song is to show how one player’s mentality alone can bring a bookin to a team. Btw, if you are unaware, Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and Koscielny are the top 3 having the number of yellow cards. And if you have seen them playing, you’ll come to know that their mentality is different. These 3 are definately more physical in their game than any other players in our team. Hence, they have a lot of bookings. It has nothing to do with how much possession they keep.

  67. To further substantiate my theory of mentality, you need to look at the table for players who committed the most number of fouls. And you’ll be shocked to know that even though we lie in 17th position in the cards table, we still have only 2 players in the top 80 players who committed fouls. And obviously they are Alex Song who’s in 4th position and then Jack Wilshere who comes way behind in 59th position. So you can see how the mentality of a player is more responsible for getting cards than possession.

    Though have to admit that we our players dont foul too much but still get a hell lot of cards, so the ref’s mentality too is a factor in this as giving away cards to our foreign players easily too could be established. But thats a topic for another day.

  68. This is off topic (though it does arise from the link in this thread to the FA’s disciplinary rules for 2011-12) but I just saw the penalties for:
    Serious foul play/violent conduct = 3 weeks suspension.
    Spitting at an opponent = 6 weeks.

    Nobody can deny that spitting at an opponent is a revolting and seriously punishable offence, but I wonder if Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey would not have preferred to have been spat upon in preference to having broken legs?

  69. @Dark Prince: Please stop smoking what you are now and try to open your eyes to the real world 🙂 . Are you saying that Arsenal players mentality is worse than some c**ts in newcastle,stoke,birmingham,bolton,etc.

    Just once match could say what the refs mentality towards Arsenal is and its against newcastle. Still i am not able to understand how you try to break a players leg, grab the Gk by his throat with the permission of line referee ( where do EPL get these c**ts, interested to know). Thats the real problem with the english football which doesn’t play according to rules and eventually fails in the international arena thinking they would have referees of dowd quality 🙂

  70. Interesting (to me at least…) that the 2 teams who came top of the disciplinary table this season (Man City and Arsenal) came 2nd and 3rd bottom last year.

    Looking at the stats it appears there is a correlation (albeit fairly weak) between possession and red/yellow cards, but the larger correlation over the past few years appears to be with ‘team ethos’, although I accept that is fairly subjective.

    Hence ‘physical’ teams like Bolton, Sunderland, Stoke, Blackburn etc are consistently high in the disciplinary table, while Fulham, Everton, Spurs and Liverpool are generally lower down.

    Having said that, Arsenal seem to average around mid-table, which seems high, especially since the development of a less physical style of play over the past few seasons.

  71. 2 sides to this story i think;

    on the 1 hand, from my position in my front room watching the games on my laptop, it seemed we well and truly got the shaft from the refs in most of the games. Last season it got to the stage where a fair ref was a priceless commodity. When do we ever get a ref who is totally in our favour? That would be nice.

    On the other hand, what those stats also indicate is that we really dont practice tackling at all, and consequently we are bad at it. Not dirty, just bad. We look clumsy in the tackle, desperate sometimes. Or, we dont do it properly and end up deliberately doing a cheap trip or blatant block and picking up a card. Nothing malicious, just a bit stupid. And it comes down to lack of practice and lack of smartness. Often i think we are masters of our own downfall and a bit thick.

    Our biggest failing is that we seem, as a team, to ignore fundamental aspects of the game in favour of perfecting the passing game (defending set pieces, corners, tackling, our own set pieces and corners, etc). These stats could well bear that out.

  72. Re. Phil Dowd, the report from DogFace on this site makes interesting reading, bearing in mind all the vitriolic abuse he now receives here:

    I’ve copied an example of clear anti-Arsenal bias from the ‘corrupt’, ‘cheating’ ‘c**t’ below…

    It does illustrate the problems of using one game to draw conclusions though – based on that game Dowd would be seen as massively biased in Arsenal’s favour.

    ‘In the 2006/2007 season, Dowd was took charge of the game between Arsenal and Wigan (11/02/2007) at the Emirates. Dowd controversially turned down a stonewall penalty on Emile Heskey for a foul by Mathieu Flamini on the last man. Arsenal were trailing 1-0 at the time and this would have given Arsenal quite a hill to climb. Later on in the same match Wigan’s Josip Skoko was taken off injured and Dowd denied him entry back onto the field of play – leaving them a man down in the face of a spell of mounting pressure from the hosts… Arsenal then went on to score the equaliser even though Flamini (who arguably shouldn’t have been on the field) was clearly offside when he struck in the cross that resulted in the goal. Arsenal then went on to get another goal to finish 2-1.’

  73. @DP

    Sample size and over the course of years is well and good if that is what the objective is. Are you using that data to ask the right questions? All this article does is ask whether there is a link b/w possession and how many cards a team gets, despite stating a belief that it should be so. It provides the season’s stats to examine whether such a link exists THIS season. It doesn’t aim to say that this season represents either a variation or trend. This season is the scope of the analysis. Not its wider connotations.

    The wider connotations and what these stats MIGHT represent in that context, has already been ASKED (as in not determined) by Walter towards the end of the article. But that doesn’t mean these stats exhibit nothing. (refer to example about match stats- are they meaningless because they do not take note of the entire season, or career of a player?)

    As for a link between possession and cards, I’m not sure a direct link would exist. If a team has the majority of possession, it is possible that they get caught on the break, thereby making some fouls worthy of cards straightaway, rather than just a foul. The link, if it exists, would probably be more with the number of fouls. Cards are linked not just with the number but the seriousness of the offense. But a team with high possession stats can be expected to concede less number of fouls. Walter, maybe I missed it and you’ve already done so, but I’d prefer an analysis of possession with total fouls called. And maybe the cards can be looked at as a percentage of cards per foul. (Lots of work compiling that data for all teams I know)

  74. @DogFace

    Thanks for posting that, it is a big drop – we definitely have struggled under him this season, and been on the end of some shocking decisions.

    Slightly off-topic, some of those AH numbers seem massively negative for Blackburn and City – are they just for single games?

  75. @BobbyP – Both Blackburn and Manchester City have seen very steady rises in his numbers and this season very did very well – you are correct that they had to crawl out of the gutter to do this and the Manchester City figures in particular worry me as a number of referee’s have shown a more positive trend towards them in recent seasons.

    I do rate Mancini quite highly as a manager though in that it seems he has his own analysis done and is aware when his team face a potential mugging and adjusts his tactics accordingly.

  76. @Dogface
    “He has his own analysis done and is aware when his team face a potential mugging and adjusts his tactics accordingly.”

    I find that really interesting, so you’re saying he has made tactical adjustments based on the referee taking charge of the game? Could you give us some examples? I think there’s a fascinating article in there 😉

  77. @Wrenny – Do you recall the big blue bus being parked at the Emirates this season? The result 0-0 under Mike Jones – if City had tried to play I reckon that would have been a solid 3 pointer to us. I’ve seen this again against other teams where they look pre-match to be on a hiding to nothing – and always admired him for it – even though the press slated him for negative tactics – those points were vital.

  78. imagooner- i’m not comparing anyone’s mentality. I’m jus saying that more physical mentality a player has, the more chances he’ll get booked. Doesn’t matter if its blackburn, newcastle or arsenal. Thats the reason why Song, Wilshere and Koscielny are more prone to get booked. Its doesn’t hav to do anything with possession. Simple as that.

  79. Shard- if you’re tryin to create a link for this season only, then its ok. Though there cant be any trend to this sort which can be helpful for the coming years as the data i’ve given for last few years shows very unreliable trends. Also i seriously doubt there could be any link between possession and cards.

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