Animal Farm in the PL

By Walter Broeckx

I remember when we talked about the  book Animal Farm from George Orwell there was this great quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

I was wondering if this also applied to players in the PL. Are all players in the PL treated equally by the referees? They should be. But how do you check if this really is the case? Or is not the case?

Thus I thought I might attempt a few case studies to see if we can find some differences and see some numbers that might shed a light on to this.

Let us start with using an example from a player on whom we have lots of data.

Per Mertesacker. Before coming to Arsenal a few years ago he already had a very long career in the Bundesliga. And when we examine his record in the Bundesliga we see that in the nine seasons in which  he played 221 matches in Germany he got the amazing total of 9 yellow cards. Yes that is spelled nine. Neun as Per would say it in German.

That is one yellow card on average per season.  In other words it took him around 25 matches to get a yellow card in the Bundesliga. And if we calculate this in terms of the number of minutes he was on the field we find that he got a yellow card every 2184 minutes.  When he came to Arsenal I also mentioned this in my hallelujah article about his arrival. I mentioned that he was probably the cleanest defender you can find around.

So how does it compare to his yellow cards in the PL? Well he played 96 PL matches so far. And he got 9 yellow cards. So the same number of yellow cards already but in not even half the matches.  His average per season was 1 in the Bundesliga but in the PL this has gone up to 3. He needed 25 matches to get a yellow in the Bundesliga and now he gets one yellow card every 11 matches. And he only needs 949 minutes to get a yellow card compared to the already mentioned 2184 minutes in the Bundesliga.

Now I know this is still very low for a central defender but it is a bit odd that he gets around two to three times as many yellow cards compared to the Bundesliga.

A reason might be that well…perhaps English referees don’t like German players that much? Because I don’t see much difference with the Per I had admired in the Bundesliga and the one in the PL.

Let us take another one. Koscielny. Now to compare him I have only taken his Ligue one numbers. Because playing in the lower leagues is maybe not the same.

In Ligue 1 in France Koscielny played 35 matches and got 3 yellow cards. Now since playing in the PL he played in 126 matches for Arsenal and has already had 18 yellow cards. Let us try to compare this with each other.

If we take this per match we see that in France he got one yellow card per 12 matches. And now he gets one every 7 matches.If we look at it per season we find that in France he got 3 yellow cards per season and now almost 5. It took him 1166 minutes to get a yellow card in France and in the PL he will get one every 469 minutes.  And again one of the important things when we signed him was that I also mentioned that he seemed to be a clean defender.

The difference is not as spectacular as with Per Mertesacker but still…  There is a difference.

Maybe apart from German players we might think that English referees don’t like French players also?

Of course the country where a player comes from should play no role to the referees.  And to be honest I don’t think this really is the reason behind this big increase of yellow cards compared to the league they are coming from.

Could it be down to the fact that they came to this country and started wearing the colours of Arsenal? Is it just the fact that being an Arsenal player brings different punishment? To examine this we should need an English player to check if there is a difference. Oh look….we got one.

Calum Chambers. English, from Southampton to Arsenal this summer. Nice material to compare.

Last season Chambers played 22 matches for Southampton in his first season in the PL. He played 1641 minutes in total and he got the amazing number of 0 yellow cards. Yes, this is zero. Nul. Null.

And if we compare this to his numbers at Arsenal…it gets shocking. He played 7 matches in the PL so far for Arsenal and in those matches he got 5 yellow cards. Yes five! Vijf. Funf. Cinq. (in case you doubt it, I translated it to a few other languages to make sure you understood).

Of course it might be that Southampton has done an evil thing and instead of sending us the real never yellow carded Calum Chambers have send us his twin brother without us noticing it. Of course I don’t know if Calum has a twin brother at all so it still is the same person that managed to play 22 matches for Southampton last season without getting a yellow card that we now have at Arsenal.

But then how do we explain the cold fact that in 1641 minutes of playing for Southampton he never got booked and yet when playing for Arsenal he gets booked every 105 minutes.

And the fact that Southampton played a very similar passing game makes this even more strange. Southampton are also known for their high pressure game and in a way this could lead to making more fouls than the not that aggressive pressure game from Arsenal.

And yet the naked numbers show us an amazing difference between playing for Southampton and playing for Arsenal.

Three case studies. And three times we find an abnormal rise in yellow cards against Arsenal players compared to their previous clubs and seasons.

It sure does give the impression that Arsenal players are treated differently by the referees compared to players from other teams.


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40 Replies to “Animal Farm in the PL”

  1. Walter,
    Interesting indeed. Of course it is hard to compare against other defenders such as Carvalho, Luiz and Terry since they seem/ed to get a free pass from referees. Our players get cards for things for which those other players don’t even seem to get fouls given against, and that is not including their constant holding and pulling.

  2. Yes Walter…very interesting indeed – although not at all surprising. Might I say that if you also ran a similar comparison with injuries to our players now as opposed to what injuries and how long they were ‘out’ whilst playing for their previous clubs, we will see that the odds are right up against us.

  3. Whilst I’m not all surprised by this, the sample is obviously too small to be able to draw any real conclusions. It would be interesting to take this a stage further and look at how players from other clubs from the countries in question are treated.

    It could just be that referees (like the media) don’t like foreign players……….I mean let’s just think about what Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Shearer etc got away with. If memory serves me right, Shearer went something like two seasons without a card even though he comiited the highers number of fouls in both seasons.

    I’m also a bit sceptical (although again not overly surprised) about the Chambers analysis. It could be, for example, that when playing for Arsenal he was perceived as a “weak link” and targeted for this reason by other players running at him whereas this was less of the case with Southampton.

    Another useful analysis (which I’m happy to do if someone tells me exactly where I can get the basic information) would be to look at how players are treated once they leave Arsenal. For example, I recall RVP being booked virtaully every time he breathed at Arsenal whereas after his transfer, use of the elbow was accepted as “hard but fair” by referees and pundits alike. Similarly, I recall Senderos, Fabregas and others picking up cards like confetti with us but seemingly being targeted far less after they left.

  4. Mike,
    I will try to see if I can find the time to add more players to the survey. Not just defenders but also other players

  5. @Walter spot on @Mike thanks,i think this gives us a mathematical challenge to see why prayers after leaving the Arsenal are treated with glove hands. First Mike Shit Riley is anti Arsenal and that is proved in a video which was on untold a few weeks back which he officiated in our 49th game on the unbeaten season,(if only someone can re do it again as i missed to download it)i don’t understand the English but with such a video you can take mike shit riley to court you can win this without a lawyer and with no sweat. So if a thief is a good thief who goes to the bank to steal ask your self if that shitty thief is given a key to guard the bank himself what will he do??
    Yesterday, i was watching bein sport premiership update and there was this pundit who was saying that Arsenal needs to have those guys of the unbeaten season who never got injured i just wanted to kick the Tele because they never analyzed why the Arsenal are getting so many injuries compared to the henrys and vieras.

  6. Mike,

    a quick search of a player the other way round: Clichy.

    At Arsenal 1 yellow every 6 matches.
    At Man City 1 yellow every 13 matches.

    so the same pattern again but this time a player that has left us and suddenly gets fewer yellow cards…

  7. Walter, an interesting article and some nice figures to back up your points.

    I have considered for some time that Arsenal was one of if not the cleanest team in the league.

    However, the refs seem to trying to sanction Arsenal at every opportunity while being far too lenient with our opponents. Such action from the refs, over a prolonged period can only be due to instruction from above.

  8. From those aforesaids, God will help Arsenal as we have clearly seen and noted some Barclays Premier League Refs are bias against Arsenal most especially in the big games. Nevertheless, Arsenal must surmount this biasness of the Refs by continuing to play their penetrating passing game and become matured in playing it to the extend of becoming the Masters. The goals must rain in and continue to rain in into our opponents goal. By doing this relentlessly, the Refs will become dumbfounded and get tired to leave Arsenal alone. I suppose we can count out Ref Mark Clanttenbury from this malicious refereeing as seen when he refereed in our games.

  9. Of course there is one common factor called Monsieur Wenger who sets up teams that leave defenders exposed and hence the need for a little nudge now and then and ‘voila’ a booking or two. Notice I said who sets up teams rather than cannot set up teams!

    Of course you can also say we do not have a good enough defensive midfielder to take the first ‘hit’ as it were and guess what we have a Monsieur Wenger issue there in that he has not recruited the ‘big lump’ that we appear to so desperately require.

    There is a recurring theme here I’m afraid in that players come and go but we end up with the same issues in the results and and the way we end up losing and the bookings and poor decision making on recruits – the common denominator is Monsieur Wenger. A mediocre team we can overcome but a quality outfit and all the same issues again and again.

    I do not like saying this as I did not like getting on DB’s back in his last couple of years – fantastic player but one who had hit the wall two seasons before even Wenger realised it – oops another common factor – Monsieur Wenger. He’s done fantastic to keep us relatively competitive but modern football has passed him by.


  10. TC – You are off topic.

    From my penalty analysis in the Spring , where the number of penalties awarded per season more or less halved after 2009 (and the number of penalties conceded increased) even though Arsenal’s overall goals for and against were very stable; I would be very interested to see if there is a similar correlation for cards awarded pre/post 2009. Unfortunately, cards/fouls awarded stats don’t tell the how story as not all fouls are correctly awarded – as we all know well.

    In fact, it would be great to see some referee reviews from pre-2009 as well… but I guess it is implicit that Walter felt outraged enough after 2009 to start doing them! But not before. Something must have been the trigger…

    And in case you don’t know or can’t recall what I’m getting at, Mike Riley was appointed Head of PGMOL in 2009…

  11. TC
    Why do you refer to our manager as Monsieur Wenger? We are aware that he is French. Are you a xenophobe? Or maybe you are trying to be sarcastic? Or amusing? Whatever your reason it rather degrades your comments, not that they need any help in that regard.

  12. Lol @TC and other AAA that find creative ways to change these stats to it’s all Mr. Wenger’s fault and this wouldn’t be the case with a monster DM. Based on the numbers from this article, what do they think will happen to this monster DM? This mythical “monster” DM will probably have a yellow card every game or two, and a red card every 3rd/4th game. Maybe they should actually put some pressure on where it needs to be – the refs, since they are the ones that allow other managers to set up teams to hurt our players. Notice I said to hurt and not tactically play against.

  13. I’ve seen that Mertesacker stat thrown out there before, and I’ve actually seen a pretty good theory to accompany it. With the high line that Per is asked to play at Arsenal, it makes sense that he’d find himself in more situations where he HAS to foul in order to break up the counter and take a yellow card for the team. He’s not been a high line player in the past, and that system does tend to leave center backs exposed occasionally.

  14. It will be very interesting to follow this further, as the three results you obtained do show a picture that causes alarm bells to ring.

    And now another thought came to mind.
    If refs are liable to allow their supporting of one team to affect their refereeing of the game, would it not be feasible that they allow their racism (that is, if they are racist, even subconsciously)to influence the game too?

    Most of us are aware that there is hidden racism, all done “politicaly correct”.

  15. Well done Walter. So nothing new there. The checks that need to be done are on the referees approach to Wenger. They have an agenda that is anti Wenger. The media are also in the same game. Very little praise is reserved for Wengers success. The FA should have awarded Wenger with a string of accolades for bringing sportsmanship, morality, fair play, clean passing, healthy living and astute economics into the English game.

    Unfortunately it is casting pearls before filthy snorting swine.

    We on Untold however, know how good Wenger has been for football. We celebrate his wisdom and success.

  16. Jerry: Song’s record with yellows in CM!

    I suppose it would be cruel to remind those earnest and honest trolls trolling AFC supporters with the D**M meme that AFC did have Song and Diaby together in CM for a few seasons there. Who needs stats, or a memory when trying to spread my slightly demented xenophopnic gibberish in a public forum? Le Groan, you what? Ooopsy daisy! My bad sorry. Back on message: Arsenal are D**Med, d’ya hear me, dooooomed! The bells, can you hear the bells ringing…doomed i tell you, doomed. If I repeat this nonsensical rubbish often enough, will you be convinced by my, um, my logic?

  17. It’s the numbers on Clichy that are most telling IMO. 50% variation! Wow!
    Just another statistical anomaly I suppose. A coincidence. Alongside all the others such as, you know, no referees from the most popular part of the country, the part which produces the most players and has most of the clubs…it’s just…an…anomaly. In a sport where data analytics is all the rage the Groaners will tell you stats don’t matter. Alas, for such retarded logic, the league table is determined by stats! Has been,since the leagues began!

    You’d think that City must play a completely different style of football – but it’s not so different to Southampton, same as Arsenal. Even though they like to try two it’s the same more or less, but often they’ve been at their best with one up such as during the run in last year, and using many of the same players too. Same tactics, same players, managers who like and respect each other and even have traded players and probably tactics over the years, what could be the difference here? I think I might need to go and think about this for a while…

  18. To add to Walter’s stats:

    Nasri For Arsenal
    10 yellow cards in 86 games (6793 minutes)
    or 1 YC every 8.6 games or 679.3 minutes

    For City
    8 yellow cards in 96 games (6847 minutes)
    1 YC every 12 games or 855 minutes

  19. @para
    October 14, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I like your thinking process…so here is the one I just had based on yours re racism; Remember one certain ref who incorrectly sent one of our youngsters off (last season) because it seemed we had two players who were of the same complexion and same hair cut???

    Wouldn’t like to see that ref doing his ‘thing’ in South Africa (for example) he would completely get confused!!!

    These refs are (we have in the PL) are complete and utter CHEATS – the worst kind!!

  20. @Menace
    October 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    That would be absolutely the situation in a perfect world (Wenger would have been an icon for the FA and what it THEORETICALLY -only – stands for).

    However, Wenger comes into direct conflict of Interest as far as the FA,Refs Association,and of course the Media currently stand for.

  21. Thanks for another factual, and very interesting, article Walter.

    I’m starting to find it a little difficult to address some of the comments from certain posters without being abusive. I mean, people are presented with solid facts, that are meticulously gathered and presented in a nice and clear manner but yet still you hear them spout nonsense inspite of all that. If I may ask those who are dismissing these telling stats, don’t we hear everyday pundits saying Arsenal allow themselves to be steamrollered by the opposition, Arsenal don’t like it when you get in their faces, we’re supposed to be soft, lack the spine a monster of a DM would provide and other such nonsense. How come then, those softand spineless players who don’t like it when other teams get in their faces, end up with more yellows than the opposition who knows how to play it rough? Isn’t that a glaring inconsistency?

  22. Last week Walter presented four bad tackles from different players to players from different teams. The way they were treated showed there’s an inconsistent way of interpreting tackles made by Arsenal players and those made by other players on Arsenal players. This is good evidence which would be admissible in court should this be a court case, yet we still hear some halfwits make outright dismissals of such evidence, without providing any facts to counter it. It’s a simple case of trolling, and I don’t think we should waste our time here with such individuals.

  23. @AL
    October 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    So well said my friend…we have the softest guys (so we are told) yet we have the most cautions…What else can we say!!

  24. It’s ridiculous Apo. Yesterday, another one of them was blaming Wenger for Ozil’s injury saying he doesn’t rotate players bla bla bla. And Mick challenged him to name consecutive matches Wenger started with the same lineups. I’m still waiting to see if Mick gets a response.

    This is what you get with this lot; forever dismissing any factual arguments presented here as fallacy, yet can’t provide any evidence to the contrary.

  25. @AL
    October 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Be sure AL…I read all the idiotic posts…and there is nothing we can do about it…the world is full of this type!

  26. AL @ 7.21 pm

    I saw the exchange you referred to, unfortunately I returned too late to really make a difference.

    But, I have a full record available of who played in each match over the last three seasons – so if anyone needs details let me know. (I also have a record of who scored in each match – but I have not recorded assists.)

  27. Another interesting fact I read recently was that Arsenal had far fewer fouls per yellow card than any other Premier League team and this is entirely consistent with the tenor of this article and most respondents views.

    This led me to wonder if Arsenal had the highest number of yellow cards given to teams they were playing against. My strong impression is that this is true but I have no idea where to source the statistics.

    If the latter is true than the only excuse I can imagine for referees is that when they have given two or three yellow cards to Arsenal opponents then they are looking for any chance to give one to Arsenal so that they appear to be “fair”. Not the right thing to do but it might keep the assessor off their back.

  28. Walter, Keep up the good work! Thanks for adding the facts about Clichy. It would be interesting to see the numbers for RVP and others who left Arsenal and went to other clubs in England. I think it will be the same pattern.

    There is a consistent pattern to things. Give Arsenal players yellow cards for anything close to a foul deserving a yellow but let things go for the other team, make them work to get a yellow. Give the other team a penalty for anything close to that by an Arsenal player, but never give Arsenal a penalty of what the other team does if you can help it.

    Refs that consistently follow these two rules will be promoted and honored by the PGMOL.

  29. Oh my god. This stuff is crazy. I was about to play devil’s advocate and say that Arsenal play more (physically as well as mentally) competitive games than bundesliga and french sides but, then I saw the Chambers, Clichy and Nasri stats. Wow. Disgraceful, but keep bringing this stuff to light! Very grateful!

  30. I would like to see the stats for penalties in the Premiership for Arsenal and the other top sides again as well.
    I seem to remember that every season we have more pens given against, than for us, which is contrary to the stats for the other top teams.

  31. I was wondering Walter if Arsenal can be coaxed to respond to the problem of “Arsenal attacks by refs and PG” in some way, even if just to reassure us that they are aware.

    It is a little disconcerting that Arsenal has not yet responded in any way. I know it would probably cause more damage to Arsenal, but somewhere along the line, enough is enough, and it will go on and on unless there is resistance to it.

  32. Just watching Arsenal games is enough to understand over time that its takes much more for an opponent to get booked than it does for an Arsenal player. With Arsenal players there is almost zero leniency, with opponents of Arsenal there is chance after chance after chance. Opponents can make several bad tackles before the first yellow, Arsenal players rarely get that chance.

    This is just simply the way it is. Anyone denying it really has not watched many Arsenal matches.

    One of the best examples of the difference came against Chelsea – Cahill commits a highly dangerous challenge deserving a red card every day of the week. No argument. He got a yellow. He could have ended Sanchez’s career. Chambers, a minute later, gets a yellow for a rather soft challenge. Not aggressive, not dangerous, maybe not even a foul. Same punishment.

    It’s not ever going to change so I guess we have to live with it.

  33. Stevie O…… may have found one element in a rather complex list of reasons why AFC get more yellows and fewer penalties given in our favour than other EPL teams. I also notice that we get consistently punished by having the same referees do key games against the top 5 teams. We also have a different style than most EPL teams and our less well protected than any other EPL top 5 team so our players get frustrated more as well. Also there is less tolerance shown AFC players than other EPL players by the officials.

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