How Arsenal are being targeted by referees this season: the stats

by Tony Attwood

All statistics that are taken after just a couple of matches in a season need to be handled with some caution, and one cannot draw absolute conclusions from them, but nonetheless figures this early in the season, taken in comparison with recent seasons, can be indicators of how things will go.

Yellow cards are particularly an indicator of how referees are seeing clubs.  The number of yellow cards indicating a combination of the transgression level of the club and the willingness of referees to punish that club.

Now the main cause of yellow cards are tackles – of course there are many other reasons for getting a yellow card, such as arguing with a referee for example, but from the statistics made available by the Premier League the number of tackles and the number of yellows still makes an interesting, if approximate, area of comparison.

Last season Arsenal got 72 yellow cards from 609 tackles which gave a rate of 8.5 tackles per card.  Crystal Palace undertook 730 tackles (the highest in the league) and got 58 yellow cards.   One card ever 12.6 tackles – quite a difference.

Liverpool got 38 yellow cards (the smallest number in the league) from 610 tackles – one yellow card from every 16 tackles.

Manchester City got committed 518 tackles (the lowest in the league) and got 44 yellow cards – a rate of one yellow every 11.8 tackles. Watford got the most yellow cards last season (75)  and committed 655 tackles – one card every 8.7 tackles.

What we would expect is that two factors would broadly influence the number of cards each club might get: we would expect perhaps that the club that committed the most tackles would get the most yellow cards, and that clubs further down the league would have less skillful players and so get more yellow cards that way.  They would also be defending more, and so again, get more yellows per game.

Now if that worked out exactly, that would mean that the clubs at the bottom end of the league would get the most yellow cards.  But if we look at the top ten clubs for yellow cards we see that although this is generally true, it is not 100% true last season.

Rank Lge pos Club Yellow cards
1. 11
2. 15
3. 6
Manchester United
4. 5
5. 7
Wolverhampton Wanderers
6. 16
7. 19
8. 18
Cardiff City
9. 14
AFC Bournemouth
10. 17
Brighton and Hove Albion

So yes, seven of the top ten teams with the most yellow cards last season, were in the lower portions of the league.  In fact five of the bottom six clubs in the league were in the top ten for yellow cards.  But so were two of the top six teams when it comes to league position.

So let’s take a look at some numbers and ask how many tackles it took some clubs to get a yellow card.

  • Manchester United: 1 card every 7.9 tackles
  • Arsenal: 1 card every 8.5 tackles
  • Watford: 1 card every 8.7 tackles
  • Manchester City: 1 card every 11.8 tackles
  • Crystal Palace: 1 card every 12.5 tackles
  • Liverpool: 1 card every 16 tackles

That is a huge difference in numbers.   Not every yellow is for a tackle, as noted, but the vast majority are, and so we can say that Arsenal, Manchester United and Watford were twice as likely to be punished for a tackle with a yellow than Liverpool.

But maybe last season was a one off.  Let’s have a look at this season after two games.

Club Tackles Yellow cards Tackles per yellow
Leicester City
49 0
46 5 9.2
46 3 15.3
Brighton and Hove Albion
44 1 44.0
Crystal Palace
42 3 14.0
Newcastle United
40 4 10.0
West Ham United
40 4 10.0
Manchester United
39 5 7.8
37 1 37.0
Aston Villa
36 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers
35 4 8.75
34 3 11.3
Sheffield United
34 4 8.5
AFC Bournemouth
33 4 8.25
Manchester City
33 3 11.0
Tottenham Hotspur
33 1 33.0
28 1 28.0
Norwich City
26 3 8.7
23 5 4.6
22 2 11.0

Last season Arsenal got 72 yellow cards from 609 tackles which gave a rate of 8.5 tackles per card.  This season the rate (although after just two games) has dropped to one yellow card every 4.6 tackles.

Of course we have to wait for the season to settle down a bit to see if Arsenal are going to be punished excessively by referees once again, as they were last season, but the opening suggestions are that they are.

It is more than likely that already the management at Arsenal is urging the team to tackle less and intercept more, but that is not helping.  At least not so far.

There might be other explanations for what is going on, but at this rate Arsenal will end up with 95 yellow cards which would be an all time record I think.  Certainly a lot more than Watford last season with 77, WBA the season before with 73, and even Watford wild rollicking 2016/17 when they managed 84 yellows.

In 2015/16 the top yellow carded team was Aston Villa with 75, which shows the normal levels of yellows as being fairly static in recent years with only Sunderland going off the charts with their insane kick everything that moves approach in 2014/15, picking up 94 yellows.  At the present rate Arsenal would beat even that.

This could be just a fluke of a couple of matches so far this season, but it might be a new PGMO approach. 

If so we need to give it as much publicity as we can to show PGMO we know what they are up to.  Most of the top management at Arsenal are fairly new to English football, and it may be that the ways of the PGMO have not yet sunk in.  Mr Emery has only been here a year.  Freddie and Edu played in an era before PGMO got their teeth into Arsenal.  We need to do all we can to alert them to the danger.

18 Replies to “How Arsenal are being targeted by referees this season: the stats”

  1. I think that the anomaly this season is attributable to Mike Dean refereeing our last game. He gave three soft yellows. Reduce that to one and the figures are less alarming.

  2. Hmmmmm, Watford get 84 cards and they are wild, rollicking. Sunderland get 94 and they’re insane, kick everything that moves. Arsenal get plenty and its all pgmo’s fault. Interesting

  3. As you may know Tony I’ve been doing this cards to fouls (not tackles) ratio for years. I was doing it 15 years ago and we was being stitched then, the only thing is I cant for the life of me find the tackles stats that far back, therefore cannot confirm my findings. I did however find the tackles stats for the last 5 years and did some stats comparing us to Liverpool which were on an early thread but seem more appropriate on here.

    Reproduced in full bellow:

    I’ve had a look for the stats and all I could find that included the amount of fouls was on but unfortunately the statistic for fouls only start in season 2014-2015.

    Anyway I thought I’d have a look at what we have. I’ve done us and a team I’ve felt in recent seasons have seen the benefit of some lenient refereeing, Liverpool.

    These are the stats:



    Season, Fair Play position, points, Fouls, Our ratio, League ratio.
    2014-2015 08th, Points = 75, Fouls = 353, Ratio = 4.70, League average = 5.00
    2015-2016 01st, Points = 54, Fouls = 349, Ratio = 6.40, League average = 5.70
    2016-2017 14th, Points = 83, Fouls = 391, Ratio = 4.70, League average = 5.40
    2017-2018 12th, Points = 67, Fouls = 380, Ratio = 5.60, League average = 5.60
    2018-2019 16th, Points = 79, Fouls = 404, Ratio = 5.11, League average = 7.10

    Over the 5 seasons Arsenals ratio was a point/card every 5.2 fouls


    2014-2015 09th, Points = 75, Fouls = 357, Ratio = 4.70, League average = 5.00
    2015-2016 07th, Points = 67, Fouls = 420, Ratio = 6.20, League average = 5.70
    2016-2017 01st, Points = 54, Fouls = 388, Ratio = 7.10, League average = 5.40
    2017-2018 01st, Points = 49, Fouls = 332, Ratio = 6.70, League average = 5.60
    2018-2019 01st, Points = 41, Fouls = 313, Ratio = 7.60, League average = 7.10

    Over the 5 seasons Liverpools ratio was a point/card every 6.3 fouls.

    The average for the league was a point/card every 5.3 fouls.

    Points awarded as follows:

    1 x Y = 1 Point
    2 x y = 2 Points
    1 x R = 2 Points
    1 x Y + 1 x R = 3 Points

    So what do I draw from this ?

    Well firstly it seems overall referees are more strict full stop, with an average card per foul ratio of 5.3 where as back when I used to do this regularly it was around 7.7.

    Secondly it seems our ratio of 5.2 is even worse than it used to be at around 5.5.

    But at least we are now nearer the average which is something anyway, and I must say a bit of a surprise.

    But being average, considering how weak and feeble, with no fight or aggression, we are supposed to be, is still not great. But, it could be worse.

    As I thought, Liverpool are treated quite leniently, there average being a card every 6.3 fouls.

    That might not seem much but that is around 15% more lenient than us, or put another way, 15 metres in a 100 Metre sprint. That’s a long way.

    Liverpool, in 4 of the 5 seasons (the last 4 to be precise) have been treated better than average.

    Arsenal have been treated worse than average in 4 of the last 5 seasons.

    We are still treated harshly by the referees being worse than average, but I have to admit it’s not as bad as I thought or indeed it used to be.

    Also MickHazels comment regarded WHEN the cards are issued is also relevant but would take hours and hours of work. Hours that I just haven’t got.


    Now they are stats comparing the cards to fouls ration where as Tony is doing cards to tackles.

    Now I’ll be honest, I actually think that is better as it exposes even more vividly just how harshly our tackling is treated, which might explain why our players are often reluctant to ‘get stuck in’ because even being the bunch of wimps we are doesn’t seem to stop the refs awarding fouls and cards against us.

    Just imaging what would happen if at Anfield this weekend we decided to ‘get in their faces’ ?

    We’d be lucky to end up with half a team on the pitch.

  4. It is a great post. I mentioned exactly same thing on comment section a couple of days before on your media bias post. The way arsenal was yellow carded while others got a pass for similar tackles is to be alarmed with. We should not allow this to continue. It is not an easy matter. The psychological influece is also dangerous. Because you don’t know what is yellow card or not. I even developed a sense that there is yellow card for every tackle. All we are asking is for them to be fair. By the way the referee for next Liverpool game is decent referee. He is one of the top unbiased referee in PL. The downside of this world is that may be he is discouraged and disliked by the other side for being fair.

    LONG LIVE VAR! VAR the saviour of football!

  5. To add something small. Aubermayang was booked for standing too close to a free kick last week, at worst I think the referee should have had a quiet word to say ‘do not do that again,’ or something similar. Drew

  6. “We would expect perhaps that the club that committed the most tackles would get the most yellow cards, and that clubs further down the league would have less skillful players and so get more yellow cards that way. They would also be defending more, and so again, get more yellows per game.”

    Too many assumptions, Tony. You’re basing your entire analysis on things that may or may not be the case.

  7. Mark Mywords

    I think you’ll find that the statistics are facts.

    To try and justify why we should or shouldn’t get these statistics or facts, can only be done using ‘assumptions’ because we don’ t know why we get these statistics.

    But as I say the basis of the article is in facts.

    It is a FACT we get more yellows per tackle than Liverpool.

    It is a FACT we get more yellows per foul than Liverpool.

    The only assumptions being made are as to why.

    Perhaps you can tell us why ? No assumptions mind 😉

  8. Aubameyang was booked so Mike Dean did not have to point out that Burnley were cheating by moving the ball forwards 5 yards. Just the sort of thing that dear Sean should draw the refs attention to so it can be removed from the game.

  9. @ DEW

    The point you made about ‘psychological influence’ is one that I firmly believe cannot be overstated.

    If you take the match which cost us 50 undefeated as an example. Man U under Riley’s watch knew that they were going to be cut a huge amount of slack and approached the game accordingly. That must have given them great confidence and our players were subjected to some awful assaults which went unpunished, is there any wonder they were put off their game.

    I think it was also the case that whilst Fergie had refs running scared of him Man U were always able to approach matches knowing they had an edge in that regard. Similarly their opponents were on the back foot from the kick off. When one team knows it can go into tackles ‘over zealously’ whilst their opponents fear getting a card for winning a 50/50 the pitch is already slanted.

  10. Mindy and Dew

    I’ve talked about the psychology effect as well many times.

    The problem is it’s impossible to prove. How can you know what’s going on in somebody’s head ?

    Nevertheless I believe how we are refereed must influence how a player approaches a game.

  11. Of course it might be that other clubs are more savvy about their fouling and Arsenal a bit naive.

  12. I was at the game on Saturday and the crowd booed when mike dean’s name was announced. That’s like cursing out the waiter before your meal is served. You think he’s going to view us fairly or favourably, they are human and as petty as the rest of us. We’ve been targeted ever since Wenger’s unfavourable comments concerning referees a decade ago.

    Don’t get me started on points shaving and how rigged the game is!

  13. OT: Other news.

    One of many snippets about Eddie Nketiah scoring at Leeds, had this:

    EFL rules stipulate that clubs are only allowed to name five loan players in a matchday squad, and Clarke appears to be the fall guy of late.

    Just one of many EFL rules I wasn’t aware of.

    There was news at, that Jordan Nobbs is close to coming back.

    Still a bummer that Danielle Carter did her ACL again.

  14. Cards are not just for tackles but several are given for dissent and kicking the ball away, not sufficient distance to please the official and off course for wearing the wrong shirt.

    The corrupt will not be hindered by the Stockley park blind mice. In fact they will be assisted in their process of decision making.

Comments are closed.