Untold Updates videos
by Tony Attwood
I’m following up the recent debate about fouls, tackles and yellows with the table below which shows data across the PL after 24 games. The aim here is to look for statistics that look slightly odd or outside the norm.
In previous articles where I have raised these stats we’ve had a number of commentaries that question why we are looking at these statistics, comments which have no relation to the statistics, and instead throw abuse against Arsenal and Arsenal supporters. Having published some of these comments to give a flavour of the replies, I’m now going to try and cut these down, so that those of us interested in what the statistics actually say can have a debate – if anyone wants to – rather than be subject to irrelevancies and abuse.
Here are the figures. The order of the table is taken from the number of fouls committed.
We can see at once that the number of tackles committed doesn’t relate to the number of fouls given. Of course fouls are given for reasons other than bad tackles, but as far as I can see something like 90% of fouls given are for bad tackles, so it is a fairly good figure to work on.
Yellow cards can be given for many different reasons, but again the dominant reason appears to be bad tackles. We can of course only work on the data we have got, and there is no published list I can find of yellow given for bad fouls or tackles.
The number of tackles ranges from 494 for Leicester to 343 by Bournemouth. Bournemouth has only committed 69% of the tackles that Leicester has.
The number of fouls ranges from 294 by Southampton to 200 by Liverpool. Liverpool has only committed 68% of the fouls that Southampton has.
Now these percentage figures are clearly close and suggest the link between tackles and fouls that we might expect.
The number of yellow cards ranges from 60 for Arsenal to 24 by Liverpool. Liverpool has only 40% of the number of yellow cards that Arsenal has.
So while tackles and fouls cover a very similar range the range in number of yellow cards is much bigger. But it can be argued Liverpool are at the very top of the game playing a type of football that invites the opposition to get yellows, not Liverpool, so maybe that is understandable too.
So we might ask, how many fouls does a team have to commit to get a yellow card (recognising of course that yellows can be given for other reasons than foul play).
Arsenal has to commit 4.32 fouls to get a yellow card while for Leicester the figure is 9.48. Now while the other figures are understandable this is an extraordinary difference – noteworthy not least because the ranges elsewhere are so much smaller. Arsenal are getting more than twice as many yellow cards from fouls as Leicester.
In fact the range revealed in the “fouls per yellow card” column is extraordinary. Leicester have to commit 9.48 fouls to get a yellow, Arsenal 4.32.
- Leicester 9.48
- Liverpool 8.33
- Southampton 7.73
- Brighton 6.92
- Wolverhampton 6.82
- Everton 6.55
- Crystal Palace 6.50
- Burnley 6.14
- Aston Villa 5.89
- Manchester United 5.68
- Newcastle 5.64
- West Ham 5.61
- Sheffield United 5.36
- Chelsea 5.31
- Watford 5.30
- Manchester City 5.21
- Norwich 4.83
- Bournemouth 4.62
- Tottenham 4.46
- Arsenal 4.32
What we do notice here is the propensity for southern teams to be at the bottom of the chart – seven of the bottom ten are in the south half of England. That might of course be a coincidence, but we have often noted the lack of southern referees in the Premier League – a feature of the League for many years now.
So let’s draw some conclusions:
1: Leicester makes more tackles than any other club, but also have to make more tackles to get a foul against them, than any other club. They have to commit 9.48 fouls to get a yellow card. That is more than twice as many fouls as either Arsenal or Tottenham for them to get a card.
2: The range of tackles per foul is fairly consistent throughout the league although Leicester, because so few fouls are given against them, are way out on their own.
3: It was suggested in an earlier discussion that Arsenal’s fouling record is because of the awful players that the club has but in fact the figures don’t show this. The Premier League publish a list of fouls by players and show that Xhaka is equal fourth with Haller on 39 fouls.
Xhaka is the only Arsenal player in the top 20 for fouls. Palace have four players in the top 20, which one might in other times lead to referees warning the captain of the club against wilful and persistent fouling but it seems not any more. Palace have collected 20 fewer yellow cards than Arsenal.
There is a lot here that looks odd – most obviously the Leicester figures with them being the highest tackling team but having to commit far more fouls to get a yellow than any other team. In fact I am finding it harder to explain these figures from the point of view of being a natural spread of data, than I am to explain it as some referees being bent.
And perhaps this is because there is one other factor that is fascinating here. These figures really are odd, and yet they are never mentioned by those organisations that pay vast sums to broadcast and analyse football matches.
We have hour after hour of debate and personal opinion – but this data has never, as far as I know, been used on TV, radio or in other media.
Why is that? Even if my conclusions are off centre, surely it is interesting that Leicester commit the most tackles but get the lowest fouls per yellow ratio. Given the number of hours of TV before and after every Sky and BT televised match, that looks like a perfect way to fill up time.
And yet, not once as far as I know, have we had such a debate.
Do Sky and the Sprout think we are too stupid to understand the figures? Or that their panellists are too stupid to understand the figures? Do they think that “you can prove anything with statistics?” (which would be odd given the amount they spend analysing their audience and the sums spent with Opta.)
Of course, it might not be a ruling from PGMO that the fouls to yellow card ratio is not to be discussed, but then if it is not, why does it never come up?
The figures are unexpectedly odd and this makes the lack of discussion odder. Given the amount of time TV stations spend debating whether a player’s arm was in a natural position, or whether the player was too close to the ball to be able to get out of the way in time, surely there’s something here that would make even the most mathematically challenged commentator pause and wonder…
What on earth is going on?
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