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Do Granit Xhaka’s yellow cards make him an absolute liability?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

We all know that Granit Xhaka gets yellow cards.  All the time.  Which means that he spends most of his playing time being doubleplus extra careful, hardly daring to do another tackle because he’ll get a yellow card again, and reduce Arsenal to ten players.

Except do we really know this?  Do we know how many yellow cards he gets?  Is it exceptionally high?

Let’s just look at the details.

In 2015/16 under Mr Wenger Arsenal had no players listed in the top 20 yellow card achievers in the country.  We came 2nd in the league, and conceded 36 goals.  The most offending players were

Rank Player Current Club Nationality Yellows
1. Jack Colback Newcastle
England
11
2. Eric Dier Tottenham Hotspur
England
10
2. Idrissa Gueye Aston Villa
Senegal
10
2. Erik Pieters Stoke City
Netherlands
10
2. Alexander Tettey Norwich City
Norway
10

Then in 2016/17, the last season before Xhaka appeared, we did have one player in the top group of offenders: Mustafi with 11 yellow cards

Rank Player Club Nationality Yellows
1. José Holebas Watford
Greece
14
2. Danny Simpson Leicester City
England
12
3. Harry Arter Bournemouth
Ireland
11
3. Idrissa Gueye Aston Villa
Senegal
11
3. Shkodran Mustafi Arsenal
Germany
11
3. Oriol Romeu Southampton
Spain
11

We ended up 5th in the league with 44 goals conceded.

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Moving on to 2017/18, we had Xhaka in second place in the yellow card table on 10.

Rank Player Club Nationality Yellows
1. Oriol Romeu Southampton
Spain
11
2. Ashley Barnes Burnley
Austria
10
2. Abdoulaye Doucouré Watford
France
10
2. Granit Xhaka Arsenal
Switzerland
10
5. Glenn Murray Brighton and Hove Albion
England
9
5. Nicolás Otamendi Manchester City
Argentina
9
5. Pablo Zabaleta West Ham United
Argentina
9
8. Joe Allen Stoke City
Wales
8
8. Emre Can Liverpool
Germany
8
8. Shane Duffy Brighton and Hove Albion
Ireland
8
8. Simon Francis AFC Bournemouth
England
8
8. Dan Gosling AFC Bournemouth
England
8
8. Jonathan Hogg Huddersfield Town
England
8
8. Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace
Serbia
8
8. James Tomkins Crystal Palace
England
8

In that season we conceded 51 goals and came in sixth.

Moving on again we get to 2018/19 we had two players in the top ten

1. Etienne Capoue Watford
France
14
2. Ryan Bennett
England
12
2. José Holebas Watford
Greece
12
2. Jefferson Lerma AFC Bournemouth
Colombia
12
2. Sokratis Arsenal
Greece
12
2. Fabian Schär Newcastle United
Switzerland
12
7. Oriol Romeu
Spain
11
7. Luke Shaw Manchester United
England
11
7. Diogo Jota Wolverhampton Wanderers
Portugal
11
10. Harry Arter Cardiff City
Ireland
10
10. Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace
Serbia
10
10. Robert Snodgrass West Ham United
Scotland
10
10. Granit Xhaka Arsenal
Switzerland
10

We came 5th in the league and let in 51 goals.

So what can we conclude?

In terms of other clubs we are not exceptional in terms of having a player (or one season two players) who can make it into the top ten for cards.

So let’s try and compare these card numbers to see exactly where Arsenal stand (the sort of analysis that is rather helpful, but rarely done.

Season Arsenal Yellow Top yellow in the league Arsenal top yellow player Player position
2019/20 (Em/Arteta) 62 (1st) 62 – Arsenal 7 Xhaka 6th
2018/19 (Emery) 72 (4th) 77 – Watford 12 Sokratis 2nd
2017/18 (Wenger) 57 (11th) 73 – WBA 10 Xhaka 2nd
2016/17 (Wenger) 68 (13th) 84 – Watford 11 Mustafi 3rd
2015/16 (Wenger) 40 (20th) 75 – Aston Villa 5 Coquelin *
2014/15 (Wenger) 68 (9th) 94 – Sunderland 7 Chambers 17th

*Not in the top 20

The headlong rush to be a yellow card getting team

Now this table shows us some very interesting stats.

First, since 2015/16 when Arsenal were bottom of the League table for yellow cards, we have rushed headlong to the top of the league, where we stand this season.  That second column that shows us having 62 yellow cards so far this season, means we are probably heading towards our all-time record number of cards.

The question is why?

We will probably end up with something around 86 cards by the end of the season.  The record is 94 for Sunderland in 2014/15.

Obviously yellow cards are obtained by individual players, and my view is that over the years Mr Wenger trained players to work within the individual rules of PGMO.  Obviously new managers not familiar with the unique approach to refereeing can’t do this.

Certainly Xhaka, Mustafi and Sokratis are to blame in part for this increase since they have taken very high positions in the yellow card table.  Coquelin doesn’t even figure in the charts I have, and Chambers came in as the 17th highest offender.

I suspect that the key to the yellow card problem, and indeed part of the key to Arsenal’s difficulties at the moment is that Arsenal don’t have someone like Coquelin who can tackle without getting yellows.  Certainly the very high number of yellows we look like getting this year must be harming our attempt to rise up the league, and one would have thought that if the referees were being fair, it would not be hard for Arsenal to stop.  After all, all they have to do is stop fouling!

16 comments to Do Granit Xhaka’s yellow cards make him an absolute liability?

  • Mick

    There is no point in counting Arsenal’s yellow cards all the time the PIGMOB are in charge. On Sunday Saka was given a yellow card for being pulled over and falling into a player and Saint-Maximin wasn’t giving a yellow card for doing exactly the same thing as Xhaka. Also 2 Newcastle players kicked the ball away after decisions went against them without any repercussions. I’m not saying that I want yellow cards shown every 2 minutes but some consistency would be nice.

    I guess we can’t expect anything whilst Riley’s incompetents are in charge. I won’t even start on the offside against Ozil which the linesman shouldn’t have flagged for.

  • seydlitz

    I have been watching arsenal on and off for seventy years and my opinion we have under consistence refereeing intimidation ever since Wengers Arsenal challenged Man Utd for premier domination of the Premier League.The 49 game was an assault on the integrity of football rule book, and as you have proved on many written articles the whole system is corrupt.

  • Gord

    Is there data somewhere, on which players are the most accurate with the long cross? And with such a list in hand, look for which players get yellow cards with their first or second foul? Or those who almost never get cards.

    This list should partition into two; the long passers of the favorite teams who get no cards; and the long passers of unfavoured teams who get lots of fouls and cards.

  • Jim malley

    Get rid quickly, crap player and not worth the Jersey.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Arsenal are clearly being picked on when it comes to yellow cards, and maybe other punishments.
    Watching the Chelsea Utd game last night, it is clear whats going on, Operation Get Utd to the Top 4. The Match ref, Anthony Taylor is from Manchester, as was the VAR ref, Kavannagh, and it showed.
    Of course not all from Manchester have any love for Utd, but two refs from that City in charge of a vital game doesnt look good, especially with the decisions on view last night, nut its clear Mike Riley does not care about the optics.
    There is clearly a pecking order whenit comes to refereeing.
    At the top, Liverpool and Utd get just about every decision possible their way.
    Not far behind, Leicester and Tottenham then Chelsea
    Then, comes an assortment of plucky, physical, “English style” teams
    Right at the bottom of the tree of PGMOL favour, this season, along with our boys, Norwich, strangely- Wolves, and City.
    Nothing surprises me any more at the treatment Arsenal get, all that surprises me, the club put up with it.
    We saw last night how refs can tilt a game

  • goonersince72

    Sir Hardly,

    What do you expect the refs to do with the Arsenal Leg Breakers Club. Worst bunch of bone breaking, shirt pulling, diving, dissenting cheaters ever. Note the times they’ve broken multiple bones in an opponent’s leg. Or shoved an opponent into the advertising hoardings virtually ending his career. Or stomped on a player down on the pitch with an injury?

    Oh, I forgot for a sec, that’s what happens to Arsenal’s players.

  • A certain lack of evidence there Jim

  • Chris

    @Jim,

    one can guess the seasoned professionnal expert behind your few words. Thank you for enlightening us lowly amateurs with your endless wisdom and galactical expertise

  • Menace

    The card system is a beautiful betting index. The exploitation of it by PGMOL with the foreign gambling syndicates must be a huge money spinner. The shameless bastards in the PGMOL that put total control of a game in the hands of Manc domiciled idiots when their local heroes are playing beggars belief.

    It will only be exposed when some wealthy sod wants to prove a point.

  • Chris

    Just watching Dortmund-PSG.
    Can’s foul on Neymar….any Arsenal player doing that would have seen red…
    No question, Neymar sure knows how to make a foul on him very spectacular.
    But was it at least yellow worthy ? Or just regular ?

    The french commentators are not up in arms, so it seems to be business as usual.
    As said, Arsenal would have continued with 10 players on any PL game

  • Nitram

    Chris

    I’m watching Atletico Madrid against Liverpool and it’s the commentators McMananan and Fletch that are driving me nuts in this one.

    There’s been a few breakaways by AM that have been tight on the offside. If it’s been threatening the linesmen’s let the move conclude with a shot or whatever before flagging. If a goals scored they’ll have a look to confirm off or not. Exactly how VAR is supposed to be implemented.

    This pair of doughnuts just cant get their heads around it, comparing it to how we do it in the PL as if we’ve got it right, and they’ve got it wrong. and we

    Well saw exactly how right we’ve got it in the PL against Newcastle the other night. You flag, blow for offside then see on the replay it was miles onside. Great.

    You really have to wonder at the intelligence of these guys.

  • Nitram

    Atletico Madrid 1 – 0 Liverpool

    What a joy to see a match refereed properly. Not absolutely perfectly, but fairly.

    And guess what ? Klopp isn’t happy. Shame.

    Great defensive display from Madrid preventing Liverpool to ZERO shots on target. Remarkable. But at the end of the day I think Liverpool will have enough at home to turn it around.

    Lets hope the referees as strong and fair at Anfield as he was tonight.

  • Nitram

    Klopp whinging about the ref. (with a smile to be fair)

    Apparently:

    Madrid doing all the rolling around.

    Madrid doing all the fouling.

    Liverpool get the first card.

    “How does that work ?” he said.

    If he came from North London he’d know, because we get it week after week.

    Oh, and by the way, it was nothing like as bad as they are trying to make out.

  • Gord

    Young Gunner Robbie Burton goes to Zagreb?

    https://www.arsenal.com/news/robbie-burton-joins-dinamo-zagreb

    Young Gunners often have notices that they have gone somewhere. Always with the wish that they do well.

    I gather Robbie is Scottish. Going to Zagreb is adventurous. I hope he has learned other languages, and likes doing so. Zagreb is going to expose him to more than I would be comfortable with.

    Best of luck Robbie!

  • what can be upsetting about granit is the fact he gets yellow cards without submitting his opponents to the kind of physical pressure the coq used to put them under. all players have their characteristics: i hope we’re way past abusing granit, he has tremendous qualities but clever, subtle fouling is not one of them. although … i was impressed by his composure during his 2nd half cameo as left CB after luiz was shown the red at chelsea, he was perfect imo, and i don’t think he even had a FK against him (it’d have to be checked out, i haven’t), not to mention a yellow. he might have a future there. actually, i’d have loved mikel to start him again in that position, all the more so since it’d allow him to play lucas-dani (very impressive against the bar codes) in midfield; i’m worried about lucas being sidelined at the moment – i’m a great admirer of our Mighty Mouse.

  • Nitram,

    “the intelligence of these guys”. That made me laugh.

    Xhaka is regularly carded for stuff that doesn’t even warrant a free-kick when players from other teams commit the same offence in the PL, but his card in the EL tonight was deserved.

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