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
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
We ended up 5th in the league with 44 goals conceded.
Moving on to 2017/18, we had Xhaka in second place in the yellow card table on 10.
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
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!
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