Arsenal v Leicester: the yellow card kings against the tackle champions

by Bulldog Drummond

Arsenal get a yellow card for every seven tackles. 

Leicester get a yellow card for every 17 tackles.

This article continues from Arsenal v Leicester, Leicester’s declining tackles, Arteta confirms tactic

Looking at our results across the games since resumption we can see the obvious improvement in Arsenal – plus the increase in goal scoring prowess.

Date Game Res Score Competition
17 Jun 2020 Manchester City v Arsenal L 3-0 Premier League
20 Jun 2020 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal L 2-1 Premier League
25 Jun 2020 Southampton v Arsenal W 0-2 Premier League
28 Jun 2020 Sheffield United v Arsenal W 1-2 FA Cup
01 Jul 2020 Arsenal v Norwich City W 4-0 Premier League
04 Jul 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal W 0-2 Premier League

Leicester however have stumbled since the return with just one win, and that against an unimpressive Palace.

Date Game Res Score Competition
20 Jun 2020 Watford v Leicester City D 1-1 Premier League
23 Jun 2020 Leicester City v Brighton and Hove Albion D 0-0 Premier League
28 Jun 2020 Leicester City v Chelsea L 0-1 FA Cup
01 Jul 2020 Everton v Leicester City L 2-1 Premier League
04 Jul 2020 Leicester City v Crystal Palace W 3-0 Premier League

But this stumble started before the resumption of games – they only won two of their last seven league and cup matches before the pandemic stopped football.

So what has changed for Leicester during the course of the season?  For certainly something has.   This is how the table looked on 14 December 2019…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 17 16 1 0 42 14 28 49
2 Leicester City 17 12 3 2 40 11 29 39
3 Manchester City 16 10 2 4 44 19 25 32

If there was one team that could give Liverpool a run, it looked like Leicester.  And on that day we started to wonder how they were doing it.

What we found was so extraordinary that we were forced to go back and check everything a number of times, and indeed we didn’t publish our data until 6 February at which time we showed Leicester’s figures for yellow cards against the number of tackles, is quite unlike the figures for any other team.

But then it got weirder.  For since then Leicester have won three games out of ten in league and cup.  Obviously a success rate of 30%.   Prior to that (and leaving aside the FL Trophy which is for under 21 sides), in League and Cup Leicester played 33 games and won 23 which is a win rate of 70%.

That is an astonishing success rate turn around.  70% win rate collapsing to a 30% win rate.

Of course there is no evidence that our publication of the extraordinary figures for the number of tackles they can commit before they get a yellow had any effect on Leicester.  Maybe it was a coincidence.  Maybe others had spotted it before us, and referees were starting to tighten up.

But the facts are that prior to our publishing the data they had a 70% win rate.  After they have a 30% win rate.

The number of tackles per game since our publication has also declined, which suggests a change in the style of play and that in turn might explain the fall from grace.

Is it that referees are more aware of the Leicester tactics?  Is it that the opposition are more aware of what Leicester get up to?  Were Leicester bribing referees?  (Of course that is a scurrilous accusation and we have no evidence for that whatsoever – it is not meant as a serious point).   Or is it all a coincidence?

But the fact is that, as you may recall, when we did the analysis of tackles, fouls and yellow cards in February, we found the Leicester’s position was utterly different from every other club.  They get far, far fewer fouls given against them per tackle, and far fewer yellow cards per foul.  This clearly gave them a feeling of impunity, and indeed looking at the table now we can see  that they have undertaken over 150 more tackles than Arsenal this season.

But they have done this while only getting 19 yellow cards.  Arsenal have had 72!

Thus while Leicester are top of the tackle league they are way down in the fouls league

Position Team Played Total Fouls Fouls committed
committed per game
1 Southampton 29 355 12.24
2 Watford 29 353 12.17
3 Everton 29 346 11.93
4 Aston Villa 28 327 11.68
5 Burnley 29 323 11.14
6 Man United 29 320 11.03
7 Arsenal 28 308 11.00
8 Crystal Palace 29 317 10.93
9 Wolverhampton W 29 316 10.90
10 Sheffield United 28 303 10.82
11 Leicester 29 308 10.62

So we have Arsenal with 528 tackles leading to 308 fouls leading to 72 yellow cards, we have Leicester with 655 tackles (the most in the league) leading to 308 fouls leading to 37 yellow cards.

Now of course you can argue that Arsenal’s fouls are far, far worse than Leicester’s.  Indeed you might say that Arsenal’s fouls are consistently twice as bad as Leicester’s.  So they get more than twice as many yellow cards.  Arsenal get a yellow card for approximately every seven tackles.  Leicester get a yellow card for every 17 tackles.

(And yes I know that one doesn’t only get yellow cards for tackles, but around 95% of yellows are given for tackles).

How do we explain this?  We can try several ways.  For example we might suggest that Leicester players are all experts at tackling and Arsenal employ hothead defenders.

We might suggest that Leicester have a method of gentle tackling which is hardly a tackle at all, but is used to hold up the attack briefly, to get other men back.  A clever ploy.

We might wonder if the referees are biased – but we have no evidence of this of course, only these very strange figures.

We’ll consider this a little further in the third and final preview of this match.



5 Replies to “Arsenal v Leicester: the yellow card kings against the tackle champions”

  1. Just tired of it. When they won the league I believe they had 12 goals from PK’s and Vardy probably had 10,lol. Kavanaugh today. Does anyone know if he’s been in charge of AFC v LC recently?

  2. Tony

    As you and others may recall, because I’ve talked about it quite often here on UA previously, I first started looking at this fouls to cards ratio over 15 years ago, early in Rileys Pigmob reign, when I felt we were being treated a lot more harshly than our direct opponents, such as Man Utd.

    I used to use the old ‘Fair Play’ table in the Sun which used the rudimentary method of 1 point for a yellow and 2 for a red card. Back then the average was a card around every 7.5 fouls. It did vary from season to season slightly but not much. We were often getting a card at around 5.5 fouls. I didn’t have any tackle data.

    So assuming your figures are correct……


    528 Tackles
    308 Fouls
    72 Yellows

    A foul every 1.7 tackles

    A card every 4.5 Fouls


    655 Tackles
    308 Fouls
    37 Yellows

    A foul every 2.12 tackles.

    A card every 8.32 Fouls.

    ….then we should be worried.

    As you say, Leicester’s figures are quite odd, being more leniently treated in both tackles to fouls and fouls to cards, than Arsenal.

    But what I draw from the fouls to cards data is more about just how harshly Arsenal are treated rather than how leniently Leicester are treated.

    If these figures are correct and we are getting carded at a yellow every 4.5 fouls that is even worse than back when I first did this all those years ago.

    If the average for the PL is still around a card every 7.5 fouls then to be on 4.5 means we are again being royally turned over. Leicester on the other hand, whilst a card every 8.32 fouls is lenient and bellow average, it is not extreme.

    If your figures are correct Tony then the issue here (at least regarding cards to fouls) is not with how leniently Leicester are/were treated, by just how harshly Arsenal are being treated…….again.

  3. Nitram

    I think it’s an important distinction and appreciate your research. I’m going to try to watch tonight’s match with this info in mind but one dodgy call or non-call and I’ll be calling for Kavanaugh’s head like the rest, lol.

  4. @ goonersince72

    As far as I can see we’ve had Kavanagh twice this season. Away at Leicester they committed 10 fouls for no cards. And home to Man U who commit 15 fouls for no cards. Over the two games, Kavanagh was very lenient (compared with others) with us, giving us three cards for 21 fouls.

    So for us a card for every seven fouls, the opposition 25 fouls for zero.

  5. Well well well. You guys have proven the worth of your research and analysis once again.

    I knew Kavanaugh was gonna fall for Leicester’s fouling tactic the 2nd time Jonny Evans barrelled straight into the back of Laca and only got a talking to.

    The fact that we’re the ones who end up getting red-carded is so on-brand.

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