Arsenal v Leicester: City pull back from hyper-tackles now the tactic is exposed

By Bulldog Drummond


In  the previous articles we have considered the extraordinary way in which Leicester were committing more tackles than any other club, but getting far fewer yellow cards and giving Liverpool a real chase at the top of the league.  But then suddenly things changed and they started to slip down the league.

At the same time the number of tackles declined.

Maybe it was all just coincidence.  Maybe it was pure chance.  Maybe Leicester had devised a new wonder system of playing football which involved hyper-tackling, but without getting yellow cards, and which was helping them win games, but were forced to give it up because…

Or possibly they were using a variation on the old Bolton tactic of rotational fouling in which different players take it in turns to foul a player, and so avoid getting a yellow.  It is possible that Leicester took that idea and refined it by making the tackles a little less aggressive and so less likely to be fouls, while having the team engaged in rotational tackling.  It is a possibility.

And certainly we know that by last year the phrase “rotational fouling” (an Untold phrase) had made it into the lexicon.

Untold doesn’t have the resources to check this, but there must be some explanation somewhere.  More tackles, far fewer cards.  A clever ploy – which suddenly seemed not to work any more.  Rotational fouling seems the most obvious answer.  (More on the revival of rotational fouling here).

Moving on…

Overall Arsenal at home have not been as strong as we would have hoped

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 17 17 0 0 46 12 34 51
2 Manchester City 16 12 2 2 45 12 33 38
3 Manchester United 17 10 5 2 37 14 23 35
4 Leicester City 17 10 4 3 33 15 18 34
5 Tottenham Hotspur 17 10 3 4 31 16 15 33
6 Chelsea 17 9 3 5 27 16 11 30
7 Arsenal 16 8 5 3 30 20 10 29

Overall, taking the complete season so far Leicester away have been doing rather well.   And indeed it was this figure that started me wondering how they were doing it – and why they have crumbled of late.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 16 12 2 2 26 13 13 38
2 Manchester City 17 9 1 7 36 22 14 28
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 16 7 6 3 23 17 6 27
4 Chelsea 16 8 3 5 33 28 5 27
5 Southampton 16 8 2 6 25 22 3 26
6 Leicester City 16 7 3 6 30 16 14 24

Leicester’s rise, be it through the curious tackles without cards tactic or some other way has come at a time when Arsenal have failed to find how to beat them.   Indeed Leicester have won three of their last four league games against Arsenal. Previously it took them 36 matches to get that many wins.

But what they have not done is won three games against us in a row.  The last time they completed that run was 1963.

At home we have been doing rather well against them since 1974.

Date Game Res Score Competition
10 Sep 1974 Arsenal v Leicester City D 1-1 League Cup
14 Dec 1974 Arsenal v Leicester City D 0-0 League Division One
15 Feb 1975 Arsenal v Leicester City D 0-0 FA Cup
06 Sep 1975 Arsenal v Leicester City D 1-1 League Division One
02 Apr 1977 Arsenal v Leicester City W 3-0 League Division One
17 Sep 1977 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 League Division One
04 Oct 1980 Arsenal v Leicester City W 1-0 League Division One
28 Apr 1984 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 League Division One
16 Mar 1985 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-0 League Division One
31 Aug 1985 Arsenal v Leicester City W 1-0 League Division One
20 Apr 1987 Arsenal v Leicester City W 4-1 League Division One
08 Oct 1991 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-0 League Cup
11 Feb 1995 Arsenal v Leicester City D 1-1 Premier League
12 Apr 1997 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-0 Premier League
26 Dec 1997 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 Premier League
20 Feb 1999 Arsenal v Leicester City W 5-0 Premier League
07 Aug 1999 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 Premier League
09 Jan 2000 Arsenal v Leicester City D 0-0 FA Cup
26 Dec 2000 Arsenal v Leicester City W 6-1 Premier League
25 Aug 2001 Arsenal v Leicester City W 4-0 Premier League
15 May 2004 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 Premier League
10 Feb 2015 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 Premier League
14 Feb 2016 Arsenal v Leicester City W 2-1 Premier League
26 Apr 2017 Arsenal v Leicester City W 1-0 Premier League
11 Aug 2017 Arsenal v Leicester City W 4-3 Premier League
22 Oct 2018 Arsenal v Leicester City W 3-1 Premier League


That is 12 wins in a row at home.  A 13th successive home victory would equal our record against a club in the top league – which we hold for beating Stoke 13 times at home between 1983 and 2018).

One particular point of note that the BBC found was the the win against Wolverhampton W was our first away win against a side above us in the table since we beat Leicester 2-5.

And we are reminded that Emiliano Martinez has not let in a goal in six of his eight Premier League starts for Arsenal, which is the best ratio of any Gunners keeper with at least five starts in the competition.

So to the team.

Sports Mole give us


Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac;

Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney;

Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang

The Standard however go for


Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney;

Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka;

Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang

The Independent says


Mustafi, Luiz, Tierney;

Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka;

Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang


The Untold prediction: Leicester hold back on the tackles now that the refs have rumbled their rotational game.

42 Replies to “Arsenal v Leicester: City pull back from hyper-tackles now the tactic is exposed”

  1. What a dumb article! You seem to be assuming that every tackle is a foul, and that every foul equals a yellow card.

  2. What a GOAL !!!!!!

    This game is nice to watch….from an Arsenal perspective…We are really owning the turf
    And no VAR review….

  3. We are more and more playing in quasi straight line to the goal, finding space, tearing the center apart.
    Interesting development.
    And our midfield is really up to the task.

    Woah that move…..the heel pass… just wonderful…the couple of minutes look like a corrida…

  4. Sign the man please! Ceballos as well. He and Xhaka are forming a good partnership. Work a deal with RM. Guendouzi and Bellerin. Other Untolders will disagree but I don’t rate Bellerin as he’s lost at least a step since his injury and pace was his asset. He was never much on the defensive side of things.

    This side has had more chances this half than we’ve seen in a while. Brilliant attacking football.

  5. @goonersince72,

    Bellerin just showed he is getting is rocket pace back…give him time.

    As for Ceballos, I fully agree. And he is becoming CeballOzil more and more….finding space and perfect passing, but more aggressive. They really need to keep him.

  6. Chris,
    To be fair, he has had a terrific first half. I hope you’re right about his pace returning because he could be a threat down the right again.

  7. I’m totally enjoying this game so far. A real pleasure to watch. Had not happened ina long time. Beautiful game, efficient pressing all over the place, splendid search for space, vertical movements.
    Saka is just unstoppable. This kid is a real gem.
    And Martinez is taking his chance. I thought he was good….but did not know that good.
    We are seeing a team coming of age.

    And even the refs and VAR are surprising….
    But they need to keep alert behind. These foxes can hurt eith just one ball.

  8. Liecster are now up to 37 fouls without a card with this referee.

    I think he’s been decent but jeeeeez, what do this lot have to do to get a card. I’s beyond a joke.

  9. We look tired… and Leicester is the best team in the last 15 minutes….
    We need fresh blood

  10. @Nitram

    37…this you being cynical or is it the real number ?!?
    One thing I saw is that they do less tackles and much more pushing or body checks like in ice hockey…

    We look tired…I don’t like that at all

  11. Beat me to it Nitram. Over the season he gives a yellow for roughly every six fouls but none for 37 against us!

  12. Chris

    It was on the back of this from Mikey on the other thread:

    “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”.

    He’s allowed 37 fouls against us without a single card.

  13. The player clearly touches it on the way through making Vardy offside. How can that be allowed?

  14. Arsenal

    9 Fouls 1 Red 1 Yellow


    13 fouls ZERO cards.

    Making 38 fouls and no cards

  15. This match is not headed the way we wanted but plaudits to the team!! well organized, created chances, Playing hard right to the end. There is a lot of good to take away from this match

  16. With this ref:


    31 fouls

    3 Yellow

    1 Red

    A card every 6.2 fouls


    39 Fouls

    ZERO cards. Is that even possible ?

  17. Leicester plays a more cynical style than we do and get away with it. The number of times their center back blocked our number 9 when the ball was played back to the keeper was impressive. Every time we played the ball past a defender and tried to move past him for a give and go, they would block us. It is clearly an allowed tactic…we should do it more.

    As for Nketiah’s red…it was a soft red as the defender turned to avoid a collision and presented his calf…however, he has to learn when he is in the big leagues that Arsenal don’t get breaks and with 10 minutes left you can’t give the ref the opportunity to earn his pay.

  18. @ Nitram

    Arsenal under Kavanagh this season

    30 fouls committed for four yellows and one red
    Opponents 38 fouls for no cards

    The average for Kavanagh this season is a card every six fouls. He has given no other team a red card.

  19. @Nitram,

    it is fascinating that we get the same referee for both the away and home games against Leicester….

  20. In real time you can see the ball change direction off the foot of Perez. It doesn’t show when the speed is slowed down. So what do Sky do? Keep showling it in slow motion…..

  21. Even the french commentators were saying that the ball was touched by the Leicester player, which means Vardy was offside.
    They were seing as we were that it’s movemtn was impacted – which means it was touched.
    Thus the goal should not have stood.

  22. How many yellow card offences did Evans commit? I lost count.

    Also Vardy kicking Mustafi in the face did not look like an accident, despite his pretence at innocence.

  23. For Kavanagh to allow us to be fouled that many times without giving a card when his usual level of tolerance is a card every 6 fouls suggests he is bent, full stop.

    Those kind of anomalies simply do not happen by accident.

  24. John L

    Evens foul down the back of Lacazette’s left Achilles was a definite Yellow, possible red on it’s own. He committed at least 2 other stone wall yellow fouls.

  25. The PGMOL are absolutely corrupt. The fouls by Evans on Laca must have been at least 3 reds with the number of deliberate kicks to his achilles. The so called dangerous play was nothing compared to the swinging studs to Mustafis face by Vardy. It wasn’t a deliberate movement —- my arse!! It was studs to the face – red card. It was in the time 40 – 45 mins first half.

    The Leicester goal was off side and the active player was in an off side position irrelevant of whether the cheats touched the ball. The officiating is absolutely corrupt as the touch by Nketiah was just as invisible as the off side touch. The TV angle used for the referee is foreshortened and makes it look like a foul, but the other footage shows the lack of contact. The player went for the ball and should not have been booked as there was no contact of the boot. The collision of players is part of the contact sport. The officiating was appaling and Arsenal have been roobed of yet another

  26. I was asking earlier on another thread about Kavanaugh re Leicester City. Certainly got my answer this evening. Usual shite but having said that, I think it was a red for Nketiah. You’d want an opponent to see a red if he clattered one of ours like that; high, leg up, dangerous.

  27. What we have to put up with is the slurping Brenda saying how good his players were. There were kicking us and getting no censure from the blind mouse.

  28. @ goonersince72

    I’m slightly inclined to agree with you about Nketiah and the red. The issue as always is the lack of the level playing field. Would it have been given the other way? Would we have got away with all the fouls Leicester made? Would we get away with committing 38 fouls without Kavanagh giving us as much as one yellow? Clearly not!

    @ Chris

    It’s interesting how many times foreign commentators read refereeing decisions differently to English ones!

  29. Arsenal’s display with 11 men was simply inspiring.
    We were a yard faster on the ball and well on the way to a victory.
    Then the fatal mistake. One of our attackers makes a clumsy foul and after VAR, reduces us to 10 men. Leading by only one goal wasn’t sufficient to hold out.
    I blame no-one. I thought the referee was OK.
    It’s the luck of the draw when VAR goes against you. Earlier it was used in our favour.
    This Arsenal side continues to prosper and are playing the best football they have played this season.

  30. VAR is not some alien looking at the game!!! It is the PGMOLs excuse to bend the rules. There was no VAR look at the Vardy studs to Mustafis face!! There is media reporting of it as the PGMOL are always protected.

    What a sham this bunch of racists take a knee before a game and then get back to their very racist selection process of officials. The problem is no one has the guts to call them out.

  31. Sadly again we have to wonder what that load of scum calling themselves a football team have to do to get even a yellow never mind a red card ,Evans Bennett and king chav Vardy all got away with blatant cynical blocks and pushes not to mention king chav kicking out at Mustafi ,and sadly we all know if they hadnt score Kavanagh would have manafactured a penalty to keep them and sky happy.

  32. “For one challenge which is between the 40 and the 45 minutes – that has to be a red card as well.” – expert summary from Arteta. Kavanagh’s stats vs. Arsenal look highly suspicious.

  33. At the end of the day, the positives outweigh the negatives. We were the better side 11 v 11 and created far more opportunities. Leicester created only a couple of opportunities until we went down to 10 men. Given that Champions League football is a pipe dream right now, it is the upward momentum that is important.

    I don’t think that the Spuds, the Scousers or Citeh are looking forward to playing us over the next fortnight.

  34. That is one of the most amusing comments I have seen for a long time. But to help you out, the assumption which is revealed as true by a study of tackles to fouls to cautions ratio across the seasons, shows that there is a relationship between the number of tackles, fouls and cautions throughout the league – except for Leicester.

  35. Waler, ref AFC vs Leis VAR = Stuart Atwell on duty at Stockley Park. NK

  36. @Tony, there isn’t. You just made that up, as you do with many of your assumptions.
    Cue Nitram (aka proudkev with the internet belligerence)

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