By Tony Attwood
Leicester have now been awarded over twice as many penalties as Arsenal this season, a factor that has clearly helped them cling on to a position in the upper part of the league.
Mind you, they are not the most extraordinary team in this regard. Manchester United have been awarded four times as many penalties as Arsenal have this season. Their only problem is that they have missed a third of them!
But Arsenal’s problem is not just that they don’t get awarded many penalties. It is that they have on their own received more yellow cards (72) than Liverpool (31) and Leicester City (36) put together.
And since a yellow card always affects a player’s subsequent performance (since he inevitably is more cautious from there on – or else likely to get a second yellow), it’s not a bad idea to try and think how to reduce the number of yellows and reds.
For Arsenal have also received more red cards than Liverpool, Leicester, Chelsea, Wolverhampton, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and West Ham all put together! In fact, Arsenal have more red cards and more yellow cards than any other team in the league.
Of course those who are critical of Arsenal will say they deserve it, and that isn’t really an argument that can be won, but it is a worry. With this sort of disciplinary record it is going to be impossible for Arsenal to win the league any time soon.
Indeed the situation seems to be getting worse, for with four players shown a straight red this season Arsenal have already reached double the sendings off of last season.
But it has not always been like this. In 2015/16 when Arsenal came second in the league – the last time we were in the top four we had the lowest number of yellow cards in the league (38) and just two straight reds. That was the sort of figure that Leicester and Liverpool are achieving now.
So what has gone wrong? Why is Arsenal picking up more yellow cards than other teams?
One simple reason that could be stated is because the managers tell the players to “get stuck in” and “let them know you’re there” etc etc. Indeed last season under Emery Arsenal, although not the worst offenders in the league, were certainly in the bottom five, again receiving twice as many yellow cards as Liverpool.
We have to go back to Mr Wenger’s last season to see a situation where we were not among the most penalised clubs – with 57 yellows and two straight reds. Chelsea were the club with the fewest cards that season with 40 yellows and two straight reds.
However if we go back to 2015/16 when we came second in the league we also were the cleanest team in the league with just 38 yellows and two reds.
The simple explanation is that Arsenal have since then become a dirty team as their position in the league has declined. Another is that Arsenal are being particularly penalised, and another is that referees have become are biased.
Of late, Liverpool have taken over as the team getting the fewest cards. In 2016/17 they had 54 yellows and no reds – a lot more than Arsenal the year before, but still the fewest in the league that year.
In 2017/18 they were again top of the card table with just 44 yellows and one red. They stayed there for 2018/19 with an astoundingly low 35 yellows and no reds. And thus far this season they are top again with 31 yellows and 1 red. Here’s the full table for this season so far…
All the figures here come from Transfer Market
|5||Brighton & Hove Albion||49||1||1|
|8||West Ham United||57||1||0|
This position for Arsenal cannot be helping the cause. But why is it happening? Certainly this season it might be due to the number of youngsters playing in the team, plus a desire to get stuck in and show the new manager one is not afraid. But the figures were also bad during Mr Wenger’s last season.
The fact is that over a period of five seasons we have moved from being the cleanest team in the league to the dirtiest team in the league as we have slipped from being runners’ up to our current position of seventh.
There is not an automatic link between being a team that does not get yellow cards and the club’s position in the league, but there is certainly a relationship between the two.
Maybe we need to ensure that the younger players learn as quickly as possible about the unusual applications of the laws that we sometimes see in the Premier League, and work around that. That indeed might help. And maybe the club needs to see exactly how Liverpool and Leicester are achieving their extraordinary low rates while (in Leicester’s case at least) creating an extraordinary number of tackles.
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