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October 2020
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Which club is trying to emulate Leicester tackling game from last season?

By Tony Attwood

These are early days, but then again, early days can bring us a good warning of what is going to happen.

Last season we saw Leicester develop – and for half a season get away with – a system of constant tackling without getting yellow cards.  Then the system collapsed and their season collapsed.   We were told by irate Leicester fans that this was because of an injury but the change in ratios did not match the injuries at all.   Something happened to Leicester and they cut their tackling regime greatly. (I am sure it wasn’t just because we spotted it and printed the data).  And so they slipped down the league.

These are of course very early days indeed, but there are a few stats to look here.

First tackles.  The number of tackles ranges from 69 with Leeds to 27 from Tottenham.   But of course the clubs have played different numbers of games and different standards of player.  So we have the added other columns to give some early thoughts.  The figures were taken before monday’s game – and they are merely indicative, nothing more.

  Tackles Fouls per game Yellows Tackles per yellow
1. Leeds United 69 7.67 2 34.5
2. Crystal Palace 65 13.33 6 10.8
3. Everton 60 10.33 2 30.0
4. Wolverhampton Wanderers 56 8 2 28
5. Leicester City 53 9.33 5 10.6
6. Sheffield United 48 14.67 5 9.6
7. Southampton 48 12.3 5 9.6
8. West Ham United 48 11 3 16.0
9. Chelsea 45 13 4 12.0
10. Newcastle United 39 10.67 9 4.3
11. Fulham 38 15 10 3.8
12. Brighton and Hove Albion 37 13.67 5 7.4
13. Liverpool 37 7.5 3 12.3
14. Manchester City 34 10.5 4 8.5
15. West Bromwich Albion 34 10.3 2 17.0
16. Arsenal 31 11.5 4 7.8
17. Manchester United 29 14.5 4 7.25
18. Aston Villa 28 12 6 4.7
19. Burnley 27 10.5 3 9.0
20. Tottenham Hotspur 27 16 5 5.4

Fouls per game is interesting, especially given the appalling yellow card fouls that were given last night against Liverpool.  In the latest figures we have they are the in the lower region of tackles and the lower region of fouls per game.   This looks very much like a policy of playing against different clubs in different ways; with clubs who might score against them, the heavy duty fouls come in early, trying to tempt the opponents to dive in, in retaliation.

Fouls per game is incredibly varied ranging from 7.5 for Liverpool to 14.67 for Sheffield United – nearly twice as many.  Yellows also vary from two to ten – a gigantic variance.

But then we come to the interesting figure – tackles per yellow.  Is any club “Doing a Leicester” this season?

Well yes, there are three clubs that a piling in tackle after tackle and hardly getting a yellow card – exactly as prescribed from the Leicester City Book of Fouling (Autumn 2019 edition).  Just to make the point let’s compare the top three foulers with the bottom three foulers.

  Tackles Fouls per game Yellows Tackles per yellow
1. Leeds United 69 7.67 2 34.5
3. Everton 60 10.33 2 30.0
4. Wolverhampton Wanderers 56 8 2 28
10. Newcastle United 39 10.67 9 4.3
11. Fulham 38 15 10 3.8
20. Tottenham Hotspur 27 16 5 5.4

These are incredible differences but what really stands out is that the clubs that are getting a yellows only after very high numbers of tackles, are also engaging in a tackle – tackle – tackle style of playing – tackle every player as soon as he gets the ball.

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But consider Everton and Newcastle.  Everton commit 10.33 fouls per game, Newcastle 10.67.  Virtually nothing in it.  But Everton have ended up with two yellow cards and Newcastle nine!

Interesting also how the media comment on this.  I may well have missed it, but I don’t think they are noticing this (although last night’s Arsenal game was enough of a clue, surely).  But last season Compare.bet did an analysis of “The Dirtiest Premier League Team, and came to the conclusion it was Everton.  Certainly they are not the dirtiest at the moment but they are up towards the top.

Yet more to the point they are getting away with 30 tackles per yellow card.  An utterly extraordinary figure.

These are of course early days and the difference between two yellows and ten might seem unimportant – except that … clubs have only played two or three games each so far.

But look at the league table

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts TpY
1 Leicester City 3 3 0 0 12 4 8 9 10.6
2 Liverpool 3 3 0 0 9 4 5 9 12.3
3 Everton 3 3 0 0 8 3 5 9 30.0
4 Aston Villa 2 2 0 0 4 0 4 6 4.7
5 Arsenal 3 2 0 1 6 4 2 6 7.8
6 Crystal Palace 3 2 0 1 5 3 2 6 10.8
7 Leeds United 3 2 0 1 8 7 1 6 34.5

You don’t need a high Tackles per Yellow (TpY) number to get up the table, and obviously a lot depends this early in the season on who you have played, but a very high TpY ratio certainly helps.

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