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Arsenal: fewest tackles, fewest fouls, best defence. What next?

By Bulldog Drummond

Last season we gained a major insight into the way football was being played in the Premier League by analysing three factors: the number of tackles, fouls and yellow cards.  Leicester we found had really weird statistics in these areas in the first half of last season, tackling way beyond anyone else, but not picking up fouls or cards.

After we published our findings, things started to change radically for Leicester, and so we determined to continue our stats survey this season to see what else we might find.

We’ve now had enough games played to be able to start what I hope will be a regular feature before each match – comparing the prime features of each club’s play.   We start with tackles, fouls and yellow cards.

Tackles are not the only way of committing fouls or getting yellow cards, but they are the most common so is a good place to start.  Likewise committing fouls are not the only way of getting yellow cards, but again is seemingly the most common.

Leicester  Arsenal Most Least
Tackles 81 (9th) 52 (20th) Leeds – 124 Arsenal – 52
Fouls 57 (13th) 43 (20th) Tottenham – 71 Arsenal – 43
Yellow cards 11 (5th) 5 (17th) Villa- 13 Wolves – 4

Leicester are nowhere near the excesses of last season when they tackled far more than anyone else in the early part of the season and shot up the league, looking for quite a while that they might end up second.

Now on tackles they are mid-table, while Arsenal tackle less than any other club.  Leeds we might notice undertake 2.5 tackles to each one that Arsenal indulge in.  We are not a tackling team.  Leeds are, well, Leeds.

Given that tackles are a major way of fouling it is not surprising that Arsenal foul less than any other team.  Leicester are mid-table for tackling and fouling – which is what we would expect and again absolutely not what we saw in the first half of last season, before their collapse.

Overall, Tottenham now foul more than any other club in the league, Arsenal the least.

We would expect Yellow Cards to follow fouls – we foul the least and we are very near the bottom for fouls, so nothing odd there.  Leicester however are getting more yellows than we might expect – maybe a left over from referees suddenly becoming aware of their tackle-tackle-tackle approach last season, when they got very few cards.  Maybe we alerted PGMO we were onto the case – you never know.  Wolverhampton with the least number of cards have just one fewer than Arsenal.

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So in this game we can expect Leicester to tackle more, foul more, and get more yellow cards than Arsenal – if the flow of the game is normal.

The other factor that is of interest is shots and goals – one might take it that the more of these the better, at least in general terms…

Leicester  Arsenal Most Least
Shots 49 (15th) 41 (18th) Liverpool – 97 Palace – 32
Shots on Target 25 (5th) 20 (12th) Tottenham – 37 Palace – 10
Goals scored 12 8 Liverpool – 15 Sheff Utd – 3

Arsenal are not the least likely team to take shots, but are almost the least likely.  We shoot half as much as Liverpool.  When it comes to shots on target we are mid-table and Leicester are 5th, but in effect that only means one more Liverpool shot on target per game.

But it is in goals scored that we see the difference.  Leicester have 50% more goals than us, and Liverpool almost twice as many as us.  We need to be shooting on target far more, to make up that gap between ourselves (20 shots on target) and Tottenham (37).

What’s interesting is that we are maintaining a solid defence (the second best in the league) with the least number of tackles and the least number of fouls and almost the least number of yellow cards.  That is quite an extraordinary achievement – and one to be maintained.  That is superb.  It is not a factor that the so-called “experts” and pundits have noticed, but then it is a positive about Arsenal so they wouldn’t.

If we add to this a few more shots on target we could surely start rising up the league.  5-0 tonight would take us up to third which would be most gratifying.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Everton 5 4 1 0 14 7 7 13
2 Liverpool 6 4 1 1 15 14 1 13
3 Aston Villa 5 4 0 1 12 5 7 12
4 Leeds United 6 3 1 2 12 9 3 10
5 Crystal Palace 6 3 1 2 8 9 -1 10
6 Chelsea 6 2 3 1 13 9 4 9
7 Leicester City 5 3 0 2 12 8 4 9
8 Arsenal 5 3 0 2 8 6 2 9
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers 5 3 0 2 5 7 -2 9

5 comments to Arsenal: fewest tackles, fewest fouls, best defence. What next?

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Gone are the days I used to wait to watch Arsenal matches under AW. Even used to sit late in the night to see the free flowing Wengerball.Unfortunately it’s not the same under Arteta. When you don’t play your most creative player you are killing the entertainment football can bring to you. Arsenal maybe stronger in defence with Thomas Partey but clearly lack the attacking threat they used to be for the opponents with Ozil in the side.

    I am sure Arsenal.has lost the appeal for a goo number of fans since AW left.

    Bad times.

    I guess the board will be watching Arsenal audience falling. But do they care?

    The idiot fans may enjoy 1 nil to the Arsenal.

  • Ukesox

    Interesting stats for sure but the assumption of a correlation between number of tackles and fouls committed is flawed. Maybe because arsenal players engage in far fewer tackles they just aren’t as good at tackling as teams that see tackling as more of their game, and so commit more fouls as a result.

  • simpleDon

    AW saw an advantage in interceptions over tackles. Tackles are less likely to result in a change in procession than inception. Perhaps MA is of the same mind. The stats would tell us.

  • SimpleDon I agree. The problem is finding a reliable source of interceptions data. If you know one please do say.

  • Maybe because Arsenal players engage in far fewer tackles the referees have to devise alternative sanctions. i.e.; placing the ball for a free-kick in a sarcastic manner.

    Motd and Halsey thought that the Arsenal goal in the fourth minute should have been given, but the VAR referee is from the Manchester area, so that wasn’t going to happen.

    Did anybody notice that Pawson has refereed 1/3 of our PL matches this season? He was the official for the Liverpool game, and we all know what happened that day.

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