How the top clubs foul with impunity – this week’s statistics analysed.

By Tony Attwood

This season we have been looking at some statistics that seem never to become headline news in the media, but which, when we look at them really give us pause for thought.

This is the table we have gradually been building as the key issues have arisen.   Exceptional numbers are in bold.  The order is in terms of the number of tackles made thus far.

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellows Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
1. Leeds United 186 83 2.24 14 5.93 1 4 14
2. Everton 180 102 1.76 15 6.80 1 1 6
3. Sheffield United 151 108 1.40 11 9.81 3 4 19
4. Southampton 151 105 1.44 12 8.75 1 1 5
5. West Bromwich 148 108 1.37 9 12.00 0 3 18
6. Leicester City 146 89 1.64 21 4.24 8 0 4
7. Tottenham Hots 143 117 1.22 10 11.17 2 3 1
8. Crystal Palace 141 90 1.57 12 7.50 2 3 9
9. Brighton and H 134 123 1.09 13 9.46 2 4 16
10. West Ham Uni 133 97 1.37 15 6.47 0 2 8
11. Chelsea 131 105 1.25 8 13.12 4 0 3
12. Wolverhampton 126 82 1.54 7 11.7 0 3 12
13. Fulham 124 112 1.11 20 5.6 4 2 16
14. Newcastle U 117 95 1.23 19 5.00 3 2 15
15. Liverpool 108 91 1.19 7 13.00 4 3 2
16. Manchester U 107 106 1.01 16 6.63 4 4 10
17. Aston Villa 106 95 1.12 16 5.94 1 1 7
18. Arsenal 104 87 1.20 11 7.91 1 1 11
19. Manchester City 103 98 1.05 14 7.00 2 2 13
20. Burnley 95 79 1.20 11 7.18 0 1 19

What can we learn?

Leeds can commit far more tackles before getting a foul than other clubs.  Everton are also tackling like mad but nof suffering from being given fouls against them.

Leicester, Fulham and Newcastle and picking up large numbers of yellow cards, in some case having twice as many yellow cards as other clubs.  As individual players’ numbers mount, they are going to be in trouble.

There are five teams getting away with so many more fouls before they get each yellow card that one wonders exactly what is going on: WBA, Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolverhampton, Liverpool.  Tottenham are really exploiting this as they tackle, tackle, tackle but just do not get the yellow cards.  Why is that?

There is a huge disparity between the number of yellow cards that clubs get.  And the high number of yellow cards all come from clubs that are being penalised for their tackling: Leicester, Fulham and Newcastle stand out.

But as we have noted before, Leicester have found a way to compensate for these yellows.

For when it comes to getting penalties, Leicester are in a world of their own.  Eight penalties when some clubs have zero or one.  And at the other end Leicester and  Chelsea don’t give penalties away.  There is Leicester’s success in a nutshell.

How the clubs at the top of the league are doing it:

Assuming that no one is actually bribing the refs…

1/2/3: Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, the 1-2-3 in the league have learned to foul with impunity.

4:  Leicester in fourth have a trick for getting penalties far in excess of everyone else.  Eight penalties in the first eight games as we have noted with amazement.   The fact they didn’t get one in the ninth may be because of something we wrote!

As for Arsenal, our figures are very similar to Liverpool’s except that we get yellow carded about twice as often as they do.  Why is that?  And what can we do about it?

Overall we can see

There is no one way of getting to a high position in the league, and if there were it would be obvious and referees would have to stop it.

But the disparity between clubs is much bigger than we thought in starting this review.   Leicester really have picked up three times as many yellow cards as Liverpool, yet they have only committed 35% more fouls than Liverpool.   That surely must be related to an instruction to refs that went out half way through last season: watch those Leicester tackles!

But it is extraordinary that Liverpool and Chelsea can commit 13 or more fouls before getting a yellow card.  And remember these are not tackles, but actual fouls.  That lack of cards then makes it much easier for their defenders to get on with their work without worrying about what the referee might come up with next.  And when they need to foul, they mostly do so knowing that all they will give away is a free kick – if that.

What does Arsenal have to do?

Quite simply getting more penalties would be a start.   The Leicester number of penalties is insane and it might be that now we have pointed it our referees will start looking at videos of how they are doing this.   But the number of games Leicester have won this season by a penalty to nil shows how valuable this is.

But it is not just Leicester: Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have all gained four times as many penalties as we have thus far.

Which means either the referees just never will give us penalties, or we are not spending enough time in the penalty area.  I suspect at the moment it is the latter but we must watch out in case it becomes the former.

What should referees note?

This season is different.  We are watching them as never before.


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