The four PL clubs that are getting very special treatment from referees.

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.

Below are all the details we have looked at.  And our prime conclusions now are that Liverpool, Leicester, Man City and Leeds are all being singled out by referees for very special treatment at the moment.

The Leicester penalty rush is over – after eight penalties in their favour in eight games, nothing in the last two.  And the oddity is that this end to the run of a penalty a game came after we highlighted the run.  A coincidence of course.

Leicester are also picking up an unusually high number of yellows for a team near the top.  Which is odd because they are committing far fewer fouls than most other teams.  Again it could be a coincidence but Leicester’s fortunes changed just as we started highlighting their figures last season.

Liverpool can commit three times as many fouls as other clubs before they get a yellow card, but when they try it in the box they are more likely to get caught out.  But three times as many!! That is really, really weird.

Manchester City are given a foul for every tackle they put in, so not surprisingly they’ve given up tackling.  Interesting that they have now slipped down the league a little.  Watching them on TV, the two factors seem to be related.

Leeds are getting away with twice as many tackles as other teams before a foul is called.  How come?  Have they made a plea to the League to say, “we are not the Leeds of old”?

Below is the evolving table we have gradually been building as the key issues have arisen this season.   Exceptional numbers are in bold at one end of the scale and red at the other.  Clubs are listed alphabetically.

The figures below are complete up to League matches played on 30 November – and the mere fact that no other publication is even bothering to pull these figures together gives us pause for thought.  Even if there is nothing the slightest bit odd about these figures, they still make interesting viewing as the summary above and further details below show.

Can all the outlier figures be explained by coincidence and style of play?  Obviously you may choose to believe that is the case.  Personally I am very doubtful.

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Arsenal 117 100 1.17 14 7.14 1 0 14
Aston Villa 112 102 1.10 17 6.00 2 1 10
Brighton and H 156 132 1.18 15 8.80 4 5 16
Burnley 123 96 1.28 13 7.38 0 1 19
Chelsea 144 125 1.15 12 10.41 4 0 3
Crystal Palace 168 108 1.56 14 7.71 2 3 15
Everton 199 110 1.81 16 6,87 1 2 8
Fulham 148 133 1,11 22 6.05 5 2 17
Leeds United 205 97 2.11 16 6.06 1 4 12
Leicester City 165 98 1.68 21 4.67 8 1 4
Liverpool 121 104 1.16 8 13.00 4 5 2
Manchester City 110 110 1.00 14 7.86 2 4 11
Manchester U 126 118 1.07 16 7.37 4 4 9
Newcastle U 141 105 1.34 21 5.00 3 2 13
Sheffield United 165 117 1.41 14 8.36 3 1 20
Southampton 193 130 1.48 13 10.0 1 1 6
Tottenham Hots 148 126 1.17 12 10.5 2 3 1
West Bromwich 160 118 1.36 11 10.73 0 3 18
West Ham Uni 142 117 1.21 16 7.31 0 3 5
Wolverhampton 149 109 1.37 13 8.38 0 4 7

Commentary on categories:

Tackles: Leeds are delivering almost double the number of tackles of Manchester City.  But Leeds have committed fewer fouls than Manchester City.  In essence virtually every tackle Manchester City puts in is a foul!

Fouls: As we might expect, clubs near the foot of the table foul most often (Fulham and Brighton) but it is not the clubs at the top that foul the least often.  Manchester City and Aston Villa are mid-table.

Tackles per foul: Of course fouls can be given for things other than tackles (such as pushing) but still, most fouls come from tackles so the tackle per foul measure is interesting.  Manchester City and Manchester United are getting almost the same number of fouls against them as they make tackles (1.00 and 1.07) while Leeds can commit over twice as many tackles before getting a foul given against them.

Yellow cards: We might expect struggling clubs to pick up the most yellow cards as they throw in last-second tackles on players rushing through.  So Fulham’s figure is explicable, but less so Newcastle.  However what are Leicester doing getting so many yellow cards?

Fouls per yellow card: Most yellow cards (note, not all but most) come from fouls. So we look at how many fouls teams commit before they get a yellow card – not as an absolutely accurate guide, but as a general guide to what is going on.

Liverpool can commit an astonishing 13 fouls before they get a yellow card. Way outside the rest of the pack.  But Leicester and Newcastle are at the other end of the table.  In essence Liverpool can commit three times as may fouls before they get a yellow card as clubs like Leicester and Newcastle.

Penalties won: In the first eight matches Leicester were getting on average a penalty in their favour once a game, and indeed in several games that penalty was the difference between a Leicester win and a draw. So they are at least four points better off than they would be without that extraordinary run of penalties.  They are way out in front of all other teams.

Penalties conceded: A strange pair here: Brighton and Liverpool as the two clubs that concede the most penalties. Now why is that?

One possibility is that as Liverpool can almost tackle with impunity (compared to other clubs) committing 13 fouls before getting a yellow card compared with six or seven by other clubs, the feeling on impunity must be sweeping through defenders.  So they tackle and tackle, but sometimes forget that tackles in the box tend to be more regularly punished than others, so they give away more penalties.

Here is the list of top three clubs with very odd statistics this season so far:

Liverpool: how can they commit fouls without getting yellow cards?  Are referees told, “Liverpool fouls don’t count”?

Leicester: were gaining a penalty a game, and now that has stopped.  But they are now picking up yellow cards by the bucket load.  Have referees been told that Leicester’s ploy has been rumbled so make sure they don’t get away with last season’s tactics?

Leeds: how can they get away with twice as many tackles per foul as other clubs?  Are refs told, “Just leave Leeds alone”.

2 Replies to “The four PL clubs that are getting very special treatment from referees.”

  1. Some years ago i did mention that the PL is being manipulated.
    Over the years it appears that i was right in what i said.
    There are too many strange results AND decisions by refs and var, too many.
    Until the refs have a league table where there are graded and given points for good decisions and points removed for mistakes, then at the end of the season they are promoted and relegated like teams are.

    The ref in game should have no headset/mic, the headset/mic should be at the side of the pitch IF the ref needs to query something, he/she will use the VAR monitors first. In reality the ref does not really need to talk to anyone, so there is no need for a headset/mic.
    The ref is responsible for the game and should have no interference.

  2. If you leave the game entirely under the referee’s control then you really do open the game to fixing. A referee, even with the help of two assistants, cannot possibly see every incident which affects the outcome of a game. I would even favour more eyes on the pitch which could rely on VAR as a back up or to give more clarity as to what actually happened. Nearly every incident is interpreted by the angle from which it is viewed. More eyes on the pitch, possibly one extra assistant in each half of the pitch equipped with American football style penalty markers which would be used to signal infringements/incidents. The referee could consult with the assistants and possibly VAR to identify any incidents which have affected the game.
    I am of the opinion that Premier League referees are either useless or are trying to get VAR thrown out and possibly both. They are certainly a law unto themselves. They make no attempt to enter a dialogue for the good of the game.
    The thing that makes my blood boil at the moment is the handling of offside decisions. The ‘toenail offsides’ are ridiculous. The question of ‘is an advantage being gained?’ never seems to be part of the decision process. Another situation is the interpretation of phases of play. An offside player that doesn’t actually receive the ball is always allowed to score even if he has obviously gained advantage from his original offside position.

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