Arsenal are almost the cleanest team in the league, so why are people get excited?

By Tony Attwood

There was a headline in the Guardian this morning saying, “Mikel Arteta says Xhaka red card ‘worse’ than Pépé’s as Arsenal crisis deepens”.

It struck me as interesting, in that Arsene Wenger was constantly laughed at and derided in the media for saying that he didn’t see a particular incident, and using that as a way of avoiding talking about a player’s alleged or indeed obvious misdemeanour.

In fact as time went by he would often do this with a smirk on his face revealing that everyone knew that he would never criticise his own players in front of journalists.  I particularly recall the numerous incidents with Nic Bendtner, who was followed everywhere by newspaper photographers, in which Mr Wenger would come up with an excuse and say, “at least that’s what he told me” with a smirk.

He would never condemn incidents off or on the pitch in public, and that led to him being derided daily in the media.

But Mr Wenger knew enough about his own abilities and enough about psychology and social psychology to realise that keeping the issue between himself and the player was a far better way of handling affairs, than publicly humiliating a player who was already been crucified by the journalists.

It does seem to me at this moment that Arteta’s penchant for criticising his own players is not doing him or the club any good.  Just because he knew how to conduct himself on and off the pitch that doesn’t mean other people can as well.  It is a bit like a parent saying to a teenager, “all the other lads in your class know how to behave, why can’t you?”   It might seem a logical and reasonable question, but it rarely brings about a change in behaviour.

Added to which Arteta was not himself completely immune to errors on the pitch – he picked up four red cards in his career.  Not as many as a lot of other players, but even so, he must remember that mistakes are possible, and that berating a player in public rarely works.  In fact the opposite – it encourages the media, and for an Arsenal manager that is  the last thing he should ever be doing.

You might recall that the media regularly went berserk at the number of reds and yellows players were said to have had during Wenger’s tenure at the club, and it looks like they are setting this line of attack up again with the line in the Guardian today: “Indiscipline is a particular problem”.

In fact Arsenal have had two red cards in the Premier League this season – hardly an outrageous number this season.

As for when it comes to yellow cards Leicester City have 30% more than we do in the Premier League this season and I haven’t seen any outcry against their discipline.

Rank Club Yellow cards
1. Leicester City 26
2. Fulham 25
3. Newcastle United 23
4. Aston Villa 22
5. Brighton and Hove Albion 19
6. Leeds United 19
7. Arsenal 18
8. Everton 18
9. West Ham United 18
10. Crystal Palace 17
11. Manchester United 17

And really this is the problem with the broadcast and written media – they will go onto the attack against Arsenal without quoting the facts, and then as we know from the Wenger years, the mud sticks.

Indeed it was because of this misreporting of Arsenal by the media that we started up our weekly review of statistics.  I’ve not had time to set up the table this week with all the weekend’s action included (that should be ready by Tuesday or Wednesday) but before this past weekend’s activity we saw the numbers like this.

This table is in the order of fouls committed by each club.

Team Played Penalties against Fouls
For Agst
1 Brighton and Hove 12 6 155 136
2 Tottenham Hots 12 3 153 163
3 Southampton 12 2 150 147
4 Chelsea 12 0 148 115
5 Fulham 12 3 148 122
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 12 3 146 124
7 Sheffield United 12 1 144 83
8 Manchester United 11 4 141 121
9 West Bromwich Albion 12 3 140 155
10 Crystal Palace 12 3 139 137
11 West Ham United 12 4 136 117
12 Everton 12 2 129 149
13 Manchester City 11 4 123 110
14 Leeds United 12 0 118 135
15 Aston Villa 10 0 117 165
16 Liverpool 12 6 117 131
17 Arsenal 12 0 117 143
18 Newcastle United 11 0 114 137
19 Burnley 11 0 113 117
20 Leicester City 12 0 113 154

Arsenal are the 17th in the fouling league, and have had 26 more fouls against them than they have committed.  Does anyone go round talking about Liverpool’s dirty tactics?

So with a fouling rate and penalty conceded rate what like Arsenal what is anyone doing getting worked up about Arsenal’s discipline?

If you ever wanted an example of a witch hunt you have it here.  Referees give Arsenal yellow cards more regularly for a foul than all but one club in the chart.  Arsenal are fouling less than most clubs.  But what the media will catch onto is a sending off.

Mr Arteta’s criticism of his own players cannot help his situation, in my opinion.   In fact it is feeding the media, who as ever are the enemy in this regard.   The only thing that could help would be if he went back into the dressing room and said to the team “you are being hammered by the referees.  We’ve got to find a way to stop that happening.”

9 Replies to “Arsenal are almost the cleanest team in the league, so why are people get excited?”

  1. Sorry, but to say that the red card was unacceptable – or the throat grabbing – in times of var has nothing to do with criticizing his players. Arteta is not the kind of manager to put blame on his players. He just said it how it is: it was unacceptable. Even more so from a player woth Xhaka’s experience. Instead of looking for errors done by Arteta, we should tske a step back and look at the bigger picture. This happend because there are lots of idiots out there who attack single players or fhe manager and play the blame game. This negativity doesn’t help anyone. And it reached it’s peak in this game when the emotions just went overboard. The players are on the edge, because the pressure from the plastic fans and the “journalists” mounts. Arteta handles this pressure well and he is definitely not criticizing his players.

  2. He’s done it with Pepe and now again. In dealing with people who huge egos I am not sure this approach of public humiliation, which has also been done with Ozil, is the right way forward. I much preferred Wenger’s approach.

  3. There is nothing wrong with Artetas approach to the PGMOL slope. He is diplomatic in the extreme. It is unacceptable. What is Mikel? It is unacceptable. His use of a non specific ‘it’ covers the PGMOL approach as much as Pepes lean on his opponent or Xhakas collar of a criminal following an assault that TV & PGMOL VAR do not show in replay.

    There was a volley of abuse by the Barnsley player before Xhaka turned back. That needs to be investigated. What was said? Was it racist? Was it unacceptable and does it need addressing outside of the game? That was followed by the assault and then the retaliation.

    In this age of the pandemic and sound capture, several abusive tirades are broadcast from the dugouts and nothing is done to the originators. Why? If they were of certain ilk there would be cards and media columns full of character assinations.

  4. Completely agree Tony, any criticism of players should not be public, it doesn’t help the player, and can form dressing room alliances against the manager.
    Arsenal are not a dirty team, many reds are for silly, perhaps reckless petulance, there have been times when I almost wish they would lamp someone deserving and make the red card worthwhile , but they don’t, and to their credit for what they have to put up with, but enough of me advocating violence! That said, what Xhaka did was not wise and most likely cost us the game , or at the very least a point, which isn’t much at home to a team as limited as Burnley
    But when you see what the likes of Harry Kane gets away with, genuinely dangerous, premeditated and regular fouls, you realise our players are not on a level playing field on these matters , but we know that already

  5. @Tony, with all due respect, I don’t see how Wenger’s tactics helped him much. Mourinho criticized some of his players and definitely (if winning is the yardstick) has achieved more in the game than Wenger. I don’t see how having perfect vision when the “supposed” infringement was against your team and being blind as a bat when the infringement was carried out by your team (menace style) helped Wenger. I know on untold anything Wenger is considered “the standard” no need to analyze it, but I wish to remind you that we make deductions here based on logic. Because Wenger did things a certain way doesn’t automatically mean that was the most successful way, the question is still valid.. “so Wenger approached coaching like this, does it work better?”

  6. Arome I think the problem is that you just read an article and assume that is everything. There is a massive amount of analysis on this site about the way Wenger played, but if you want a simplistic vision, he kept the club in the top four for quite a few number of years, and thus what he did seems worthy of consideration. Oh and he won 10 trophies.

  7. @Tony, the point I’m making is that Wenger had his style succeeded with it. Other coaches used a different style (Mourinho for example) and achieved success too. You making the conclusion that Arteta is not succeeding because he is not following Wenger’s template has to be backed up by evidence. Personally, I do not think Arteta’s criticism of his players is contributing to his failure, after all Mourinho uses that method and has been quite successful

  8. It is a simple matter of selective vision.
    Arteta has won two trophies already this year. Mourinho has won nothing.

  9. @Menace, In other words, Arteta has been a great success using his style, no need to copy anybody

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