The strange Premier League figures continue to look really odd

Below is the new table of tackles, fouls, yellow and penalties.  They show once again that while Arsenal commits on average 6.5 fouls in order to get a yellow card, Chelsea, Southampton, Liverpool and Tottenham are allowed to commit many more fouls before each yellow card is issued.

We haven’t included red cards on the table because the number is so slow moving, but because of all the fuss about red cards made recently and some discussion suggesting Arsenal is a dirty team, here are the number of the top teams in the red zone in the Premier League…

Pos Club Red cards
1. Brighton and Hove Albion 3
2. Arsenal 2
Everton 2
West Bromwich Albion 2

The rest of the clubs have either one or no reds this season in the League.

So we could look at yellow cards instead…

Pos 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
12. Sheffield United 16
13. Southampton 16
14. West Bromwich Albion 16
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers 16
16. Chelsea 15
17. Manchester City 15
18. Burnley 14
19. Tottenham Hotspur 14
20. Liverpool 10

So Arsenal are a little above mid position.

But let’s look at the foot of the table.  For near the foot we find the clubs near the top of the league table at present  – Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea.  How do they do that?

The fact is that referees allow these teams to commit many more fouls before they get a yellow card, than other teams are allowed to get away with.

Club Fouls Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Lge pos
Arsenal 117 18 6.50 15
Chelsea 148 15 9.87 5
Southampton 150 16 9.38 4
Leicester City 113 26 4.34 3
Liverpool 117 10 11.70 2
Tottenham Ho 153 14 10.92 1

Arsenal are not excessive in terms of fouls – in fact mid-range in that table, and we are second in the yellow card league, behind Leicester who collect yellow cards as if they are going out of style.

But let’s consider how many fouls each club has to undertake before it gets a yellow.  Leicester’s figure again looks bonkers, and Arsenal are a bit behind.  But Liverpool can get away with almost twice as many fouls as Arsenal before they get a yellow.  And the rest of the top four except Leicester have to commit around one and a half times as many fouls before the yellow card is pulled out.

There clearly is no consistency in refereeing in terms of fouls and yellows.  But how do we explain Leicester’s 26 cards, nearly two and a half times the number that Liverpool get and almost twice as many as Tottenham.

The yellows are not given for persistent fouling, since they have taken their fouling rate right down.  So what is going on?

The fact is that Leicester started the season getting penalties like they were going out of style – eight penalties in eight games.   Then we produced our first table of the type below and showed this (a coincidence of course) and referees stopped giving them penalties.  They have not had a single penalty since.  But they have gone mad on fouling.  Which means shortly those yellows will start catching up on them and players will start being banned.

Certainly the Leicester style – first grabbing penalties and then tackling like mad and picking up yellows is not the normal way of playing football, but they are getting away with it thus far.

Once more however we can see that the top clubs (excluding Leicester) are playing in a certain way – they commit 9.3 and and 11.7 fouls before they get a yellow.  Arsenal commit just 6.5 fouls before they get a yellow.

But overall there is something very odd going on in a league in which one club commits 4.34 fouls to get a yellow card, while another commits 11.70 fouls to get a yellow.  And it is strange that I have never heard a commentator mention this.

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Arsenal 144 117 1.23 18 6.50 1 0 15
Aston Villa 120 117 1.02 22 5.31 3 1 10
Brighton and H 202 155 1.30 19 8.15 5 6 16
Burnley 150 113 1.12 14 8.07 0 1 17
Chelsea 181 148 1.22 15 9.87 4 1 5
Crystal Palace 193 139 1.39 17 8.18 2 3 11
Everton 231 129 1,79 18 7.17 2 2 7
Fulham 182 148 1.23 25 5,92 5 4 18
Leeds United 252 118 2.14 19 6.21 2 4 14
Leicester City 195 113 1.72 26 4.34 8 1 3
Liverpool 154 117 1.32 10 11.70 5 6 2
Manchester City 133 123 1.08 15 8.20 3 5 9
Manchester U 161 141 1.14 17 8.29 4 4 8
Newcastle U 148 114 1.30 23 4.96 3 2 12
Sheffield United 198 144 1.38 16 9.00 3 1 20
Southampton 229 150 1.53 16 9.38 2 2 4
Tottenham Hots 181 153 1.18 14 10.92 2 3 1
West Bromwich 193 140 1.38 16 8.75 0 3 19
West Ham Uni 166 136 1.22 18 7.56 0 4 6
Wolverhampton 183 146 1.25 16 9.12 0 5 13

Finally the comparison of Arsenal with the top clubs…

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Arsenal 144 117 1.23 18 6.50 1 0 15
Chelsea 181 148 1.22 15 9.87 4 1 5
Southampton 229 150 1.53 16 9.38 2 2 4
Leicester City 195 113 1.72 26 4.34 8 1 3
Liverpool 154 117 1.32 10 11.70 5 6 2
Tottenham Ho 181 153 1.18 14 10.92 2 3 1

Either we need to adopt Leicester’s style of going for penalties by running into players (but it seems more than likely that the referees have noticed that one since we highlighted it, hence the lack of new penalties for Leicester) or we need to find a way to commit more fouls before we get a yellow card.



17 Replies to “The strange Premier League figures continue to look really odd”

  1. Complete lack of logic. All fouls are not created equal. A clever nudge is much less likely to earn a booking than scything someone’s legs away. So for this article to make any sense you would need to analyse the kind of fouls teams were committing. But this obviously isn’t meant to be actual analysis, just a pathetic whine about how hard done by Arsenal are.

  2. This is a ridiculous article that can only be valid if you look into each and every foul. Maybe Arsenal don’t know how to tackle?? Why don’t you analyse that? Maybe they are late and desperate challenges that justifies a booking!
    Leicester are sitting towards the top of the table with all these ‘fouls’ what’s Arsenal excuse LOL

  3. COYS I know it can be a little difficult for some people to understand numbers, but thank you for trying. You see, the basic premise of most football commentators is that referees know what they are doing, and so they penalise fouls appropriately – minor fouls get a free kick, serious fouls a yellow card, violent fouls a red card. That’s part one.
    Part two, is that although you might not be able to notice a club that simply has players that cannot tackle, in watching a fair number of PL games on TV this season, I do not see Arsenal’s approach being any different from any other club. But, given that the media don’t have a particular penchant for supporting Arsenal if Arsenal couldn’t tackle I feel sure the newspapers and bloggers and other commentators would be all over the subject.
    But also if Arsenal can’t tackle at all, then sure with the late and desperate challenges you suggest they might be doing, they would have many more yellow cards.
    There are so many holes in your argument that I think it must win an award for silly comment of the week, and be raised to that stature on the site.
    Oh, and while you are at it, would you like to explain Leicester’s figures?

  4. Key stats missing! In what area were the fouls mostly committed by a club? In what area were the most yellow cards given to a club.

  5. Indeed yes, Where’s my… the problem is finding the original data in a reliable form. If you can find that data I’d love to publish it. As it is the data we’re putting forward this season has never been published before in this combined form, so it is quite a step forward. But as with all data, there can always be more.

  6. On the tangental theme of yellows leading to reds and rotational fouling, a rule change that makes sense to me would be that a yellow card given to a player who is then substituted is carried on to the field by the player who comes on for them.

  7. I still cannot bring myself to agree with the deductions from this article. For example arsenal has 2 red cards this season, the worst in the league bar BHA. However a simple analysis of the incidents show that both red cards were not for poor tackles but or foul plays, but for retaliation/ poor anger management. I maintain that the quantity of fouls tells very little about the way a team was refereed, for that, the parameter to analyse would be the QUALITY of the fouls

  8. Hopefully the Leicester yellows will catch up with them on the totting up rule.

    Putting data aside, my overall (entirely subjective) impression from watching every game is that Arsenal has no reason to complain about refereeing overall. In fact two incidents come to mind where a second yellow or a straight red could, and arguably should, have been given, but wasn’t (Dean with Gabriel and Elneny on Sunday).

    Given the almost inexplicable results, would have thought that there was much more interesting fodder to be gained from using Untold’s obvious skills in data, in analysing player performance and tactics, rather than refereeing related stats (which have been done to death on this site).

  9. Two point Arome. First one can only analyse what one has, and no one has provided evidence of the type you want.
    Second if the quality of fouls is different as you say, then I am sure you will be able to provide evidence, but what you provide is something else – the issue of red cards.
    The point about fouls is that we are dealing with something that has a large number (unlike red cards as you suggest) and that is always helpful. Also the referees have a choice of movement in either direction – down (no foul given) or up (foul and yellow). So there are reasons to suggest that it is an interesting and worthwhile measurement.
    Of course if you wish to study the fouls and gather data, you can do so, and if you care to present it here, you can do that and we’ll publish it. Just email me with the article
    I would argue that the essence of discovery is to take the evidence we have and try to draw conclusions. To suggest no doing it because the evidence might be wrong (without producing anything to back that view up) seems to me a very poor argument. But of course you have follow that line if you wish.

  10. @Tony, I don’t have an issue with drawing conclusions from the evidence we have, but the deduction should be valid. That’s the same thing you accuse the media of when for example you complain that we are branded as a dirty team. You make the argument that a lot of the time a faulty deduction is made by wrong interpretation of the data(evidence). Scientifically you move from observation (evidence) to theory(conclusion). It is wrong to make a conclusion and then try to interpret evidence to agree with your conclusion

  11. In todays Chelsea v Wolves game Chilwell grabs the Wolves player Podence by the throat just like Xhaka did and doesn’t even receive a yellow card. Apparently it wasn’t even checked by VAR.
    Last week Man U’s Fred got a yellow for a head butt which was just like Pepe’s. He of course got a straight red.
    Never mind, it all evens out in the end.
    I expect the usual suspects will find logical explanations to justify their opinions that Arsenal players are not treated more harshly than players from most other clubs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  12. Mick Shelley I was about to say the same thing Chilwell has grabbed Podence by the throat and Podence has gone to ground but not even a mention by the commentators or a review from var. this is the thing with PIGMOB is that certain teams are treated in better than others. There are many teams out there with the same gripes that we have – basically anyone that is not Chelsea/Liverpool/Man u/Man City/Spuds get a raw end of the deal – particularly when coming up against these teams. We are now probably not considered a top 6 team anymore so mission accomplished for the media we can moan like the rest of the peasants while the top teams continue to unabated.

  13. Perhaps it wouldn’t need to be ‘done to death’ if people didn’t come here pointing out the odd decision that goes our way as evidence that nothing is wrong.

    Just to be clear 2 decisions in our favour is not really enough to contradict 15 years of evidence is it, and try to use it as such just goes to show to what desperate lengths some people are prepared to go to.

    And as far as I’m aware nobody on here has ever said we don’t get away with anything or our opponents don’t get a raw deal. Of course it happens.

    But these stats aren’t about isolated incidents they are about a trend, a trend that can be traced back to the day Riley took over at the PGMOL.

    Constantly denying the bias exists is ridiculous and just makes you look thus. The only point of debate is the why ?

  14. COYS – Arsenal have two trophies i their cabinet won this year. How many have you got in the last five years? LOL LOFL!!

  15. Nitram – a trend that can be traced back to the day when the FA rescinded the officiating by individuals to a Limited company called Professional Game Match Officials Limited.

    A group that selects their officials and select who officiates what and who sits in Stockley Park as VAR official. There is no bias just pure unadulterated corrupt racist practice.

  16. “Limited” in PGMOL’s case refers to their ability.

    PGMOL specialise in punishing retaliation. They NEVER look at the root cause of that retaliation, even though they have VAR to do that for them. PGMOL are so selective in their application of the game’s laws, that it is now almost impossible for me to see it as anything other than a deliberate and pre-meditated agenda. As I have said before, this has been happening since 2003 (possibly earlier).

    Do you remember the “revenge tackle” by Heung-min that broke Gomes’ ankle? That was a straight red card all day long, and the referee appeared to get that right. Tottenham appealed and had the 3-game ban reduced to 1 game. That is one of the worst fouls I have seen in my life. Please don’t tell me that Arsenal are refereed to the same standards as other teams, ‘cos it ain’t true. Yeah, Xhaka was stupid, but if you think that what he did is worse than what what was done to Gomes, you must have a screw loose.

    I remember when Clattenberg, Oliver and Friend arrived on the scene. Clattenberg was a fair referee for quite a few seasons (when Arsenal were involved), and then he went over to the dark side. Oliver and Friend were both decent referees for their first couple of seasons, and then the same thing happened to them.

    The refs coming into the PL more recently (I’m thinking of Kavanagh and Tierney in particular), have never struck me as being able to referee Arsenal to the same standard as other teams. Those guys are straight out of the Riley/Walton/Dean/Atkinson/Taylor school of officiating.

    Why would anyone in their right mind let them operate VAR?

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