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February 2021
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Southampton v Arsenal: learning the lessons not learned last weekend

By Bulldog Drummond

20180601 FIFA Friendly Match Czech Republic vs. Australia Matthew Ryan 850 0230.jpgThe points that were made in this column before the FA Cup match concerning refereeing still stand for the league match…

The commentary written was

“Southampton are a curious team: one might even think they have an “understanding” with the referees.   They tackle more than any other club in the league, and when it comes to fouls they are nearer the top end of the table than the bottom.

“Arsenal are the reverse: hardly any PL side commits fewer tackles and fouls, and yet they have to commit far fewer tackles to get a foul against them, that Southampton.

“Which simply means Southampton will enter this game knowing they can assault Arsenal with fouls, but get away with it much more than Arsenal can.  Arsenal absolutely must NOT retaliate.”

Even the Guardian’s minute by minute reporter was taken aback by the way things played out, saying for example, “Stephens leaves one on Pepe as the pair tangle on the floor. Did he mean that? If so, he’s lucky to get away with just a yellow”

Prior to that match I quoted this table…

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Highest 346 244 1.98 37 10.22 10 8
Lowest 218 173 1.15 18 4.78 0 1
Arsenal 225 179 1.26 27 6.62 3 1 11
Southampton 346 216 1.60 27 8.00 2 2 10

I thought the comments we had after that game were very telling – indeed if you go back to the article “Arsenal Southampton and those cup wins” you will see the whole thing being played out with the referees allowing the continuation of that which is in the figures above.  Arsenal commit far fewer tackles but get the same number of yellow cards as Southampton.

We said prior to that match “Southampton immediately enter the game with a 17% advantage” and so it turned out.  Continuing the commentary said, “On penalties both side are at the lower end of the scale, so a penalty in this game is unlikely.  But overall the refereeing advantage is very much with Southampton.”

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The problem seems to me to be that Arsenal are not playing to the referee’s bias while Southampton are, and so they are getting the advantage all the time – and we saw that totally in the FA Cup game.

As we have seen, the teams are sitting next to each other in the league

Pos Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester United 19 12 4 3 36 25 11 40
2 Manchester City 18 11 5 2 31 13 18 38
3 Leicester City 19 12 2 5 35 21 14 38
4 Liverpool 19 9 7 3 37 22 15 34
5 Tottenham Hotspur 18 9 6 3 33 17 16 33
6 Everton 17 10 2 5 28 21 7 32
7 West Ham United 19 9 5 5 27 22 5 32
8 Aston Villa 17 9 2 6 31 18 13 29
9 Chelsea 19 8 5 6 33 23 10 29
10 Southampton 18 8 5 5 26 21 5 29
11 Arsenal 19 8 3 8 23 19 4 27

… and we really do need to keep winning to pull ourselves into the “not a trophy” positions.

The other issues arising is that with the last list of 17 overseas players the adjustment was not made for the new goalkeeper.  Our understanding is that Alex Runarsson will be loaned out somewhere where he can get some match practice in England, and himself come to understand the refereeing here which is of course so different from in other countries.   Matt Ryan will take his place (I can’t see two valuable overseas players’ places being taken up with backup keepers.)

So we are now listing both of them as one, under placement 14.

  1. Alves Soares, Cedric Ricardo
  2. Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick
  3. Borges Da Silva, Willian
  4. Ceballos Fernandez, Daniel
  5. Dos Santos Magalhaes, Gabriel
  6. Elneny, Mohamed Naser Elsayed
  7. Lacazette, Alexandre
  8. Leno, Bernd
  9. Mari Villar, Pablo
  10. Moreira Marinho, David Luiz
  11. Mustafi, Shkodran
  12. Partey, Thomas Teye
  13. Pepe, Nicolas
  14. Runarsson, Runar Alex / Matt Ryan
  15. Tierney, Kieran
  16. Xhaka, Granit
  17. Martin Ødegaard

On the injury front we still have three players missing.  Here’s the physioroom data

Player Reason Further Detail Potential Return Condition Status
Pablo Mari Villar Calf/Shin/Heel Injury Jan 15: “He had a calf injury in training [on Wednesday]. I think he will miss a few matches.” 30/01/2021 None Ruled Out
Dani Ceballos Calf/Shin/Heel Injury Tight Calf Muscles 26/01/2021 None 50%
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Other Jan 23: “I don’t know [if he will be back on Tuesday]. He needs to address that issue and see how it evolves.” 26/01/2021 Late Fitness Test 25%

More later…

1 comment to Southampton v Arsenal: learning the lessons not learned last weekend

  • mick shelley

    Tierney and Auba not in the squad tonight. Tierney has a calf injury and Auba has family issues.
    Not a good start to the day.

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