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August 2021
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New fouls and yellow card data suggest refs are reacting to club ploys.

By Tony Attwood

p1ehhj4q1gkfq1ija11f2t0o173jh.jpgIt looks a little as if the publicity we have given to our regular chart which compares tackles, fouls, yellow cards and penalties might be having an impact.

This table (a new edition is at the end of this article) is unique – no one else has ever looked at such things as the number of tackles that leads to a foul, nor the number of fouls that leads to a yellow card, let alone compared them for all the clubs in the League.

As we showed before, Arsenal were clearly being penalised by referees in terms of their tackling, and as we saw before, have been reducing their number of tackles through the season.   (That is not to claim that Arsenal have followed anything we suggest, we were just suggesting this was a logical step to take when referees are targeting the club.  They probably reached the same conclusion from their own statistics.)

But whatever the reason Arsenal have cut their tackling to the lowest per game in the league.  (Villa have undertaken two fewer tackles, but have played two games fewer than Arsenal). 

Now instead of Arsenal getting a foul given against them every time the ball comes close, we find eight clubs now commit fewer tackles than Arsenal to have a foul given against them.  It’s a great step forward.

In terms of yellow cards Liverpool and Manchester City are getting the smallest number – but it is Tottenham Hotspur who have got the measure of referees – they are committing 10.29 fouls before getting a yellow card.

To spell this out, in round figures, Arsenal commit six fouls and get a yellow card.  Tottenham commit 10 fouls to get a yellow.   It’s a huge difference and makes life so much easier on the pitch for Tottenham.  They know they can foul, foul, foul away, and the risk of a yellow is much reduced.

Clearly reducing the number of tackles (the prime source of yellow cards) has been vital to Arsenal’s survival, but it means retraining our entire defence so they rely far more on interceptions rather than tackles.

On the positive side, clearly the referees have remained alert to the Untold figures from last season in which we showed that Leicester were simply getting away with a multiplicity of tackles without ever getting yellow cards at all.   The moment we published that analysis the referees’ response to Leicester mega-tackling approach was changed – and quite right to.

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Now they are much more likely to get a yellow card for a tackle than any other team in the league.  A total reversal of position from the first half of last season!

Leicester, as you will know if you have been following this analysis, compensated for this by developing a new tactic of having Vardy running the opposite way from that which a defender anticipated in the box, and so picked up significantly more penalties than other clubs.

Again we pointed that out, and now the penalties have dried up.  Yes, they are still out in front in terms of the number of penalties gained, but they are stuck on ten, and other clubs are catching up.

Thinking of yellow cards you would expect clubs near the foot of the league table to be getting the most, since they are normally involved in the most desperate defending.  And yes Fulham, Newcastle and Sheffield United are there with 43 and 44 yellow cards.

But amazingly Leicester are also on 43 cards, again showing that either it is pure coincidence or our earlier reports about Leicester’s tactics have been noticed by the League and referees are taking stronger action against the old Bolton approach of “rotational fouling”.   Which also explains why that term has moved from being one that only Untold used, to one that even occasionally crops up on TV.

And what is going on with Liverpool?  They are second bottom in the yellow card charts with 25 (Manchester City have 24).  Yet they are right up there with Tottenham in terms of the high number of fouls they have to commit per yellow card.  How are they getting away with it.

Referees are now clearly noting Liverpool’s fouling in the box – only Brighton equal them for the number of penalties conceded, but really they are being let off very lightly on the yellow card front.

Here’s the table….

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Arsenal 278 214 1.30 34 6.29 3 2 11
Aston Villa* 276 232 1.19 33 7.03 4 3 9
Brighton and H 372 265 1.40 31 8.55 6 8 15
Burnley 296 243 1.22 30 8.10 1 3 17
Chelsea 346 277 1.25 34 8.15 7 3 5
Crystal Palace 365 236 1.55 31 7.61 2 4 13
Everton* 355 224 1.45 38 5.89 2 4 7
Fulham 329 279 1.18 43 6.49 5 5 18
Leeds United 424 216 1.96 33 7.20 2 6 10
Leicester City 400 236 1.69 43 5.49 10 2 3
Liverpool 297 239 1.24 25 9.56 6 8 4
Manchester City 280 205 1.37 24 8.54 6 6 1
Manchester U 352 285 1.24 38 7.50 7 4 2
Newcastle U 307 244 1.26 43 5.67 4 3 16
Sheffield United 381 285 1.34 44 6.48 4 2 20
Southampton 424 259 1.63 33 7.84 2 3 12
Tottenham Hots 353 278 1.27 27 10.29 3 5 8
West Bromwich 365 243 1.50 30 8.10 2 4 19
West Ham Uni 320 240 1.33 27 8.89 0 4 6
Wolverhampton 346 263 1.31 36 7.31 3 8 14

*Aston Villa and Everton have only played 21 games

How can we tell that there is something fundamentally wrong with refereeing in the Premier League? 

9 comments to New fouls and yellow card data suggest refs are reacting to club ploys.

  • John L

    It is also clear that Arsenal are given red cards more harshly than anyone else. Luiz alone has been penalised repeatedly for actions for which players of other teams have received yellow or no cards at all.

    Nketiah and Aubameyang have also had unreasonable red cards. Pepe and Gabriel are recent examples.

    Alioski of Leeds has been boasting about Pepe’s sending off.

  • mick shelley

    John L
    You are right, we are treated more severely, there is no doubt about it.
    Recently Chilwell went unpunished for a throat grab just like Xhaka received his red card for and Fred of Man U got away with just a yellow for a head butt similar to Pepe’s. Pogba received a yellow card for an accidental coming together just like the Louis sending off incident against Wolves.
    As for the foul on Saka when he was denied a goal scoring chance against Villa supposedly on the grounds he was too far away from the goal I recall a couple of years ago Xhaka being sent off for bringing someone down barely a few yards inside the opponents half. In the same game against Villa Laca dragged down by his shirt by Martinez and the foul given in favour of the goalkeeper, the very next day Salah gets a tiny tug on his arm followed by a dramatic swallow dive and he is given a penalty.
    Just a few of the injustices we have had to suffer.

  • Menace

    Mick shelley – you point out rightly the ones that got away, but its the ones that change the game by a false foul to cause a transition that are sometimes worse. There are the sham advantages that allow the opponent the better chance. The shambles that these evil swine have introduced into the game goes unpunished and hidden from view by selective vision.

  • Chris

    Have you ever considered that perhaps the reason why your work is quite unique is the fact that fouls and cards are essentially a judgement of the quality of a tackle and not the quantity? Thus, except you can convince us to the contrary, a study structured based on quantity of tackles to fouls/cards might not be scientifically useful in any serious analysis. That’s why we insist on peer review when analysing scientific research, colleagues will scrutinize the “research methodology”, of importance is to see whether a valid scientific conclusion can be made from the experiment.

  • Yes Chris I have considered issues of research, rather helpful in fact in gaining my research degree.

    But for me, you miss the point entirely when you say, “a study structured based on quantity of tackles to fouls/cards might not be scientifically useful in any serious analysis.”

    That is of course quite true, but the optimum word there is “might”. The logic behind the study is not the number of tackles, fouls and cards alone but the fact that these vary so dramatically even though these decisions are made by a small number of men who act as referees across the league. Thus we see that the same men are giving radically different levels of decisions to each club, without offering any explanation (this being a rule of the PL). The numbers given are facts taken from sources such as the PL’s own stats.

    I started off by expecting normal variance, until I found the Leicester figures, and that got me wondering. I also wondered why, given that this analysis of the link between tackles, fouls and yellows is a fairly obvious thing, no one had looked at this before.

    The variance needs some sort of explanation, and if there are alternatives that work logically then I hope someone might put them forward, but just saying that the study “might not be scientifically useful” is little more than a trite way of expressing disdain without any reason.

    It is rather preposterous to talk about research methodology when all I have done is taken widely available figures from reputable sources, and presented them as simple ratios. This is three sets of widely available raw data with one divided into another. The opening of a discussion. You don’t do peer reviewing at this stage, at least not if you have any feel for original investigation that no one has done before. You put forward the essence of the idea for discussion and wait for someone to show where you have gone wrong.

    You’re either not an academic or you are being deliberately obtuse.

  • Chris

    @Tony, your last sentence just shows anger at someone pointing a flaw in your work, not good if you actually intend to enhance knowledge. It is my belief that the aim of research work is to analyse occurring events, make sense of it(theorize) and draw logical inferences. If someone drew my attention to my research work, showing me that a particular inference was wrong as the predicate upon which it was made, was not proper to make a certain conclusion from, I would be glad for such an advice, not angry and insulting. Good luck on your work though, it would be good though if you found a way to put the work to peer reviewership.

  • Chris it seems to me you have an unshakeable belief in your ability to read other people’s thoughts and intentions. It is strange, but for some people, to accept that they cannot understand how a person is thinking via their own interpretation of another’s words, is something that becomes very, very hard for them to grasp. Your last sentence suggests that you have not really understood what I was trying to say in my comment back to you – which of course may well be my fault for not expressing myself clearly. But anger, no. If you have ever run a blog or if you ever do, you will know that if one were to get angry at the comments that pour in each day, it would be hard to survive.

  • Arome

    “You’re either not an academic or you are being deliberately obtuse.”

    Tony that was your last sentence in the first reply to Chris. How you can this is abusive is beyond me. Chris made a fair point whether you agreed with it or not, and he made it respectfully. Sometimes when we err, it’s just better for all, to apologize and move on. I’m sure you could have made your point without suggesting he was “being deliberately obtuse”.

  • Arome

    ***meant to say “how you can deny this is abusive is beyond me”