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April 2021
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Leicester v Arsenal: we must tackle with caution; when fouled we must go down

by Bulldog Drummond

Arsenal are slowly getting to grips with the way referees treat them this season.  As a result they are getting slightly more tackles in per foul given against them (1.25 against 1.15 in December), they can commit slightly more fouls before getting a yellow (6.47 against 6.31 in December).

Leicester however are also bending the referees to their way of thinking, now committing 5.71 fouls before getting a yellow, as opposed to 4.63 before.

But Arsenal are still able to foul more often before a yellow is given (6.31 by Arsenal, 4.63 by Leicester).  The propensity for referees to give Leicester players yellow cards for fouls, started in the middle of last season when we made quite a fuss about the fact that Leicester were getting away with insane numbers of tackles without punishment.  Within weeks the situation changed, and referees have been aware of this trick of theirs ever since.  You can read our opening report here.

Referees have also reigned in Leicester’s desire for penalties – after two thirds of the season they are on 10 – a significant slow down.   This implies they will get 15 league penalties by the end of the season.

Club Tackles Fouls Tackles per foul Yellow cards Fouls per yellow Penalties for Penalties against Lge pos
Arsenal 291 233 1.25 36 6.47 4 2 11
Leicester City 439 257 1.70 45 5.71 10 2 3

There have been 87 penalties so far this season which suggests that if the final one third of this season is the same as the opening two thirds, the total for the season will be 131 penalties of which 15 will be for Leicester.  That means Leicester will get 11% of all penalties given, whereas if penalties were awarded equally by clubs they would each get 5%.

131 penalties would be by far the highest number of penalties ever given in a Premier League season.  The previous record was 106 in 2010 and again in 2017.

So why this penalty inflation? It is certainly not a step by step increase for in the previous two seasons the number of penalties awarded has been declining.  If clubs do get to 131 penalties between them, that will be a 50% increase in penalties over last season.

During the Premier League’s time, on average 63% of the penalties have gone to the home team, whereas this season it is 50.5% to the home team and 49.5% for the away, suggesting that in earlier times referee bias in favour of  the home team kicked in with the awarding of penalties.  The LSE research has suggested this is due to crowd pressure leading to referee bias.

So where does this lead?

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Leicester are two and a half times more likely to get a penalty than Arsenal in this match.

Leicester will commit more fouls and get more yellows than Arsenal, but Leicester will be able to get away with many more tackles than Arsenal before being called up for a foul.

This confirms that Arsenal are right to have reigned in the tackles – but clearly results are showing that we still haven’t got a good enough alternative to tackling for slowing the opposition down without getting a card each time.

But we do need to keep these tackles under control as it is also likely that Leicester will get at least one penalty.

We can also see that when faced with a senior referee who does not work for PGMO, Leicester crumble rapidly, as witness the results in the knock out stages of the Europa League in which across two games they failed to score a single goal, but conceded two.

However there is one other strange statistic here.   Leicester are 6th in the league if we just count home games, and Arsenal are 12th if we just count away games.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
6 Leicester City home 12 6 1 5 19 16 3 19
12 Arsenal away 12 5 1 6 15 12 3 16

And yet, only one game separates the two teams.  Arsenal have won five and lost six.  Leicester have won six and lost five.

We’ll look at this further in the next meander.

Tackles, fouls and yellow cards.  These figures are truly weird.

1 comment to Leicester v Arsenal: we must tackle with caution; when fouled we must go down

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Watching WBA and BHA. Shocking refereeing by Lee Mason on the Brighton free kick in the 30th minute…confusion, ignorance of rules. Free kick given, ball in the net, goal not given, goal given, goal refused, free kick retaken again, shot stopped. NOBODY knows if the problem was when the whistle was blown or if it was the keeper’s vision was obstructed by a player in offside position. And of course, Lee Mason, the VAR team et al. will not be held to account.

    Imagine if this was played in front of spectators…or if Arsenal were involved.

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