What the stats tell us about Liverpool’s style and the refs’ reactions

By Bulldog Drummond

Arsenal this season have committed fewer fouls than any other team in the Premier League.  You won’t read about that in the media because the media doesn’t do positive stories about Arsenal, but it is a fact.

And it is interesting, given that it is 85 fouls fewer than Manchester United.  Again something that wouldn’t fit the narrative.

Arsenal have achieved this position in part by committing the smallest number of tackles of any club in the League.  Arsenal have undertaken 342 tackles, compared with, for example Leicester City who have committed 511 tackles.   (Leicester are not the most tackling club – that is Southampton – but they are the highest in terms of clubs at the top of the league).

Indeed Arsenal have been forced into this position because of the way Arsenal are treated by referees – we are allowed to get away with far fewer tackles before a foul is called, and we get yellow cards more often that most other clubs.

Here’s a snapshot of the current situation…

Tackles Fouls Tackles/foul Yellows Fouls/yellow
Arsenal 342 268 1,28 40 6.70
Liverpool 389 293 1.32 32 9.16

What this table shows is that Liverpool can get away with over a third more fouls than Arsenal before being shown a yellow card.  Which is again why Arsenal have had to reduce the amount of tackling.

Thus this is not a tactical decision based on helping Arsenal win games, but a decision based on how referees treat Arsenal.

To give an example of how extreme is the difference between the way referees treat different teams, Leicester City have committed 511 tackles this season, but only had 302 of those called as fouls.  Meaning they can commit many more tackles than Arsenal before getting called out for a foul.

Indeed the move by Arsenal in the latter part of this season away from tackling, was essential for Arsenal’s survival in the Premier League, because without that reduction we would have had had much of the defence out on suspension for much of the time.

The extremes of the situation are revealed in this weekend’s game against Liverpool.  Arsenal have to commit 6.7 fouls before they get a yellow.  With Liverpool it is 9.16.

Put another way, Liverpool have committed 25 more fouls than Arsenal this season, but have received eight fewer yellow cards than Arsenal.

So for this game you will see Liverpool fouling Arsenal more than Arsenal foul Liverpool, but you will see Liverpool being punished far less than Arsenal.

Despite this huge advantage that Liverpool take into each game they have still let in four more goals than Arsenal so far this campaign.  36 conceded by Liverpool and 32 by Arsenal.  Although they have slipped a little in recent weeks, Arsenal still have the fifth best defence in the league.

Where Liverpool have suffered this season however is in terms of injuries.  Here is the physioroom.com injury league table

  • Crystal Palace: 8
  • Everton: 8
  • Sheffield United: 8
  • Liverpool: 7
  • Chelsea: 6
  • Leeds United: 6
  • Leicester City: 6
  • Southampton: 6
  • Brighton and Hove Albion: 5
  • Burnley: 5
  • Manchester United: 5
  • Newcastle United: 5
  • Tottenham Hots: 5
  • West Ham United: 5
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers: 4
  • Arsenal: 3
  • Aston Villa: 3
  • Fulham: 3

Liverpool seem to have been near the top of the injury table all season in fact.

Our injury situation is that two players we very much don’t want to see injured, are just that.

Player Injury Details When back Test? Chances
Emile Smith Rowe Groin/Hip/Pelvic Injury “Emile has some discomfort in his hip and that’s why they decided to keep him out. We will speak with the doctors and the physios and see if he is available for training tomorrow.” 3 April


Late Fitness Test 50%
Willian Calf/Shin/Heel Injury Calf Strain 3 April None 100%
Bukayo Saka Thigh Injury “He’s been doing some individual work. He’s feeling better, but he hasn’t trained with the team yet.” 3 April Late Fitness Test 50%

Liverpool’s details are that Juan Mata might be back, Rashford is “taking one game at a time”, Phil Jones has no return date, Mason Greenwood is being assessed, and Anthony Martial has no return date.

More anon…

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3 Replies to “What the stats tell us about Liverpool’s style and the refs’ reactions”

  1. I think that you will find that the 5 players you mention in your last paragraph might find it difficult to get into the Liverpool team even if they were fit, possibly because they play for Manure.

    Do you know for sure that there has been a conscious decision by the club not to tackle, or is it because that is what happened?

  2. jjgsol

    “Do you know for sure that there has been a conscious decision by the club not to tackle, or is it because that is what happened”?

    I have been wondering the very same thing, because whether or not it is a conscious decision by Arsenal FC is actually a very important question. If Arsenal as a football club have been doing similar statistical analysis regarding tackling fouls and cards, to that undertaken by Untold Arsenal, that would suggest they actually KNOW we are being screwed by the referees !!!

    And that is massive, on many levels, for many reasons, and begs many questions, have Arsenal FC raised this issue with the authorities, or are they simply prepared ta accept the situation and deal with it as best they can ???

    But honestly, if Arsenal FC, as a football club, are adapting their style of play on the basis of how they are being refereed, that is simply unacceptable.

  3. Wether or not arsenal knows that they are being screwed and thus tackle less or not, it is wrong to write “Indeed Arsenal have been forced into this position because of the way Arsenal are treated by referees”. If someone wrote something like and it was not positive about arsenal I’m sure Tony would be shouting for evidence

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