Two PL clubs are fouled much more than all the rest. Can you guess which?

By Tony Attwood

Way back in August 2010 Untold published an article by Walter Broeckx, a referee in Belgium who over the years has been a good friend to this site.

The article was headed “Football reduced to the survival of the fittest” and it analysed the refereeing for the third game of that season.

Few other websites, and virtually no newspapers or TV shows were willing to take up the issues raised by Walter in his regular analyses, but in recent years Football Observatory (who can bring many more resources to measuring what happens in a game than we ever could) have started to look at the issue. 

And now in Issue number 338 the Observatory asks the question “How frequently are teams fouling their opponents across Europe?”   And they proclaim that “At the level of the five major European leagues, the lowest foul frequency was measured for Arsenal.”

We of course have been noting this all season, and indeed we advocated that Arsenal needed to stop tackling because they were being penalised for almost every tackle by over-excited referees.

I’m not saying Arsenal took our advice – they obviously have their own analysts, but while the media ignored the issue, Arsenal got on with it, cut back on tackling and stopped giving referees the chance to penalise them time and again throughout every match.

So Arsenal became the club that commits the least fouls in Europe – although curiously the Premier League’s website (which has loads of stats) doesn’t have this particular statistic.

But fortunately Footstats does give us that detail

League Tables – Fouls – English Premier – All – 2020/2021

Table Position League Position Team Played Fouls committed by Team
Total Per Game
1 9 Arsenal 36 328 9.11
2 1 Manchester City 36 342 9.50
3 7 West Ham United 36 358 9.94
4 8 Everton 36 365 10.14
5 15 Burnley 36 373 10.36
6 16 Newcastle United 36 375 10.42
7 5 Liverpool 36 379 10.53
8 19 West Bromwich A 36 384 10.67
9 3 Leicester City 36 391 10.86
10 13 Crystal Palace 36 394 10.94
11 12 Wolverhampton 36 400 11.11
12 10 Leeds United 36 403 11.19
13 4 Chelsea 36 406 11.28
14 17 Brighton & Hove 36 406 11.28
15 14 Southampton 36 407 11.31
16 11 Aston Villa 36 415 11.53
17 6 Tottenham Hots 36 417 11.58
18 2 Manchester Utd 36 439 12.19
19 20 Sheffield United 36 441 12.25
20 18 Fulham 36 457 12.69

Which confirmed our view that Arsenal had indeed responded to the way they were being treated by PGMO by cutting out the tackling, in order to cut out the fouling, in order to cut down the number of free kicks that were given against them and the number of yellow cards.  And it has worked.  

But we also had a worry about the way some clubs reacted to tackles, persuading referees one way or another to give them a free kick – even when the opposition player seemingly did very little at all.  This process unfortunately has gone unchecked, so time to emphasise it again.  Figures again from Footstats.

List position League Position Team Fouls committed by Opposition
Total Per Game
1 20 Sheffield United 296 8.22
2 5 Liverpool 337 9.36
3 7 West Ham United 350 9.72
4 4 Chelsea 350 9.72
5 17 Brighton and Hove 355 9.86
6 1 Manchester  City 366 10.17
7 18 Fulham 371 10.31
8 2 Manchester United 382 10.61
9 15 Burnley 385 10.69
10 8 Everton 390 10.83
11 12 Wolverhampton 390 10.83
12 9 Arsenal 406 11.28
13 19 West Bromwich 407 11.31
14 10 Leeds United 410 11.39
15 16 Newcastle United 413 11.47
16 3 Leicester City 417 11.58
17 13 Crystal Palace 421 11.69
18 14 Southampton 421 11.69
19 6 Tottenham Hots 472 13.11
20 11 Aston Villa 541 15.03

Now my point is not that Tottenham and Aston Villa are at the foot of the table – but rather they are off the chart. Tottenham have 40% more fouls given in their favour than Liverpool and 35% more than West Ham!

But these figures are overshadowed by Aston Villa’ numbers which are even more extreme.

If you take a look at the final column above you will see that the difference between clubs in 2nd and 18th position in the table (Liverpool and Southampton) is just 84 fouls against, across the whole season, showing a modest difference between clubs in terms of the number of fouls committed against them, Tottenham and Aston Villa’s figures are flying off the chart.

What we are expected to believe is that on going out to face Tottenham and Aston Villa all the other 18 teams in the League are determined to foul them.  All the time.

Now I can imagine one club doing it, but most of the league?  All season???  Why?????????

The most likely explanation surely is that Tottenham and Villa players react more quickly to a foul, perhaps exaggerating the hurt they have received, perhaps egged on by their manager – it is a method of breaking up play.

Now you might recall that Villa had a pretty nifty start to the season, winning their first four league games  and by late October being second in the league.  That then changed and they are now 11th.  One possible explanation is that they kept up the same policy, but the referees noticed.

Tottenham lost their opening game of the season, but went on a good run until quite extraordinarily losing to Royal Antwerp in the Europa.    But it really went wrong in January when they lost six out of seven League and FA Cup matches, and they have never recovered since.  Did the refs once more, notice the tactic?

The level of free kicks Tottenham and Villa get as a result of fouls against them is ludicrously high compared with every other team – unless we are seriously asked to believe that the remaining 18 clubs in the league conspire together to kick Tottenham and Villa.  And if that is the argument, the question is, Why?????????

And one other thing…. why does the media never even mention this?

Arsenal against the Media

3 Replies to “Two PL clubs are fouled much more than all the rest. Can you guess which?”

  1. The table kind of undermines the referee bias against Arsenal argument.
    Moving quickly on, I’m guessing that Grealish is the most fouled player in the prem. That might partly explain why Villa are where they re on the table.

  2. @Dublin Gooner

    This table could be interpreted like that. If taken in isolation. If seen out of context. And if that’s what someone was trying to argue. Nonetheless when looked at in context we can see that this isn’t the case.

  3. Referee bias does not come into these tables unless one looks at who the fouled and fouler were. Some players are masters of the art of reacting to get the referee to whistle (unlike the builders reacting to an attractive lady)for a perceived foul. The fall to touch is an amazing addition to the simulation that was so much in the headlines.

    In my opinion, the PGMOL are the biggest simulators in the history of football They simulate honesty and fairplay when turning a blind eye to the truth.

    Arsenal have been keeping away from the PGMOL fouls by only intercepting to win the ball with careful timing to occassionally rob the ball when it is badly touched by the opponent.

    Grealish has a natural instinct to protect the ball but falls easily to get noticed. He is not fouled as often as he falls, if he were, his maintenance would include two ambulances and a posse of nurses.

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