Prem League refs desire to wave yellow cards has been reduced by VAR

By Tony Attwood

Seven teams have played in the Premier League in every season since it was founded: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

Five of those clubs have won the Premier League at least once – the odd men out of course being Tottenham Hots and Everton.

But although these clubs have all played the same number of PL games, the number of yellow cards these teams collect across the years varies greatly, from 1352 for Manchester City up to 1697 for Chelsea.  That is a difference of around 20% – which is quite strange given the fact that across these years most of these clubs have had a variety of managers, and of course many, many different players. 

Yet also across the years Liverpool have received 325 fewer cards than Chelsea.

Do Chelsea always have “go out and kick em” managers and Liverpool have “now remember no rough stuff” top men?

Interestingly even though this last season, in which yellow cards declined across the board, and Chelsea have reduced their propensity for yellows, Liverpool still came in with 10 fewer yellow cards this season than Chelsea.  How can that be?  Different managers, different players, different system of judgement (VAR rather than just officials).

And yet the differential between the clubs is always maintained no matter which manager is in charge!

Yellow Yellow per season Yellow 2020/21 Difference (rounded) Titles Top 4
Chelsea 1697 60.60 50 -10 5 17
Everton 1655 59.11 59 0 0 1
Arsenal 1654 59.07 47 -12 3 21
Tottenham Hotspur 1627 58.11 53 -5 0 6
Manchester United 1591 56.82 64 -7 13 24
Liverpool 1372 49.00 40 -9 1 17
Manchester City 1352 48.28 46 -2 5 10
Average 55.85 51.29 -4.57

But the most curious figure in the table above is that Arsenal this season came in with 12  fewer yellow cards than their average across the Premier League years.  And remember this is 12 lower than ARSENAL’S OWN AVERAGE, not the average of the Premier League.

Going by averages Arsenal should have got 59 yellows this season.  In fact they got 47, taking Arsenal into the select mini-league of non-offenders consisting of Manchester City and Liverpool – and now Arsenal.

This is in keeping with the drive Mr Arteta implemented to cut the free kicks and yellow cards given against Arsenal.  And as we have noted before, this drive has been incredibly successful.

And yet despite this change in just one season we see comments such as this from Just Arsenal, who wrote, “Edu hasn’t achieved much success on the football side of things recently and has spent much of the last year dismantling the scouting system that served the Gunners for years.”

I find this spooky, since Edu and Mikel Arteta have found and worked with the players who could deliver his new tactical policy of reducing tackling in order to reduce fouls and have a massive effect on the number of yellow cards the referees give to Arsenal.  And produce a side which in the last two thirds of the season were getting better results than any club other than Manchester City!

Well yes, since they have given Arsenal three things; a massive reduction in the number of fouls given against them (and hence a significant reduction in yellow cards), the third best defence in the Premier League, and the second best overall performance of any club in the last two thirds of last season….

They continue, “The transfer window will reopen soon and I expect the Kroenkes to splash the cash after fans protested their lack of investment.  Considering how they have performed so far, are you confident that Arteta and Edu will spend the money on the right players that will take this club forward?

“I am not.”

But it is exactly because the writer of that piece will not study the stats but reads the clubs. 

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5 Replies to “Prem League refs desire to wave yellow cards has been reduced by VAR”

  1. City spent time in what was the equivalent of League One during the Premier League era. Current champions perhaps but mainstays they are not

  2. Sorry Tony Man City haven’t been an ever present in the PL they were relegated in 1996 and again in 2001
    They had 5 seasons in the lower tiers

  3. One aspect of Yellow cards that probably impacted the officials his season is the emotion of the crowd. When a few decibels of ‘book him ref’ tingle the ear drums of the PGMOL select official adding to the Riley echos, might get the card out quicker.

    One can just imagine the PGMOL officials practicing ‘drawing’ of the card to show the offender.

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