How different clubs use the rules in different ways, with different results

By Tony Attwood

Still puzzling over the anomalies of last season I’ve had a quick peek at  the figures of Leicester, comparing them with Arsenal.   And something rather interesting has cropped up.

Looked at in the most obvious way, Leicester outdid Arsenal last season.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
5 Leicester City 38 20 6 12 68 50 18 66
8 Arsenal 38 18 7 13 55 39 16 61

However we showed better form than Leicester City did after Christmas, out-doing Leicester by five points.  

That’s all been considered before, but now I want to move on with the Leicester comparison as revealed here…  The headline stat is now in the final column. 

Team Tackles 2019/0 Tackles 2020/1 Change Fouls 2019/0 Fouls 2020/1 Change Yellow 2019/0 Yellow 2020/1 Change
Arsenal 584 456 -22% 421 345 -18% 86 47 -45%
Leicester 742 681 -8% 418 416 0% 41 61 +49%

 Leicester’s yellow card rating shot through the roof between the two seasons – going up by a staggering 49% last season.  And this happened despite the number of fouls committed staying the same and the number of tackles actually going down by 61!  Fewer tackles more yellows!

How did that happen?   How can a club take its yellow card level up so dramatically in one season while actually decreasing its foul level?

Obviously one can argue that in the season just gone, Leicester radically enhanced the type of fouls it was putting in, going for what we might call much dirtier fouls, while cutting out the modest fouls which simply give a free kick to the other side.   That would seem to be the most likely explanation.

But equally it could just be that someone pointed out that Leicester had been getting away with murder and the PGMO decided to take a closer look.

And yet, Leicester did not slide down the league as a result of getting all these yellow cards.  For what was keeping Leicester up in second position in the league until Christmas was that by that point they had been awarded nine penalties while only have had one awarded against them.   Those figures, if continued through the season would have given them 27 penalties in their favour, an all time record way above anything ever seen before.

Untold wrote this story up on 23 December 2020 and it is interesting to see what happened after that.  Leicester’s yellow cards against, went up through the roof, and their penalty awards stagnated.  Leicester still ended the season with more penalties than any other club (12), but that left us with a very strange set of stats for the season.  80% of their penalties came in the first 33% of the season.  After we made our comments they started getting penalties at the same rate as anyone else.  (We also gave some details of how they were getting the penalty using a particular Vardy tactic). 

I am not suggesting that PGMO read Untold Arsenal, let alone take any notice of my ramblings, that would be too bizarre, but it is curious that this was the second time in which we highlighted extraordinary statistics for Leicester, and it was the second time in which then everything changed for them.

We followed Leicester’s tackling in the 2019/20 season and we published “How a club can commit the most fouls, but get the fewest yellow cards” with a follow up article  “What is the relationship between fouls, tackles and yellow cards?”

Those articles found that Leicester had a foul given against them every 2.08 tackles.  Other clubs got a foul against them after far fewer tackles.  But the most curious thing was that Leicester had to commit nearly twice as many fouls as other clubs to get a yellow card.  9.48 fouls for every card in their care compared with Arsenal on 4.32.  

In short as those two articles showed, Leicester had either invented a new form of football, or else they were being treated much more leniently by referees than any other club.

But then the most extraordinary thing of all happened.   From mid February onward Leicester entered a dire run winning just one in seven.   At the same time Leicester’s figures in terms of tackles and fouls changed – they got more fouls given against them per tackle and more yellow cards per foul than before.  Over the whole season the decline was modest, but over the games after our article, very noticeable.

I don’t believe PGMO reads Untold Arsenal – of course not.  But then I also don’t really believe in coincidences either.  Untold highlight Leicester’s amazingly high tackle rate with a very low number of resultant fouls, and their figures change.  Untold highlights Leicester’s amazingly high penalty rate, and their figures change.   It must be a coincidence.

Which is why we keep searching for other strange statistics for us to report.  So that we can look out for other coincidences and report them too.

Just in case someone out there is reading.

The enemies of Arsenal and how they are trying to destroy our club

10 Replies to “How different clubs use the rules in different ways, with different results”

  1. Most people who publish anything get comments like the one from Terrance Bull above, and most of the time they are deleted, but I thought I would put this one up, because it does symbolise the reaction of some (certainly not all) Leicester fans to the analyses of their club’s statistics in recent years. One of the odd things of course is that Mr Bull did seemingly read the article – and I wonder why he did that if he is so dismissive of my ramblings.
    On the other hand, perhaps he didn’t and just thought he’d throw in a bit of abuse. Hard to tell.
    But of course it is nothing to do with him (perhaps) supporting Leicester, or (perhaps) being anti-statistics, but rather that there are quite a few people around who seem to believe that an analysis of odd data can seriously be answered in seven words. That perhaps is the strangest thing of all.

  2. I do find it interesting when, having bothered to do some research in terms of checking a few statistics the simple response one gets is “obsessed”. It somehow suggests that looking into something in a little more depth than the average article in a popular newspaper is wrong.

    What interests me particularly is that no one opposed to the notion that Leicester twice changed their behaviour on the field has actually bothered to check facts. All I ever get is little comments like this – as if somehow they make the facts go away.

    I am not sure if there were other attempts such as Leicester’s to change the way the game is played, and whether they were discovered and snuffed out by PGMO, but certainly Leicester’s move over first tackling, and later penalties must surely have influenced Arsenal’s radical change last season which led to their dramatic rise up the table. Difference was, there was nothing PGMO could do about Arsenal’s approach, but everything they could do about Leicester’s. And so they did.

    The big question is, will Leicester have a third go? And if so, what will PGMO do?

  3. From the animalistic identities offered by the first two interlocutors, i think we can infer that they both spring from the imaginarium of the same one low herd brain
    One is a just load of bull and the other speaks out of his duck’s arse
    How’s that for ad hominem insults, fellas?
    No offence, it’s just the smart-arse grammar school boy in me having a larf.

  4. Maybe you are onto something here , Tony ! You are actually feeding facts to them fools who run the PIGMOB. Showing them that they were getting the wool pulled over their eyes finally woke them up ! Now, while nobody wants to be shown to be the fool(but then again this is the PIGMOB !) and not wanting to be shown as buffoons , they finally used their powers to rectify the errors of their way.
    While not wanting to cheer them on , but still , reluctantly , well done !

  5. @ Brickfield

    You suggest that the PIGMOB may have been getting the wool pulled over their eyes. Quite possibly.

    But it could, of course, be more sinister than that and that the PIGMOB found they’d been rumbled and needed to change tack quickly to avoid further scrutiny. Just a thought!

  6. But there does seem to be a weird obsession with Leicester City here, thinking there’s some dark conspiracy going on somewhere. Jealousy and annoyance at Arsenal’s “rightful place” in the top 6 being taken? What about other teams? For example, Manchester City and their constant tactical fouling with no punishment?

  7. Obsession I think is in the eye of the Leicster fans worried about statistics they’ve not worked out for themselves.
    I work out these statistical analyses of my own, and without any “supercomputer” nonsense the blogs always talk about. Since no one else is writing about the issue of strange statistics, I go looking, without too much of a clue as to where to look, examining everything from penalties to tackles, fouls to cards, etc etc. Much of the time hours are spent looking for patterns and mostly nothing is there. But the very big ones I have found are Leicester and Arsenal changes. There might be another club that has changed its style and turned up with some very odd patterns but I haven’t seen it.

    On the other hand the analysis of referee decisions in games without crowds did turn up strange results, and then we were helped by the research from London School of Economics.

    But if someone else would like to go searching it would be great to know about other strange figures from any club.

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