By Tony Attwood
This table shows the fouls committed by each team and the fouls that are committed against them. The final column shows the two as a percentage. If the number is over 100% the club fouls more than it is fouled against. If it is under 100% the club commits fewer fouls than the opposition commit against the club.
|Team||Total fouls by team||Fouls per game by team||Total fouls by opposition||Fouls per game by opposition||Fouls committed / Fouls endured (%)|
|Brighton and Hove||427||11.24||376||9.89||113.56|
|West Bromwich A||404||10.63||430||11.32||93.95|
|West Ham United||374||9.84||367||9.66||101.91|
If the result in the final column comes out at below 100 then the team is fouled more than it fouls. Above 100 the reverse is the case.
Obviously a lot of teams are pretty much in the mid-range – they give as good as they take. West Ham for example have a figure of 101.91. They were fouled 374 times last season and they dished it out 367 times. So they are neither using fouling as a way of breaking up attacks nor of disrupting the mindset of the opposition, nor are they “doing an Arsenal” and taking fouling out of the game in order to avoid giving the attackers extra space and another assault.
But of course not all clubs did this last season, and I suspect that although the media made no comment at all on Arsenal’s change of fouling tactics last season, as the word got around of what Arsenal were doing, other clubs began to follow.
Top foulers last season were Fulham committing 484 fouls in league games. Second were Sheffield United at 459. But fouling is not always the game of the lower classes for third were Manchester United with 452. Fourth we had Aston Villa on 439 – a club that tried a very curious tactic, but one that ultimately didn’t quite work.
Bottom of the fouling league was Arsenal with 345 – and if you have been reading Untold for a while you’ll know about that. Second were Manchester City with 361. West Ham committed 374, and Burnley only got 384 – which is not what I expected.
And a bit of a surprise with Manchester United being second top foulers. On the other hand we’d expect Arsenal to be at the bottom because this was the Arteta policy to get us out of the mess that Emery’s style of resulted in with Arsenal being penalised all the time. It was almost as if Emery couldn’t believe that referees could be that biased, and so had to keep on playing in the same way.
But what about the other way around? Who receives the most fouls?
Top of the receiving league: Aston Villa at 567. Second were Tottenham at 494 – which is a huge gap. Third were Palace at 438 fourth were Leicester with 440.
Bottom of the receiving league: Sheffield United 304, then Liverpool 355, West Ham 367, and Fulham 387.
So Sheffield United fouling like mad, but not receiving many back. Aston Villa were a top fouling side but received more back than anyone else. What’s going on?
To see this more clearly we can look at this as a percentage. If you foul as much as you get fouled the answer is 100%. If other teams foul you far more than you foul them your figure is below 100%. If you kick the hell out of them and they don’t respond your figures are over 100%.
The extremes of teams that fouled but were not fouled back are Sheffield United (150.99%). Second were Fulham with 125.06%. So clearly clubs were willing to let Sheffield U and Fulham trip and kick like mad, take the free kicks and endlessly advance. They didn’t respond out of revenge – there was no need.
Those clubs were kicking the opposition and harming themselves. Referees got to know what they were up to, and were blowing for almost every tackle. If the opposition had retaliated the ref might well have reduced his punishment of the fouling club rather than risk sending off half the team.
What about teams that didn’t foul much but got fouled a lot. That’s an interesting technique since it allows the players to whine at the ref that they are being kicked off the pitch while they are the innocent bystanders. Aston Villa got the lowest percentage (ie they got fouled but didn’t foul back) and got 77.43%. Arsenal were second with 81.95%. Tottenham were third with 88.87% and fourth were Newcastle with 89.91%.
I certainly think this was deliberate by Arsenal, who have suffered for years when playing clubs that just kick them off the park. Reducing Arsenal’s own tackles dramatically not only stopped yellow cards against Arsenal, but also through no retaliation they changed the referees’ attitude.
Certainly Arsenal took the deliberate policy last season of not fouling nearly as much as they had under Mr Emery. (This is largely why Arsenal had such a hard start to last season, they were trying to get used to the complete reversal of Mr Emery’s approach).
But of course tactics can change over the season. So which clubs evolved in the last two thirds of the season, and which declined? Here is the table on Christmas Day last year, showing at the end of the table where the club was, and whether it improved or declined.
|Team||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||Pts||End of season||+/-|
|9||West Ham United||13||6||3||4||21||16||5||21||6||+3|
|16||Brighton and Hove Albion||13||2||5||6||15||21||-6||11||16||0|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||13||1||4||8||10||26||-16||7||19||0|
Those changes are quite large – with Arsenal, as we know, making the greatest advance going up seven places. Leeds and the two Mancunian teams went up five. Southampton and Everton fell apart.
It is clearly not just a case of getting the tactics right at the start of the season – it is having the vision to change the tactics and sustaining that vision. That is what Arsenal did and why we had such a superb second two thirds of the season and why Everton fell apart.
Thanks to James Curtis of Curtis Associates Research Ltd for preparing this data.
- Everton v Arsenal: a happy video, line-up and what the league table will look like after
- Everton v Arsenal: Injuries, points needed for 4th, and Arsenal the first to 100?
- Everton v Arsenal: extraordinary figures seen in the last 6 games table
- Everton v Arsenal: how this referee treats the home and away team
- Everton v Arsenal and the oddity of referee behaviour