By Bulldog Drummond
Over the past ten years Tottenham, in league games, have committed 4031 fouls, compared to 3767 fouls committed by Arsenal. A difference of 7% more fouls by Tottenham. Hardly significant.
In terms of yellow cards Tottenham have had 618 and Arsenal 591, meaning Tottenham have had 4% more yellow cards than Arsenal. Again a difference that is hardly something to get too excited about.
However, that is the average over ten years, and some years have been a little less well balanced. Indeed last year was rather different. It was the year Tottenham did a Leicester.
Across the league matches against all other clubs, last season Tottenham committed 94 more fouls than Arsenal, thus suggesting they were playing a different type of game – especially in the last two thirds of the season after Arsenal had got their tactics sorted out and their fouling rate declined dramatically.
Tottenham last season got a yellow card for every 8.28 fouls they committed. Arsenal last season got a yellow card for every 7.34 fouls committed – a tougher referee response against Arsenal, but maybe just a blip, because across the ten years Arsenal have got a yellow card for every 6.3 fouls committed. Tottenham have got a yellow card for every 6.5 fouls committed.
So that difference across the ten years is so small as not to be noticeable, and yet…
Something changed last season. Back in 2019/20 the number of yellow cards for the two clubs was almost identical (86 Arsenal, 82 Tottenham) and the number of fouls was incredibly close (423 by Tottenham and 421 by Arsenal).
So two seasons ago Tottenham got a yellow card for every 5.2 fouls, while Arsenal got a yellow card for every 4.9 fouls. Hardly worth noting.
But last season, everything turned upside down. Here are the figures…
Last season Arsenal got a yellow card for every 7.34 fouls while Tottenham got a yellow card for every 8.28 fouls. Either Arsenal’s fouls are nastier than Tottenham’s, or referees throughout last season referees were 9% more lenient on Tottenham than they were on Arsenal.
That was an interesting stat so we went a bit further and did what we did the previous season, and looked at the statistics that revealed Leicester’s extraordinary approach last season.
We compared tackles, fouls and yellow cards – which gives us the complete picture.
Put this way, Tottenham tackle more before they get a foul against them, tackle a lot more before they get a yellow card against them and foul more before they get a yellow. And that is where we found the anomaly.
Tottenham put in 13.53 tackles before getting a yellow compared to 8.6 tackles committed by Arsenal. They commit 9.34 fouls before they get a yellow compared with 6.51 for Arsenal.
In fact this is a direct copy of the trick Leicester City were pulling two seasons ago where they used tackling at an industrial level as a tactic, seemingly certain that the referees would penalise them so rarely that it hardly mattered.
Here are the two years and the two teams compared
|Team||Tackle/ Fouls 2019/20||Tackle/Fouls 2020/21||Fouls/ Yellows 2019/20||Fouls/Yellows 2020/21|
To remind you, the Leicester City fouls to yellow card figure for 2019/20 reached an unprecedented 9.48, and amazingly Tottenham almost got there last season. It could be a coincidence, but it seems unlikely.
But the tactic rebounded on Leicester when the tactic was publicised and suddenly referees started penalising them far more regularly, in the way that other teams were penalised.
Certainly to allow one team to commit 9.34 fouls before a yellow card is brought out, while another can only get away with 6.51 fouls would only be fair, if the team getting away with 9.34 fouls was committing very gentle fouls of no real significance and the other team were committing more industrial tackles. Of course you may feel that is true, and that would explain the figures.
I don’t have enough TV analysis to tell me if that is the case. But maybe Tottenham indeed are the new experts at the art of the gentle foul that is not worthy of a card, as Leicester thought they were. That certainly seemed to be what Leicester claimed in 2019/20, but once the figures became public they found themselves being penalised much more.
Or maybe you can prove anything with statistics. Since I use stats in my work I don’t believe that. And interestingly, in the Leicester case, I don’t think the PGMO did either.
These are the articles that traced our discovery of that Leicester situation and what happened soon after…
- Buying players does not mean success as last season shows…
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.
- Injuries Time to sack Tierney according to one part of the media
- Next season starting lineup and the new Financial Fair Play rules