By Bulldog Drummond
Tackling is a matter of contention in the Premier League, as we discovered after we observed the antics of Leicester City in the season before last. Leicester, you may recall, took tackling to an industrial level in 2019/20 and got away with it for a while – then were suddenly reigned in by the men of the PGMO with their curious and quaint little ways.
On 6 February 2020 we published “How a club can commit the most fouls, but get the fewest yellow cards” with a follow up article on 26 February “What is the relationship between fouls, tackles and yellow cards?” – two articles which turned out to be the start of a long journey.
But what we have not considered until now is the level of tacking in the Championship and the number of tackles that a player might get away with before a foul is called in that League. Is it the same as in the Premier League?
Now, with our opener being against a promoted team, and with our being drawn away to industrial West Bromwich in the League Cup, this is the time to ask, and the answer turns out to be… no.
A quick comparison between Brentford last season in the Championship and Arsenal in the Premier League shows a considerable variance. The figures are taken “per game” as in the Championship clubs play 46 rather than 38 games.
|Team||Tackles per game||Fouls per game||Tackles per foul||Yellows per game||Fouls per yellow|
In short, Arsenal were better tacklers than Brentford last season, undertaking 1.32 tackles per foul compared to Brentford’s 1.09 tackles per foul. And yet despite delivering fewer tackles, cleaner tackles and fewer fouls per game, Arsenal got more yellow cards per game than Brentford last season! And not just by a fraction.
The figure as you can see is 7.37 fouls to get a yellow card from Arsenal against 12.01 fouls to get a yellow from Brentford.
The lunacy of the difference in standards of refereeing is revealed not only by Arsenal getting more yellows per game, but being allowed to commit fewer fouls before picking up a yellow card as shown in the final figure. Brentford could get away with 63% more fouls than Arsenal last season before getting a yellow card.
And it is interesting I think, that we often hear criticism from match commentators about refereeing decisions outside of the UK, and how foreign referees don’t always understand the game – although we hear nothing about different levels of refereeing within the Engish leagues.
To be clear, looking at the figures from the Championship, my impression is that this is not primarily a Brentford thing, but something that has spread through the Championship. Referees are in fact much more forgiving (or if you prefer much more lackadaisical) in the Championship than in the Premier League – although fans of Championship clubs often themselves complain about the refereeing they see.
I also wondered how well Arsenal traditionally did against teams in their first season in (or back in) the Premier League. This table shows the results for the last three years.
|Team and year promoted||AFC Home results in promoted clubs’ first season||AFC Away results in promoted clubs’ first season|
|Leeds 2020||Won 4-2||Drew 0-0|
|West Bromwich 2020||Won 3-1||Won 0-4|
|Fulham 2020||Drew 1-1||Won 0-3|
|Norwich City2019||Won 4-0||Drew 2-2|
|Sheffield United 2019||Drew 1-1||Lost 1-0|
|Aston Villa 2019||Won 3-2||Lost 1-0|
|Wolverhampton 2018||Drew 1-1||Lost 3-1|
|Cardiff C 2018||Won 2-1||Won 2-3|
|Fulham 2018||Won 4-1||Won 1-5|
So that is 18 league games over the past three seasons against newly-promoted teams. The results for Arsenal have been
At home: Won 6; Drawn 3; Lost 0
Away: Won 4: Drawn 2; Lost 3
In total, 10 wins, 5 draws, 3 defeats. So the odds tomorrow are pretty much in our favour although it is true that Brentford were more effective at home than Arsenal were away last season.
In the table below I’ve added an extra column at the end to even out the different number of games played.
Brentford had a very good run-in last season which took them into third place and thus into the play offs with no defeats in their last dozen league games, getting six draws and six victories. Their best win was a 0-5 away victory at Preston.
They will be on a high, and full of promotional vim and whatnot. We need to be careful.
Looking forward: 2021/22
- How can Arsenal up their goalscoring this coming season?
- What’s gone wrong in the transfer market? In essence, everything.
- How EU foreign subsidy rules could harm football
- How the media got it wrong last season and will do again in 2021/2
- The illusion that it is all about the quality of the players is an illusion
- Arsenal transfers: Gnabry return, White a disaster, Martinez a loss?
- Why do journalists get so fixated on scoring in double figures?
- 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.