Arsenal are more than twice as dirty a team as Southampton – according to refs

By Bulldog Drummond

We have often quoted the fact that in the last two thirds of last season Arsenal were the second best team in the Premier League using this table as evidence.

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44

It is an analysis that has often been derided since “only the table at the end of the season counts.”

Now I find that interesting since when Arsenal have just played two games those same people seem to saying that Arsenal should get rid of their manager.  So 24 games don’t count for anything, because they are not the whole season, but two games warrant changing the manager!

However what I find the most interesting question is why we did so well in those 24 games in the last two thirds of last season and then lost the first two games of this season.

I would say that losing a substantial number of players to injury and the virus, while at the same time undertaking a major rebuilding of the team, is a major cause.   But set alongside this, is trying to explain to newcomers into the club, that when it comes to refereeing, the Premier League is in a world of its own.   Changing managers, won’t change the referees, and the benefit we have at the moment is that we have a manager who understands referees.

(If you are interested in the debate about changing managers now, I thought this article from You Are My Arsenal was worth perusal.  Here I want to stay with the impact of referees.)

So this weekend, thinking about Manchester City takes us back to the key topic of last season – tackles, fouls and yellow cards.

Last season Manchester City kept their number of fouls exactly the same as the season before: 361.  And yet they managed to take their yellow cards down by 23%, which is an amazing achievement.

Team Tackles 2019/0 Tackles 2020/1 +/- Fouls 2019/0 Fouls 2020/1 +/- Yellow 2019/0 Yellow 2020/1 +/-
Arsenal 584 456 -22% 421 345 -18% 86 47 -45%
Man C 514 498 -3% 361 361 0% 60 46 -23%

As we have noted before, last season, following the way referees were behaving…

  • 17 out of 20 clubs cut their tackling, but Arsenal did it the most.
  • 7 out of 20 clubs cut their fouling, but Arsenal cut theirs the most
  • 13 out of the 20 clubs reduced their yellow card rate, but Arsenal cut theirs the most.

So what about this season after just two games?  I have selected not just ourselves and Manchester City for comparison but also Leicester (because it was their approach to fouling that triggered this enquiry two seasons ago) plus Southampton and Wolverhampton who are leading the way on fouls and tackles respectively this season.

Team Tackles Fouls Yellows Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Foul per yellow
Arsenal 30 18 3 1.67 10 6
Man C 29 21 2 1.38 14.5 10.5
Leicester 28 14 2 2.00 14.0 7.00
Southampton 44 27 2 1.62 22.0 13.5
Wolverhampton 49 19 3 2.58 16.3 6.33

This shows the extraordinary difference between the ways referees handle tackles, fouls and yellow cards with each club.

Wolverhampton put in 2.58 tackles before a foul is called.  Arsenal can only get away with 1.67.  

Southampton can put in 22 tackles before getting a yellow card.  Arsenal can undertake fewer than half that number before the yellow is shown.   Are Arsenal really over twice as bad at tackling as Southampton?  I rather doubt it.

But here is the real crazy figure…

For Arsenal it is six fouls, and a yellow is shown.  Manchester City can get away with nearly twice that number – 10.5 fouls before a yellow is shown.   However Southampton are the past masters at this: 13.5 fouls before a yellow is shown.  Arsenal are more than twice as dirty as Southampton!!!!   Really ?????????

On the basis of these figures, Wolverhampton have found the magic way of tackling without the referee seeing a foul and Southampton are the masters of putting in the tackles without a yellow being waived.

Of course I would not expect numbers to be the same for each club – but these are extreme variations, and it looks even at this early stage as if where clubs end up in the league will be decided as much by the way referees treat each club as by how well each club plays. 

For there can be no doubt from these early figures, and the figures across the last two seasons, different clubs are treated differently by referees. 

As Mr Arteta clearly decided last season, with the referees deciding that Arsenal tackles are more likely to be fouls than those of other clubs, and deciding that Arsenal fouls are more likely to be worthy of yellow cards than those of other clubs, we absolutely must drill into our new players that tackles need to be cut down to an absolute minimum.

It’s a tough call, but that is what saw us through the last two thirds of last season, and it is what our new lineup needs to learn again now.

Beating Manchester City: 10 videos

7 Replies to “Arsenal are more than twice as dirty a team as Southampton – according to refs”

  1. You really have got an agenda against refs.

    When you have so Called players like Holding, Chambers and Mari we will pick up yellow cards al day long.
    They can’t run and blatantly foul.

  2. Re Brad’s comment
    What a well constructed counter argument from Brad, full of well researched, irrefutable facts and so well presented.

  3. Two games in it’s very difficult to assess tackles made to fouls to yellow cards between teams and referees. There are clearly differences between tackles and indeed fouls committed, so we would need a larger sample of games to give anywhere near a accurate picture of what is going on.
    Personally it seems to me that some referees are more quicker to produce a yellow card for fewer fouls than others. As you’ve discussed previously Arsenal only seem to get a few different officials over the season, and it could be that we tend to have those referees that use yellow cards earlier and more heavily.

  4. Referees have different proclivity to issue cards. Laliga and Seria A have higher cards per game than EPL. When you look at their referee statistics you can clearly see some referees issue cards faster than others. Same with EPL just more pronounced with Seria A and Laliga.

    Southampton have played 2 games: Man U (Home) and Everton (Away). 5 cards were issued in Man U game. 3 Man U and 2 Southampton. 2 Cards were issued in Everton game both to Everton. Alleging conspiracy means Referees hate Man U and Everton but like Southampton, that doesn’t make sense.

    Arsenal have also played 2 games: Brentford (Away) and Chelsea (Home). 0 cards were issued in Brentford game. 3 cards were issued in Chelsea game, all to Arsenal. No pattern can be deduced.

    Football is a game run largely by humans so we can expect a few erratic decisions. That’s not news, everyone suffers from these.

    Context is important in understanding statistics. You are alleging conspiracy yet never highlighted a trend of biased decisions. Were the cards/fouls justified? If not, how many times have Arsenal suffered from erratic decisions? Do individual referees issue more cards/fouls against Arsenal than they do to other teams? If yes, how many times did they err? You haven’t offered context, instead highlighting statistics from 5/20 teams and deducing conclusions to suit your innuendo. Other conclusions can be drawn from the same set of statistics.

    I think what is biased is your interpretation.

  5. U23 HT Young Guns 0 You-Know-Who(s) 0
    very pleasant half – i find it heartbraking that a majority of these talented lads won’t ever make it to a professional squad
    we started, and ended well, and should be ahead: Taylor-Hart (assist Ogungbo) and Biereth (assist ???° Hutchinson, I think) should have scored
    Taylor-Hart is a skilful, elegant, intelligent lad, but he’ll have to be much more lethal in the box
    I like Biereth a lot – i’ve enjoyed the way he has wrestled, stood his ground with his defender – but there’s been something ollie-esque about his finish in this half
    the outstanding lads are the youngest; hutchinson had one of his trademark runs at the beginning, which a spur lad blocked well eventually, there’s something magic about each and everyone of his touches
    patino has been truly impressive; my dear old youth coach used to tell me that there were two things to be watched about a young midfielder: his number of interceptions, and the number of times he gives the ball away; if the first is high and the second low, it means the lad is ahead of all the other players on the pitch. i’m not keeping tabs right now, but i know what chalie’s numbers will look like tonight
    eventually, there’s henry-francis, who brings back almost eery memories of dear ol’ kevin richardson – i.e., the embodiment of what right choices are (and there’s also somethign of a claf-biter in him) – something tells me that the herny-francis/patino partnership in midfield has a very bright future

  6. The arguement that different referees give cards at different points for different reasons is just plain obvious bullshit. The PGMOL are not different referees but a select bunch of
    racially picked ‘not from London’ corrupt individuals led by Mike Riley (the cheating officially proved anti Arsenal) ex referee.

    This group of officials are not sportingly correct nor democratically elected. They are obviously above the Law and act outside sporting fairness. They have no diversity in selection (how could they) due to their make up.

    Until the PGMOL is thrown out of football the English game will be trapped in corruption.

  7. FT
    You-Know-Who(s) 1 Young Guns 2
    well done lads, two wins were needed after wham’s thrashing, they’re in the bag now and in style too
    excellent 2nd half, we were surprised on a CK right after the start, probably as the defense was re-organizing after gabriel was taken out
    but then … it was all red and white
    hutchinson assisted both … taylor-hart goals (attaboy, if he can make it a scoring run, we do have one more infinity stone in store)
    tonight will be nightmare time for the spur defenders … nightmare on hale end street, with “will-o’-the-wisp” hutchinson playing the freddy part
    what a phenomenal lad: 2 assists, one spur sent off for mowing him down, one FK on the crossbar, i-don’t-know-how-many should-have-been-assists
    please arsenal bind him to a 15-year-contract at least

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