Arsenal v Norwich: exploring the approach of each club to this season

By Bulldog Drummond

It is difficult to get much from the statistics of this season since both clubs are doing a fine impersonation of a British entry in the European Song Contest and getting no points.

And there is a curious link between the two clubs – just take a look at the Norwich form this season.  It is not just the losing of three league games, it is the high power win in the League Cup – exactly as per Arsenal.

Date Match Res Score Competition
14 Aug 2021 Norwich City v Liverpool L 0-3 Premier League
21 Aug 2021 Manchester City v Norwich City L 5-0 Premier League
24 Aug 2021 Norwich City v AFC Bournemouth W 6-0 League Cup
28 Aug 2021 Norwich City v Leicester City L 1-2 Premier League

At the end of last season Norwich had a run of 18 games in which they drew three, lost two and won 13 – not a bad run at all – and that took them up.

But at the end of the season having achieved promotion, they did not follow the route of some clubs such as Aston Villa, of spending zillions of pounds to try and stay up.   Instead their buying was seven players, not one of whom cost £10m or more.  The sources were places like POAK Salonika, Werder Bremen, Nice, Rostov and Burnley.

This clearly suggests a continuation of the approach in which they almost expect to go down, and take with them the solidarity payment which allows them to add to a squad that is perfectly able to win promotion.

This is not to say they are certain to go down, but rather that they are willing to accept that if that is the price of not bankrupting the club.

Season League P W D L F A Pts Position FAC LgeC
2010–11 Chmp 46 23 15 8 83 58 84 2 R3 R2
2011–12 Prem 38 12 11 15 52 66 47 12 R5 R2
2012–13 Prem 38 10 14 14 41 58 44 11 R4 QF
2013–14 Prem 38 8 9 21 28 62 33 18 R3 R4
2014–15 Chmp 46 25 11 10 88 48 86 3 R3 R3
2015–16 Prem 38 9 7 22 39 67 34 19 R3 R4
2016–17 Chmp 46 20 10 16 85 69 70 8 R3 R4
2017–18 Chmp 46 15 15 16 49 60 60 14 R3 R4
2018–19 Chmp 46 27 13 6 93 57 94 1 R3 R4
2019–20 Prem 38 5 6 27 26 75 21 20 QF R2
2020–21 Chmp 46 29 10 7 75 36 97 1 R4 R1

So there we have a highpoint of 19th in the Premier League and three relegations in the past 11 years.  But there is a bonus to this yo=yo approach – I have not heard talk of Norwich City being in financial trouble.  Of course I may have missed it since I am not that closely informed about Championship affairs, but I think they are stable.

Thus this is a club that knows where it can be, and it is not bankrupting itself to try and be something it is not.

So in the league they are surrounded by clubs of a different approach.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
16 Burnley 3 0 1 2 2 5 -3 1
17 Newcastle United 3 0 1 2 4 8 -4 1
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 0 0 3 0 3 -3 0
19 Norwich City 3 0 0 3 1 10 -9 0
20 Arsenal 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0

I don’t think there are great demands for Norwich to change their manager because I also suspect most of their fans understand exactly how the club is being run and being taken forward.  If they can get a few years in the Premier League that will suit them fine.  If not, well, that’s how it goes and they’ll enjoy the promotion next time around.

Arsenal, on the other hand, and as we know from history, and as we have seen in recent articles are in the process (now with Manchester United) of exploring a totally different way of playing football – football without tackles.

It is not what they want to do, it is what they are being forced to do by the way the refereeing works – as we have seen from the statistics and the selection of officials for tomorrow.   And incidentally it is interesting that the main comments we get arguing with our analysis of the statistics is not showing that the stats are wrong nor explaining why they are irrelevant, nor commenting on our explanation that the new approach involves the defence – and that we have changed the whole defence (which means a settling down period both in tactics and in personnel).

No, the point made is that we are just making excuses.   Which would be ok, if someone would actually show where our statistics, so carefully gathered and explained across last season and the season before (when we first spotted what was going on) have gone wrong.

The explanation of what Mr Arteta is doing, is there for all to see.  It is hardly our fault that other bloggers and the mainstream media utterly refuse even to acknowledge the issue.

19 Replies to “Arsenal v Norwich: exploring the approach of each club to this season”

  1. It is untrue to say people don’t comment telling you why your stats are wrong or irrelevant, because for example, on many occasions commenters have showed you that your research suggesting arsenal is hard done by refs because of a high card to foul ratio is flawed since cards are a product of quality and not quantity of fouls

  2. The point of my comment is saying that people have not commented that your research is wrong or irrelevant is not true. People have always done that pointing out the errors in your arguments. That you are convinced by their argument is not the same as saying they have not put up the counter argument

  3. To answer the arguments about referees a commentator would have to take into account the very strange change in home / away results in the period without crowds – an analysis undertaken by academic researchers LSE and research that is regularly mentioned here. It was that research that conclusively showed that referees were biased. Once that is shown and proven as it was, then it is perfectly legitimate to consider as a starting point that referees are biased or open to bias. And I’ve never seen anyone reject the LSE research with data, all that happens is that they, like you, ignore it.

    Then on top of that the wholly separate factual data which shows that referees that give larger numbers of yellow cards are more likely to get Arsenal than referees who give lower numbers of yellow cards, again suggests something very odd is going on.

    Then on top of that the fact that refereeing in the Premier League is organised in a different way from in other major leagues in Europe, and that part of this unique organisation is an utter unwillingness for referees to be interviewed in relation to games, is another factor that we have covered. Plus a desire to have a much smaller number of referees in the PL than in other major leagues, with PL referees getting the same team multiple times – not allowed in other major leagues.

    Put it all together then when we find anomalies in refereeing relating to Arsenal then it is reasonable to question the refereeing in my view. Then in addition to all this when we find huge variations between the way clubs are treated in terms of tackles fouls and yellow cards, there is good reason to question matters further.

    If you seriously have read the range of research on this site you will also know the figures from Leicester City which first alerted us to the tackling / fouls / yellow cards issue, and the way this changed the moment we highlighted it. Or come to that the issue of Leicester’s penalties the following season, again which changed after our publication of the stats.

    I’m sure I have missed out a range of other research mentioned here but that’s enough to be going on with. To show that everything is all right with refereeing you might say that one or at most two of these are just statistical anomalies – I’d doubt that, but it is possible. But to dismiss the whole lot just because you feel like it, seems quite unreasonable to me. But if that’s what you want to do, ok, I can’t stop you. Although it would be helpful to your cause if you could explain why all these figures should be jettisoned and a wholly different conclusion reached.

    Even the mass media don’t go that far. They just ignore the data on the grounds (in the few conversations that I have had with them) that “the editor doesn’t like stats”.

  4. Joe
    In your example you appear to be saying that Arsenals fouls are frequently of a worse nature than other teams and therefore warrant being punished more severely than the less severe tackles made by other teams. Given that this state of affairs has been ongoing for a few years now and we have now got a more or less completely new squad of players compared to a couple of years ago, ​have all those players who recently signed for Arsenal immediately forgotten how to tackle properly? Or do we only sign players who could never tackle properly before we bought them.
    What a ridiculously flimsy argument, unless of course you can produce some proper researched evidence to support your claim.

  5. Off topic
    Can we add David Seaman to the long list of ex Arsenal players who are constantly criticising the club. He is one of the ‘go to’ voices on Talk sport when they want a negative comment about our club or its players and he rarely disappoints in that regard.
    He is getting as bad as Merson.

  6. Joe

    “on many occasions commentators have showed you that your research suggesting arsenal is hard done by refs because of a high card to foul ratio is flawed since cards are a product of quality and not quantity of fouls”

    No they haven’t.

    As mick shelley suggests, this has been going on for years over which time 100’s of players, dozens of coaches and now a few managers have been through our doors, playing, coaching and managing.

    Back on the 1st of September I posted these 2 links to articles covering this exact topic, that go back years

    and we had 1 responder who’s claim that:

    “Do I think from time to time you have bad decisions against you ? Yes but nowhere near as many as most on here think.”

    Was simply ludicrous against such a mountain of evidence I couldn’t be asked to respond.

    “Time to time” he said.

    It’s 16 years plus

    “Think” he said.

    We don’t just ‘think’ it, the figures show it.

    So go on then Joe show me the MANY occasions people have provided evidence to dispute that enormous amount of statistics.

  7. I agree with Joe.

    Cards are a product of quality of fouls. Quantity counts when it’s one player consistently fouling.

    Cards are also subjective to the referee. Different referees are prone to issuing cards differently.

    But for me the argument against conspiracy of refereeing bias is about probability.

    The League has 20 different teams with up to 10 games each weekend. That’s 10 different referees per weekend. The PL has upwards of 20 referees.

    Mistakes can be observed but over 20 referees being biased against Arsenal when there are 19 other teams available with 9 other games each weekend would take odds that would surprise me. If that were to happen even the club would notice and I believe raise an issue. So far they have not, only untold have.

    Tony has replied to Joe saying how people can be biased in their interpretation of statistics to suit their thesis.

    That statement should be self directed.

  8. Jack

    “Tony has replied to Joe saying how people can be biased in their interpretation of statistics to suit their thesis.”

    Have you not read those statistics from over 16 years plus. More than 16 years !

    Neither yourself or Joe have produced one single shred of evidence to counter 2 massive quantities of statistical data that shows how the balance of decisions over are long period of time has been and still is massively against Arsenal.

    yes of course decisions are subjective and THAT is the problem because referees can subjectively call every 50/50 against Arsenal and never actually be wrong.

    The penalty stats are equally disproportionate against us.

    But the point is, are you actually saying, as I asked above, that over all those years, with 100’s of different players, under dozens of coaches and now under a few managers, Arsenal somehow manage to constantly field tacklers that are worse than everybody else ?

    Please tell me you’re not serious.

  9. Nitram you’ve helped me put my point across.

    16yrs of provable bias is enough for the club to present a case.

    They have not.

    Telling us to present statistics is telling us to get into an argument that is pointless.

    Even if I am convinced there is bias, and the club doesn’t bring it up, how will it help?

  10. Jack
    Just wondered how you know that Arsenal haven’t raised the issue with the Premier League and/or PGMOB. Maybe they have but I don’t know that any more than you say they haven’t. Have you got inside information, do you know someone in high places within the club. If so let us know where you get your information from, but I suspect it is just hot air and no more.
    Yet another example of a baseless and factless counter argument.

  11. @Mick
    1. Am I saying arsenal’s tackles are frequently worse and as such deserve to be punished more harshly? No, I’m saying for us to know the answer to that question, the research should center on qualitative assessment of those fouls, a quantitative assessment can never answer the question. It is however possible, in any season, one team has to have the worst disciplinary record, I’m sure if Stoke was at the bottom of the table, you’ll be shouting that it’s warranted.
    2. Has Arsenal’s poor disciplinary figures been going on for many years? I’ll have to check the figures. I believe the season Leicester won the league, that should be as recent as 6 seasons ago, we were top of the disciplinary table. I remember untold doing articles years back lauding our great performances on the fair play table. It’s possible since then as our position on the merit table has dropped over the years, so has our performance on the fair play table. Maybe poorer players playing under increased pressure of high expectations based on past glory, have resulted in poorer tackles. I remember someone(a commenter) did a comparative analysis of positions on the redcard/yellow card tables in the last 10 years or so, among 7 top EPL teams, I am sure Tottenham and Leicester fared worse than arsenal, I think man utd did worse or almost as bad
    3. Since we have changed players, and still get poor fair play scores, did those players suddenly lose the ability to tackle? I think that’s a poor/irrelevant question. For one like I earlier mentioned, as recently as 2016 we were top of the fair play table. We had poor tacklers like xhaka then and now, others like Mustafi just left. Also they could be poorly coached, the system of play might be a source of problem, pressure of playing for an underperforming historically big team could be one of the extenuating factors, the recruitment may be a factor for example Xhaka was a poor tackler at monchengladbach as he is here, it could be the same with other players recruited. Nuff said.
    4. On the point of evidence, it would interest you to know that you provided absolutely zero when making your assertions, some of which are evidently wrong. However it’s your opinion and should be respected as you ought to respect that of others.
    5. Summary, my points 1-4 were a distraction. The summary of my argument is that cards to foul ratio is not a proper test of ref bias since cards are inherently a product of quality and not quantity of fouls. Any argument should concentrate on challenging the validity of this claim. Thank you

  12. Mr Nitram. No matter how long you bury your head in the untold sand, Joe says the truth. Of course everyone that has put up the counter argument have people like you(especially) shout them down with your unnecessary cyber belligerence. Of course untold allows it since you’re the enforcers of the untold agenda, when they stand up to the bullies you can be sure uncle Tony will be there to apply the selective ban. I wish you could use the same energy to support the team on the pitch, it’s much easier to talk the talk on the internet.
    Anyways I miss the honesty of Mr Blacksheep on the blog

  13. “Cards are a product of quality of fouls” How does one go about measuring quality?

    If David Luiz is kicked on the knee, and receives a red card, I am at a loss to identify a quality that might justify the card.

    I suggest that cards are a product of quality of referees, and probably inversely proportionate to boot.

  14. @Tony, I hope this reply meets you well. wow this is a longer one. So I’ll give the summary of my response before tackling each one. “EACH OF THE POINTS YOU MADE HAVE BEEN CHALLENGED WITH FACTUAL ARGUMENTS”. I have followed untold long enough to be able to say that. And I say it knowing that plenty of counter arguments are not published on untold. I know the rules of posting on untold and I will honestly say that quite of number of such comments do not break the rules. The only reason I can think of for not publishing them is that they argue against the untold point of view. That’s a personal opinion, it is my prayer that untold reverts back to the days when open debate was allowed, the blog was richer then and I learnt a lot. I occasionally go back and peruse through the comments section then though nowadays a lot of the articles have their comments section disabled. So let’s look at the points raised and let me try to highlight some of the arguments that have been made against them. Note, whether you agree with the arguments is not the debate, but whether they have been argued with facts
    1. You say a research has proved ref bias in the period when stadiums were empty.
    My reply: I challenge you to post a link to the study you mention. The only thing that suggests bias from the refs in that study is home bias, where it suggests that refs were more likely to favour the home team. how that translates to bias against arsenal, I can never tell since arsenal plays 19league games just like every other team. This argument has been made before. However I can’t round up this reply without expressing surprise at this “the very strange change in home/away results in the period without crowds”. How can something that is common knowledge from time immemorial that the crowd/fans is the 12th Man in a football match became a strange phenomenon?. Also saying one research is conclusive is being ingenious. As for stating that people like me ignore the research, this is an open challenge, Post the link to the research and let us debate it. I am in total agreement with the research you posted at the time, it said nothing we didn’t know beforehand, it is you who has probably misunderstood and misquoted that research.
    2. I must confess I haven’t seen the research saying arsenal were more likely to get refs who gave out more cards, so I can’t make a comment on that. I’d also appreciate a link to that article. However I also remember someone posting a study on all the EPL refs and records of cards -yellow and red issued to arsenal compared to other teams, it was as clear as day that arsenal didn’t get any special treatment. Mike Dean for example issued cards most to Man utd in that survey. I could do the same study and present my findings, with reputable source linked if you want.
    3. Refereeing in England is significantly different from other major leagues In Europe. You seemed to have started making this claim after a very mathematics based article from one of your contributors. It was a very technical presentation, I’m not a mathematician, however I was surprised that he had similar data for referees in la Liga(I believe), gave some mathematical mumbo jumbo and came up a conclusion that there was a statistically significant difference between ref arrangements in the 2 leagues. Your point that if we had more refs the chances of a single bent ref affecting the outcome of a league season significantly being less is very valid, but so also is the point that fewer refs make for easier surveillance against curruption. It’s also more difficult for potential bad guys to gain access to refs if they are fewer. A quick survey on transfermkt or soccerbase shows that the various leagues have employed varying number of refs in the ongoing season. epl have used 15/22, Scots have used 16, The Dutch have used 17 so far, the Spanish 19, the Germans and French 21. All of them have used their refs to varying degrees. EPL and eredivisie have them doing from 1 for the least used to 4 for the most used. Portugal, Scotland, France, Spain have their refs doing between 1-3, bundesliga and serie a(21refs) are the most balanced with 1-2 matches officiated by the refs. Last season EPL used 19 refs who each did between 8-28matches each, the Scots used 20, doing between 1 and 20 matches between them. Serie A used 45 doing between 1-18 matches each; Portugal used 20 refs doing between 5 &25 matches each, the Dutch used 22 who did between 2 and 24 matches each, 23 French ligue 1 refs did between 12 and 20 matches each, 28 bundesliga refs did between 1-17 matches each last season, 20 la Liga refs did between 15-22 matches each last season. Studying these figures without going into convoluted mathematical stats, it’s clear to see that there’s no standard European format for ref arrangement. La Liga seems to have the best balance and they employed 20refs last season against the EPL’s 19.
    About refs explaining decisions to the media, I don’t know of any league in the world that routinely does this. Some leagues have on occasions had one or 2 refs explain some decisions, but if you know any League that routinely brings refs to explain their onfield decisions after every match, I’d love to know so I can also watch. I think that is an unfair accusation on the EPL.
    4. I think the best summary is that all you have said are your opinions which you have gathered facts to prove which is what is expected in a debate. I have also put up verifiable facts to show my contrary viewpoint, I don’t think either view is superior. Just a matter of different perspectives.
    5. The figures you posted for Leicester last season, I believe were for tackles leading to fouls, they were observations which we have noted. Making conclusions of bias out of them is far fetched. That their figures went southwards after the restart could have resulted from so many possibilities -loss of form which coincided with their tumble down the table, improved form of other teams such as arsenal, injury to some of their key players such as Ndidi, it could even be pure coincidence after all you need more than just one case to make a theory out of. It could also be because you pointed it out -for which there’s absolutely no support evidence.
    6. Nobody has dismissed your research, however, you can’t expect that because you have done a research, you have answered all the doubts. I remember a commenter sometime ago telling you that peer review is essential for any research work to pass the scientific test of knowledge/acceptance. Every research work is meant to answer a(some) question(s). Once the question is well structured, you must then design a methodology that answers that question, else your research falls flat on it’s face. If the question is “are refs biased when issuing cards against arsenal?”, Then surely a research methodology design that presents card/foul ratio as evidence cannot answer that question.
    Thanks for the audience and I hope you read this reply with an open mind

  15. Joe: I got as far as “And I say it knowing that plenty of counter arguments are not published on untold. I know the rules of posting on untold and I will honestly say that quite of number of such comments do not break the rules. The only reason I can think of for not publishing them is that they argue against the untold point of view”
    Before we go further tell give me examples so I can verify that by searching for them. The part of the site that contains comments which are not published is kept and not deleted, so I can go and check.
    The only people banned from the site are those who have published abusive or illegal comments, otherwise comments such as yours are held in moderation waiting for myself or one of my colleagues to approve them. If we don’t it is because

    a) they are abusive
    b) they are illegal
    c) the email address is false
    d) the ip address used has already been flagged as a source of comments in one of the categories above
    e) they are simply repeating an assertion made without any evidence at all, and which has been published before.

  16. You could start by checking up on banned comments from me in the past. I know myself, I do not resort to abuse in a debate no matter what so that rules out infringement of rule a. I don’t understand what you mean by a comment is illegal so it’s possible I might have flaunted that. Please clarification required here to avoid a repeat. Always used correct email, so I’m sure it couldn’t be rule c. Since I may have broken rule b(pending explanation) I guess I may have also broken rule d. However I suspect rule E, would be the culprit. It doesn’t matter how many times the untold POV is repeated, counter with an argument and I guess you may not get published, simply because someone made the point 10years ago it seems.

  17. Joe there are well over a quarter of a million comments on this site and something in the order of 100,000 that have not been published, and that’s without the large number that were lost each time hackers took the site down. I don’t have time to go through this all.

    I think the article on the 7 Reasons published recently give a fair summary of how those of us involved in Untold see the situation, and we are willing to publish most comments we get even if they argue against us even if it is done without any evidence. And if you feel aggrieved somehow about what we are doing, then of course there are tens of thousands of blogs and all the national newspapers and broadcasters who won’t touch this subject, so you can be happy there.

    If someone writes an article are suggests why refereeing is fine in the PL, and gives evidence then I would normally expect to publish it. That seems fair enough to me and no need to go any further.

  18. Tony I’d advise you to read beyond that point. Joe has put forward very solid argument, full of facts which can be very easily verified (I have done so). After this it would be very unfair to say people never put up a counter argument to yours. In fact I’ll find a way to save it in case you make that comment again in the future. Good job joe

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