WHU don’t get yellow cards like Arsenal; but how are they getting away with it?

By Tony Attwood

A couple of years back we ran the article d “How a club can commit the most fouls, but get the fewest yellow cards?” and it started a series of investigations into tackles, fouls, and yellow cards in the PL.  We continued this last season and our summary of all of last season’s findings are here.

Our naieve view at first was that clubs that undertook the most tackles would get the most fouls given against them, and clubs that committed the most fouls would get the most yellow cards.  But we soon found that the Premier League isn’t like that.

To look at this we went back and checked tackling across a 10 year period and the results were really strange.

Now some correspondents suggested that all was explained by the ability of players to tackle, but we also looked at which referees Arsenal got, and found that referees liable to hand out more yellow cards got to referee Arsenal most often.  Those that handed out fewer yellow cards got Arsenal less often.

We also noted the influence of the crowd – and there is a whole series of articles on that; you might like to start with Crowdless stadia stats reveal fallacy of PGMO claims about referee accuracy

Our conclusion is not that matches are fixed, but that referees do have the feeling that x is a dirty team and y isn’t, and as a result a foul that might be a yellow card may be given against one team but not another.   Thus team reputations determine to some degree how teams are treated by referees.

The table below is ordered by yellow cards.  Aston Villa get 3.5 yellow cards for each one West Ham get.  Yet West Ham commit many more tackles than Aston Villa.

Liverpool have committed 65 fouls this season, and got six yellows.  Aston Villa have committed 67 fouls and got 14 yellow cards!!!

You might think that the Aston Villa management team might suggest that their players stop tackling (since tackling is the source of most fouls) but wait – they’ve already done that.  Aston Villa undertake fewer tackles than anyone else, but get more fouls against them and more yellow cards.

(Table in order of yellow cards)

Club Tackles Fouls Yellows
West Ham 97 44 4
Liverpool 86 65 6
Manchester City 87 52 7
Leicester City 97 47 7
Chelsea 101 61 7
Arsenal 94 54 9
Tottenham 102 58 11
Aston Villa 70 67 14

As per last season, this season we are trying to understand this further by considering how many tackles various clubs undertake per foul, and how many per yellow card, and then how many fouls equal a yellow card.

The numbers are utterly crazy, so we have put the goodies of West Ham in black above the naughty step kids of Aston Villa.  Villa commit five tackles to get a yellow.  A quarter of the rate of West Ham.

Club Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Arsenal 1.74 10.44 6.00
West Ham 2.20 24.25 11.00
Aston Villa 1.04 5.00 4.78
Chelsea 1.65 14.42 8.71
Liverpool 1.32 14.33 10.83
Tottenham 1.76 9.27 5.27
Manchester City 1.67 12.42 7.42
Leicester City 2.06 13.85 6.71

Now if you have been around the block a few times with Untold, you will know that West Ham are not the first team to achieve this, for we actually started this investigation a couple of years back with an in-depth review of Leicester City who were achieving similar figures.

And we were told that it was because Leicester had this genius tackler which was lifting them up and up the league table.

Unfortunately for them, no sooner had we published our figures than everything went very wrong for the club and they tumbled down the league faster than they had come up.  The reason was that their tackles per fouls ratio fell.

We started all these surveys because we noticed what Mr Arteta was doing.  He took a club that was getting more yellow cards than any other, and took them to the club that got fewer yellow cards than any other, by reducing tackling.

Now he has a new collection of young players who themselves have to be tutored in the strange ways of the PGMO, who as you may know, referee in a way quite different from the rest of civilisation.

The solution is to cut the number of tackles.  That is what Arsenal did last season, and that is why across the last two thirds of last season, we were the second most successful club in the league.

Now we are working on it again, and across the last ten games we have played we are again the second best club in the league.  It takes time, but it is working.

If you want to read further on the strange world of PGMO try this.

Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.

(Footnote: the first ever mention of gaslighting in connection with football other than in this article appeared in the media just six weeks after the launch of the above series on Untold)

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