How Chelsea were brought back to the average by European refereeing.

By Tony Attwood

Juventus v Real Madrid, Champions League, Stadium, Turin, 2013.jpg

If you are a regular reader you’ll know that we have become quite interested in the level of fouling that different clubs engage in – and the way it is treated by referees.  Thus we have been analysing not just the number of fouls that clubs commit but how many fouls a club commits before getting a yellow card.

And that background in analysis has revealed something rather strange happening in the Champions League last night.  Of course the English media won’t report it since it reflects oddly on English referees, but the statistics do make interesting reading.

So we have a basis for comparison, here are the figures thus far this season. 

First the number of fouls showing just the top five fouling teams and adding Arsenal for comparison, this seeason  (If you have not been following these articles, the point behind it all is that Arsenal in one season moved from the club being at the top of the yellow card league, to being bottom of the yellow card league, while greatly improving its league position.  They did it by cutting their fouling rate: you can see our main statistical findings for last season here).

Current PL season fouls
Fouling Position Team Played Total fouls Per Game
1 Watford 6 86 14.33
2 Aston Villa 6 67 11.17
3 Southampton 6 67 11.17
4 Liverpool 6 65 10.83
5 Chelsea 6 61 10.17
13 Arsenal 6 54 9

Chelsea’s figures for fouls in the Premier League are far from excessive – they are near the top, but still clearly mainstream.  

But it is when we look at the number of fouls per yellow card in the Premier League that we find Chelsea in a remarkable position.  They are knocking up a fair number of fouls, but hardly getting any yellow cards.  Tottenham must feel particularly aggrieved since they only have to commit 4.5 fouls to get a yellow to Chelsea’s 12.3

Fouls committed per yellow card (selected teams only)

Club Foul committed per yellow card
Arsenal 6.0
Chelsea 12.3
Leicester City 7.4
Liverpool 11.6
Manchester City 8.4
Manchester United 5.2
Tottenham H 4.5

It is regrettable (at least from my point of view) that we don’t have the resources to investigate this more comprehensibly but we have been able to observe the way it is possible for a club to cut its fouling rate in half, and the way in which PGMO (the Premier League’s refereeing body) selects referees known to give high levels of yellow cards for certain clubs (again covered in our statistical findings for last season).

But now there is something else and it came with last night’s game between Juventus and Cheslea.  In this particular game Chelsea had 70% possession, which would indicate that they would have little need to foul Juventus – quite obviously because most of the time they had the ball.  You don’t foul when you have possession.

And yet according to the official figures from last night’s game Chelsea committed 18 fouls last night (eight more than in an average league game) against Juventus’ seven.

Now this, as you may imagine, is not only rather high (68% above their normal fouling rate in the Premier League) but also very high given that according to the same official figures, Chelsea had 70% of the possession. 

So why would you be fouling far more than normal when you have over two thirds of the possession? (Given the obvious fact that when you have possession you don’t normally foul!)

Thus last night despite taking their possession rate into the stratosphere, they also zoomed up their fouling rate by 68%.   It really is very strange indeed.

The only explanation that springs to mind is that the Chelsea style of play is considered quite normal and acceptable in the Premier League by PGMO officials, but is not seen that way at all by officials in Europe.

Put all this together, and we have Chelsea being called out for 18 fouls in a game instead of their normal 10.17 average.  They also got three yellow cards in one game as opposed to an average in the league this season of 1.2.

In other words in the European game Chelsea’s yellow cards per foul rate came down to the norm for the Premier League – which is to say six fouls per yellow card. (the same level as Arsenal).  But in English League games they commit over double that number of fouls before getting a yellow card.

Which is all a bit curious and I wonder why that is.   Could it be that, as we have dared to suggest on occasion, referees in the Premier League are not quite the paragons of fair-mindedness the media loves to suggest?

The tactics files


5 Replies to “How Chelsea were brought back to the average by European refereeing.”

  1. I think me and many others have commented that in the UK the referees play to a different set of rules/laws to the game of football to what is played in Europe and the world .
    Having watched the PSG v MC the evening before how did Kevin DB stay on the field of play , l don’t think VAR was even interested , so many anomalies .

  2. Read somewhere the other day that Arsenal have the highest number of yellow cards given for time wasting so far this season.
    Instantly thought of your series of articles about us cutting our foul’s out, and had to wonder if that’s a coincidence?!

  3. @Philly the Kid
    Just how many yellow cards for time wasting have we received, then? I can’t remember any…presumably in our 1-0 victories?

  4. @GoingGoingGooner
    According to the tweet I saw… 3.
    I can’t remember them either in all honesty. But, it stuck out to me as feasible given the change in tact.
    (Maybe I’m just biased against the PGMOL?)

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