How gaslighting excuses Burnley’s tactics, and knocks Arsenal’s reputation

By Tony Attwood

This article continues from “Why do we keep pointing out errors in what the media says”


 Here is an interesting thought, published in the Guardian in an article headlined, “Are Burnley a rough team?  Their red card record suggests not.”

The piece makes the point that their last red card was given on 2 January 2019.   And it adds, “Since Brady was sent off two and a half years ago, there have been 117 red cards in the Premier League. Arsenal have received 13 of them. No doubt Sean Dyche enjoys the fact that Arsenal – a team that supposedly likes to play with a certain style, eschewing the uglier side of the game – have been shown so many more red cards than his side.”

What makes the article interesting is the timing of the piece.  For it turned up in the Guardian just after we published a piece “Why WHU can foul three times as much as Brighton before getting a yellow card”.  An article which contained the line “As for yellows, Burnley are top with 18”.

The Guardian article is about rough teams, and it chose just one piece of evidence to support its view that Burnley are not a rough team.   But it totally ignored another piece of evidence (yellow cards) to show that Burnley is a very rough team.   

An odd omission.  And it was not the only one.  There was also no mention of the fact that this season Burnley have been pulled up for 71 fouls, against Arsenal’s 59.

In fact the record suggests the opposite – yes they are a rough team, far rougher than Arsenal, when we measure fouls (surely a prime sign of roughness) and yellow cards (ditto).   But somehow, amazingly these two factors don’t ever turn into red cards.

Thus as we dig down a little what we find is not just that the story is thoroughly misleading, it is also clearly aiming at pushing the readers away from what actually is a very interesting story.  How come with all these fouls and all these yellow cards, Burnley have gone 100 league games without a red card?  (Or put another way, what are the referees playing at?

Burnley have got a yellow card for every 3.94 tackles this season, Arsenal got a yellow card for every 5.9 tackles, that suggests that Arsenal are a cleaner side when tackling.

One obvious explanation would be that referees are (for a reason I couldn’t possibly speculate on) referees are reluctant to give red cards to Burnley no matter what.   And that really is quite a big story given their number of yellow cards and their number of tackles.

But it is one that Untold, with our regular analysis of tackles, fouls and yellow cards has been heading toward.   Yet, while are still getting our figures together, the Guardian comes out with “Are Burnley a rough team?  Their red card record suggests not.”

This is what we call gaslighting.  The technique of deflecting attention away from something important, by pushing out a totally different story.   The Guardian’s notion that Burnley are less physical or less violent or less law breaking than Arsenal is not what the full set of figures shows at all. 

But they run it – presumably to deflect attention from refereeing.  For the real story is that referees, despite the high level of fouls and yellow cards dished out by Burnley, are very reluctant indeed to give Burnley red cards.  That is was needs investigating

That is a story that clearly the media (and I would imagine PGMO) do not want published.  So instead they deliberately distract the readership by publishing a tale that makes it look as if Burnley are real nicey nice softies, and Arsenal are the violent thugs.   A story only made possible if most of the statistics are ignored.

But there is more, for the article also says, “The Burnley manager regularly defends his players against accusations of what others see as their rudimentary tactics.”

Yes he does.  But what that sentence should have said is, “The Burnley manager regularly defends his players against accusations of what others see as their rudimentary tactics, and given their high level of fouls and yellow cards, we can all understand why he seeks to deflect opinion.”

There is a big story here: why with all these fouls, and all these yellow cards, Burnley don’t get reds.  Not to run that tale is omission.  To run the story without a mention of the fouls and yellow cards is gaslighting.

Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?

12 Replies to “How gaslighting excuses Burnley’s tactics, and knocks Arsenal’s reputation”

  1. Perhaps the Guardian should ask why the Burnley manager is regularly required to defend his side against these accusations. It certainly suggests to me that everyone, apart from Dyche and the Guardian, actually do see Burnley as regularly guilty of the tactics of which they find themselves accused. Or has everybody else got it wrong?

  2. Burnley play a particular style that is physical and can lead to yellow cards being sometimes unfairly dealt to them What they do not do however is undertake the professional fouls that Arsenal and other teams indulge in ( Man City prime example) that lead to Red cards I would much prefer to watch an honest hard working physical side play football than watch the cynical professional fouling of some of the top 6 teams that leads them to get so many more reds than Burnley. Gaslighting is a matter of perspective Turn the floodlights on and you may be nearer to seeing the real picture

  3. Chris, the statement of “the professional fouls that Arsenal and other teams indulge in” is an interesting one to make without any evidence. And what fascinates me is that if that really were the case, why not mention this in the article. It would have illuminated the discussion considerably, but failing to mention the high level of Burnley yellows remains an interesting omission when the article is published in a journal that prides itself on its accuracy of coverage.

  4. Burnley in former times played good football with creative players.

    Now they are a rough outfit, presumably because that is their manager’s preferred way. A bit like Pulis.

    Just like a lot of pub teams, but with much fitter players.

  5. I think it’s a problem of stereotyping. Everybody is expecting Burnley to be receiving red cards. Yellow card statistic is a more objective view on playing style.

    Red card instances are rare in football. EPL Match day 7 had only 1 red card against countless yellow cards. People still played rough but only Ward-Prowse tackle was red card worthy and even then VAR had to intervene.

    Fouling someone through on goal is red card worthy yet more aggressive tackles would only receive yellow cards elsewhere.

    Referees also tend to be more lenient when it comes to second yellow card. A lot of times players already on yellow cards get away with offenses that otherwise would be carded. Liverpool should have gotten a red card. VAR also only intervenes on straight red card offenses. A lot is left to referee.

  6. Dyche is one of the media favourites and this (as Nitram regularly points out) gets in to the referees psyche. He regularly mouths off about Arsenal and others diving, going down easily, cheating and generally trying to con refs whilst emphasizing that he would not stand for such behaviour by his players. I would further suggest that the predominantly northern based refs on the PGMOL list tend to like the more old fashioned physical way of playing, especially when practiced by one of their local teams. They do not want to get lambasted by the media as well as upset Dyche by penalizing Burnley players too severely. Consequently Burnley players often get favourable treatment from the refs, albeit subconsciously, because of their view of the Burnley manager and thus his players (what a nice bunch of chaps) which has been cultivated by the media.

  7. @mick shelley …I agree. Some of the younger crowd might not even know the origins of The Manchester Guardian

  8. mick shelly

    You’ve noticed then ? 🤣

    But seriously, that is exactly how it works.

    The media constantly side with Dyche, especially if he’s having a pop at Arsenal, as they did Pulis anyone else who had a pop at Wenger, as I’ve mentioned before, even to the point of having a right old giggle during a Mark Hughes press conference as he took the piss out of Wenger in a hysterical French accent.

    So just in case some haven’t got it yet, the referees officiate matches in a way they know will save them from criticism from the media, who are their judge jury and executioner.

    In this sense the media run the referees.

  9. Tony

    Your point is proved yet again.

    As certain as night follows day, today in The Sun (Excuse the pun) we have almost an entire page praising Sean Dyche. Apparently he will never apologize for putting substance over style even if his style is so offensive to rival bosses. That’s nice to hear. And at this point you may ask, if you actually cared of course, just why is it his style is so offensive to so many, but no, because as Tony often points out, they don’t really do why ?

    It goes on to say “Jurgen Klopp accused Burnley of dragging the game back 15 years, while Rafa Benitez was none too impressed by some of the challenges they put in on his Everton players”.

    I think we’ve seen an example of those above, and I think anyone with half an eye can see exactly what they are talking about. Obviously Mark Irwin sees nothing wrong with potential career ending challenges. In fact, given the tone of this fawning Burnley love-in, he admires them.

    And then of course we have him picking up on the The Guardians misleading Red Card statistic saying “So you might be surprised to hear that Burnley have just become the first team in premier league history to go 100 consecutive games without racking up a single Red Card”

    Well yes I am, and given we’ve all seen Burnley play, I guess I’m not the only one.

    What isn’t a surprise though is to see no mention at all of the other statistics regarding tackles, fouls, and Yellow Cards, and again of course following on from that the inevitable avoidance of the obvious question, WHY? The question Tony asked. Why are we seeing these very peculiar statistics?

    The funny thing is, if Arsenal had gone 100 games without a Red Card, I’m sure WHY are Referees letting Arsenal get away with it is exactly what they would of asked, but as it’s Burnley, not a word.

    And this is the final crucial part in this.

    The Referees are being left in no doubt that allowing Burnley to tackle and foul with impunity in the complete knowledge that they will not receive a Red card no matter what, is GOOD.

    If Burnley want to kick their opponents off the park that’s up to them.

    Which ref is going to want to be the first to give Burnley a Red Card after all this hulabaloo about how wonderful they are ?

    It’s a prime example of how I believe the media attempt, and often as not succeed, in running the referees, by letting them know exactly how they expect them to referee certain teams.

  10. @ Nitram

    You interestingly quote, “So you might be surprised to hear that Burnley have just become the first team in premier league history to go 100 consecutive games without racking up a single Red Card”. Well yes but that sort of bias is hardly new.

    Some of you may remember that, when England captain, Alan “the elbow” Shearer committed the most fouls by any player in the premiership for two consecutive seasons. Number of yellow and red cards for (if memory serves me right) a total of 250-300 fouls………zero! In terms of probability, winning the lottery jackpot two consecutive weeks ought to be more likely!

    Refs consciously decide who they like and don’t like then make decisions on the field (sub-consciously or otherwise) which conform to their preferences.

    It’s no coincidence that when favoured teams in the EPL play in Europe they end up suffering at the hands of referees in the same way as anyone else, whilst we tend to get fairer treatment than we do in England.

  11. Mikey

    I have also noted, without my usual statistical research I may add, that our referees by and large ‘seem’ referee better in Europe than in England, again I believe simply because they are not refereeing with the English media sitting on their shoulder.

    I am convinced they referee the Premier League in such a way as to please the media, or at the very least avoid criticism, which as we have seen can lead to them being ritually humiliated on TV, stepped down, or I believe on one occasion even demoted.

    I believe we get refereed better in the cups oddly enough, which suggests it’s not our tackling technique that is to blame as surely we tackle in the same way in all competitions ?

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