Everton v Arsenal: the tackles, fouls and yellow cards. What will the ref do?

by Bulldog Drummond

If you have been reading Untold for a while you will know that uniquely, we’ve developed the process of comparing tackles, fouls and yellow cards for clubs, and have found it a great source of information in terms of how clubs set themselves up.  And of course what the referees get up to.

For this set of data, when compared with information on the behaviour of referees, tells us a lot about the long term tactics of Arsenal in comparison with other clubs.

We can start with a general comparison

Club Tackles Fouls Yellows
Arsenal  203 128 18
Everton 264 128 28
Worst offender Brighton – 277 Watford – 198 Brighton – 36
Least offender Man United – 191 Leicester – 114 West Ham – 16

So Everton commit 30% more tackles than Arsenal, but only have the same number of fouls given against them as Arsenal – which means that they must be the absolute perfect tacklers being much closer to Leicester in this regard than to the outrageous Watford.

How do they do it?  As with so much of the referee decision making in the Premier League I really can’t explain this except to say, the referees must be seeing something I can’t.

And yet when it comes to yellow cards Everton are midway in the table with 28.  So they commit the same number of fouls as Arsenal, and yet get almost one more yellow per game than Arsenal.  How come?  Are we being favoured, or are the yellow cards compensation for letting Everton get away with so many fouls?

I’m edging toward the conclusion that referees have been instructed to go easy on the awarding of fouls in order to keep the game flowing but when the fouls are bad enough that TV might make a fuss, they do take action.

Certainly, the contrast between the two clubs in terms of yellow cards is striking.  Arsenal are 19th in the yellow card table (only West Ham have fewer) while Everton are ninth.

So now let us look at the other set of figures we can derive from tackles, fouls and yellow cards.   How many tackles does it take to get a foul, how many tackles to get a yellow card, and how many fouls to get a yellow card?

Looking at the table above we can already see that clearly there is some linkage – Brighton and Hove tackle the most and get the most yellow cards.  So let’s see – and here I have included two other clubs for comparison – Brighton and Hove as they come up top of two of the three tables above, and West Ham who seem to have developed a tactic of avoiding refereeing interference completely.

Club Tackles/foul Tackles/yellow Fouls/yellow
Arsenal 1.59 11.28 7.11
Everton 2.06 9.42 4.57
Brighton 1.96 7.69 3.92
West Ham United 1.87 14.38 7.68

What we can see from this is how referees love to penalise Arsenal more readily for tackles that are defined as fouls, than other teams – even teams like Brighton who end up with far more yellow cards than Arsenal.   Penalising a club for a tackle defined as a foul is easy for referees – the TV commentary makes nothing of it, and the issue is quickly forgotten.

But it is a way of giving a team the advantage time and again, and indeed it is this issue that is at the heart of the gigantic transformation that Mr Arteta brought to Arsenal in the first half of last season.

However the referees know exactly what they are doing – they know they are giving the advantage to Arsenal’s opponents through defining tackles as fouls so often, and they know there can be no appeal against such action.  On the other hand, anything involving a yellow card can go to VAR or even appeal.

Quite what has happened to ensure that West Ham can tackle as much as they wish without getting yellow cards I am not sure.  Of course, I would not wish to allege any collusion between West Ham and the PGMO.  But it is perhaps interesting that the voice of West Ham against an independent regulator of football has been one of the loudest.  For one might hope that an independent regulator might indeed wonder why these figures are a) never reported by the media, and b) so incredibly weird.

And that’s the point: an independent regulator could look at the weird doings of the PGMO.

But to return to the match – Everton will tackle a lot and get away with it, being able to commit 30% more tackles than Arsenal before a foul is called.   However in the end they get their comeuppance.  Arsenal should be allowed to commit 56% more fouls than Everton before the yellow card is pulled out.


2 Replies to “Everton v Arsenal: the tackles, fouls and yellow cards. What will the ref do?”

  1. It’s Mike from Liverpool Dean tonight with Stuart Attwell on VAR .

    No further comment,

  2. You make it appear as if there is a complete lack of professionalism in English refereeing.

    If that were the case I doubt English football would be where it is. It would be one match fixing scandal after another.

    To imply incompetence or unprofessionalism is to say your analysis has not interrogated cause at all. You’ve simply settled on the easiest answer which is the referees must be biased!

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