Arsenal v Liverpool: Arsenal’s team and the strange issue of Liverpool’s fouls

By Bulldog Drummond

According to the BBC, “Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta praised his side’s “fight, determination and brotherhood” after the 10-man Gunners frustrated Liverpool in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Anfield.”   Of course it wasn’t a fair battle, according to the Corporation’s headline because “Liverpool miss Salah & Mane”.  Ah, of course Arsenal had no injuries, or players away, or anything like that.  But Liverpool missed two players.

Mind you they also say on the same page, “Eight-time EFL Cup winners Liverpool had lost home advantage for the second leg after a Covid outbreak in their squad saw the planned first meeting in north London postponed until 20 January.”  But actually, that is untrue.  They lost home advantage in the second leg through an utterly unprecedented and world-beating set of false-positive results in their testing for the virus.   Still no explanation with evidence on that one and we are not publishing any more explanations that don’t come with fulsome statistics explaining the world beating false positives in Liverpool.

The Sun, previewing the game tonight has the extraordinary headline “CAR BLIMEY  Arsenal vs Liverpool: Live stream, TV channel, team news, kick-off time for EFL Carabao Cup semi-final second leg”.  Quite what Car Blimey means I am not sure.  Is it a Liverpudlian expression, or a misprint for what the Sun assumes (wrongly) is cockney slang?

Besides, a cockney is a person born in the sound of Bow Bells, but Arsenal’s ground is four miles from St Mary Le Bow church, and I’m sure even the loudest of the bells can’t be heard four miles away – at least not unless the traffic is very quiet and the wind is blowing directly from the south.  Which is very unlikely.

All of which makes the Sun’s prediction for the team also seem unlikely (not least because their commentary says Smith Rowe is still unavailable) but here it is anyway


Tomiyasu  White  Gabriel  Tierney

Lokonga  Smith Rowe

Saka  Odegaard  Martinelli



Pain in the Arsenal offer


Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney;

White, Sambi, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli;



Talksport tell us the game could be called off again.  But the Radio Times are more adventurous saying the team will be


Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney;

Saka, White, Lokonga, Martinelli;

Lacazette, Nketiah

Meanwhile there is a load of chitterchatter from Opta, that lovely statistics company that has utterly failed to realise that measuring tackles, fouls and yellow cards is rather a good way to see what is happening in football.  We commented a little while ago on this in the article “Liverpool adopt a level of fouling not seen before.”

But no, Opta don’t like that so instead they tell us that “Arsenal have won just one of their last 17 matches against Liverpool in all competitions (D8 L8) and have failed to score in their last four against the Reds, having only failed to score in four of their previous 50 games against them.”

You’ll notice a certain negativity about Arsenal here, which is ok if Opta balanced it with comments about fouling, but no.  They continue, “Liverpool have reached more League Cup finals than any other team (12) but have lost the second leg of each of their last three semi-finals in the competition, losing 1-0 each time in 2014-15 vs Chelsea, 2015-16 vs Stoke and 2016-17 vs Southampton.”

And it gets worse as “Under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool have scored more goals against Arsenal in all competitions (43) than they have vs any other opponent.”

There are moments of positivity, such as “The first leg between Arsenal and Liverpool was goalless at Anfield, only the second time in the last 17 seasons the first leg of a League Cup semi-final ended 0-0. In that instance in 2017-18, Arsenal drew 0-0 away at Chelsea before winning 2-1 at home in the second leg to reach the final.”

And also “Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah has scored seven goals in five League Cup appearances at the Emirates, averaging a goal every 46 minutes at the stadium in the competition, and is Arsenal’s leading scorer at the Emirates in the League Cup.”   But nothing about the fouling.  Which is interesting when you consider just how often people hold up Opta as the great god of statistics.

In case you are interested in what Opta won’t ever tell you, here is the list of fouls per game for Premier League teams in order of the fouls committed by team per game and then showing the fouls against that team by others.

Position Team Fouls committed by Team per game Fouls committed by Opposition per game
1 Manchester City 8.86 8.73
6 Arsenal 9.00 9.70
10 Leicester City 9.00 11.58
4 West Ham United 9.36 8.00
18 Norwich City 9.43 11.90
16 Everton 9.47 10.21
20 Burnley 9.59 8.29
13 Aston Villa 9.65 13.90
3 Chelsea 9.87 11.43
8 Wolverhampton Wands 10.00 9.65
9 Brighton and Hove 10.00 9.10
19 Newcastle United 10.20 9.90
2 Liverpool 10.24 8.05
5 Tottenham Hots 10.26 11.11
14 Brentford 10.50 10.64
7 Manchester  United 10.52 8.71
11 Crystal Palace 11.29 12.95
15 Leeds United 11.75 10.30
12 Southampton 12.00 10.38
17 Watford 13.53 9.84

Source: Footstats

So here’s the question.  Why does Opta and the Premier League produce so many other statistics but not this one?   Besides, why do teams not like to foul Liverpool?  Only West Ham suffer a smaller number of fouls on their players per game.   It’s nothing  to do with the way referees react to fouls on West Ham and Liverpool players is it?  I mean like, tackle a Liverpool player and it is given as a foul and you get a yellow card.  That sort of thing.  If not, what is the explanation?


20 Replies to “Arsenal v Liverpool: Arsenal’s team and the strange issue of Liverpool’s fouls”

  1. I’ve read a few from this blog site recently and my god is it emvarrassing!! Non-stop whining and “everybody is against arsenal”…there is no great conspiracy against Arsenal, why would there be?

    This is as snowflake as snowflake gets! You’re almost on par with the “always cheated, never defeated” Celtic.

  2. The free kick for a foul on Saka does not draw a card – it’s the start of selective vision in this cup tie…

  3. Incessant pulls and fouls by Liverpool being passed off with advantage and no cards. It is a PGMOL speciality choice of what to book and what to allow ……

  4. Atkinson books Tomi after giving Liverpool advantage. He has not done that for Arsenal through the whole game.

  5. Liverpool are better at the dark arts; Liverpool get away with little fouls and we don’t.

    Tomiyasu slip/nutmeg causes the first. Second goal was called offside. It was a close call but it was not an obvious error so should it have been overturned? Partey second yellow was deserved.

    Part of the process. We shall learn how to win these close games.

  6. Officiating at its optimum worst. Cards for nothing but Red card only for Arsenal second yellow. The Pool sub gets away without a second yellow.

    The papers will be full of Jota and Arsenal Red cards.

  7. nightmare scenario
    atkinson, yes … but i’ve never grasped the rationale behind playing unfit players.
    tonight 25% of our team (tomiyasu, smithrowe, saka – obviously partey wasn’t either, nor was he mentally ready to play) were not match-fit, against a team that is used to running their opponents off the pitch!
    MA is not the first manager to have done this (picking first-choice, but unfit players rather than their fit backups), and won’t be the last, which has always amazed me because … it never works!!
    not to mention the terrible, downhearting message it sends to the lads (tavares, holding, nketiah) who should have been picked
    as for ben white, there are aspects of his game (lack of pace, of timing, of presence in both boxes …) i find extremely worrying; saying that he pales in comparison with the Kos is an understatement
    one of those games it’s better to forget asap, i guess – bring us back the man city game spirit, lads

  8. It would be interesting to see data on which referee has given us the most red cards.

    Competition between Dean, Atkinson, Taylor, Moss, Marriner, etc.very keen.

    My impression is that Atkinson probably the highest number.

  9. @ Le Gall

    You only had to look at the bench to see why we played unfit players.

    As usual, the media targeted us for doing something loads of other teams had done (I.e. applied for postponements) but we were, apparently, the bad guys irrespective of the fact that we had done what the rules permitted. The fact that the authorities had really poor rules that were inconsistently applied was, apparently, our fault.

    Still no questions about the mathematically extraordinary false positives that were absolutely fine and not worth investigation (or media interest) when it was anybody else. And no question at all as to why we weren’t permitted a postponement when we had fare more COVID cases at the time of the Brentford game.

    What we saw, in several different ways, today was the result of how the premier league chooses to make the playing field unlevel and how the media dictates (or supports) such an agenda. It was almost as though Sky couldn’t wait to show the table of sendings off since MA became manager. No context, no logic, just condemnation. Corruption/bias at its finest.

  10. Just finished watching match lucky Jyota missed hit goal. It was on the ref then Liverpool fouled with no cards until Liverpool scored there second which by then had knocked the wind out of the layers as the were constantly foiled. The coming back from injuries caused a slow down to our players also. Just hopefully everyone gets some rest and practice we will get back to our Manchester City stride.

  11. This is embarrassing … well, it seems that the email address you gave us to make your comment doesn’t actually exist. And although I am not embarrassed to find you imagining that there is non-stop “everybody is against Arsenal” (you’ve obviously been very selective in your reading here) I do wonder why someone who clearly hates what they imagine is on this site, spends time writing to the site to complain about what they have imagined. And from a non-address too Still, we have your IP address, so that should help protect us against your rather strange ideas in the future.

  12. The offsides against Arsenal were flagged immediately unlike the Liverpool ones allowed to flow into any amount of fouling and not checked until the ball was in the Arsenal goal.

    Well done Liverpool. Your success will never be so helped by officials as in this match.
    The PGMOL are corrupt and any games where their involvement is gets tainted by unsporting cheating including in the Women’s football.

  13. @GoingGoingGooner,

    as far as I am concerned I don’t care too much about the result. We are in a building year, so it will take time.
    However, one thing is starting to make me very hungry for the future. Or one player : Martinelli.
    That guy is a gem. He was nos thrown in too fast, but now he is a regular and what he does is just incredible.
    It does not measn that other players are not good or getting better. I just feel he sticks out.
    He is at the center of our future. And it looks bright.

    As for refereeing, maybe we should start a crowdfunding drive with the aim of sueing the PL and PGMOL for not being faithfull and tilting the scales in systematically naming the same referees for Arsenal against any basic statistical methodology. That would put the issue front and center and suddendly all and sundry would have to explain how 5 times in 20 games balances out.


    Not only the offsides. Any foul against Arsenal does not get any kind of review. Any foul from an Arsenal player goes under the microscope to see if they can justify anything. And the TV production does the same. No replays unles it is an Arsenal player committing whatever they think. And then you’ve got the Merson idiot laughing with the commentators about ’15 read cards Arteta’ like he is part of the bunch not even seing he is their excuse and they’ll never respect him because he was a Gunner (to me he is a traitor and is no more).

  14. @Chris You’re right just before the match I was watching with a Liverpool supporting brother in law said merson is a joke and alcholic. His reply was hes change his life around… yes I see that too with replys there is only one angle when it is a replay fouling arsenal yet theres multi angles when its arsenal fouling. The double standards were there to see again to the medias agenda like oh look 15 red cards flash flash.

    Maybe it would be fascinating I would do it as a job if the crowd funded me and get other supported in to do the arsenal ones so it won’t be biased.

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