By Tony Attwood
This is a report on a story that the media is ignoring completely. And it is not the story of Arsenal’s form of late (which is another story they are ignoring, for as you will know, if you have been taking notice, across the last six league games Arsenal have recorded the second best results in the league – only Manchester City have done better, being undefeated over their last six.)
Although even when Arsenal are not the story in the media the Mirror makes them the story as with the headline, “English football’s dirtiest player and club this season as Arsenal avoid top spot“.
Now why would they say “Arsenal avoid top spot”? Are Arsenal normally the dirtiest club in the league?
This season Arsenal has sustained 33 yellow cards in the league from refs. Top of the league is Leeds with 61. So Arsenal are getting 54% of the yellows of the most yellowed club. And yet they talk about Arsenal avoiding top spot!!!
Last season we got 47 yellow cards in the league and the top club got 73. So we were on 64% of the yellow cards of the top club.
The season before last (2019/20) however we were the most yellow-carded team with 86 cards. Now you may recall that it was in December 2019 that Mikel Arteta joined the club, and it was under the reign of his predecessor that the yellows began to get out of hand, and Arteta was unable to reign the numbers in.
If one looks back at the videos from that era what one can see is that Mr Emery (for whatever reason) had no notion that with PGMO referees, and that Arsenal had to take particular precautions to avoid getting yellow cards in a way that Mr Wenger had learned to do. But in the first year of the reign of Unai Emery our yellow card level was 72 – and we were the fourth most yellow-carded club in the league.
Indeed go back to 2015/16 and Arsenal were the least carded team in the Premier League, and although we had wobbles as PGMO changed tactics, we had pulled the number of yellows back to 57 by 2017/18.
But then in 2018 Mr Emery arrived and Arsenal shot up in the yellow card stakes and by the following season, we were the most yellow-carded team. No one it seems had warned Mr Emery about PGMO, or if they did he didn’t believe it (bias and unfairness in England, the home of fair play? Surely not!)
However, the board were certainly blaming him for not knowing about PGMO and not keeping the yellow cards under control.
But the stats were pretty awful – in four years we had moved from the club with the least yellow cards to the club with the most – our card number more than doubling.
|Season||Most yellow cards||Least yellow cards||Arsenal yellow cards||Arsenal league position|
|2015/16||Aston Villa – 75||Arsenal – 40||40||2nd|
|2016/17||Watford – 84||Bournemouth – 52||68||5th|
|2017/18||West Bromwich – 73||Chelsea – 42||57||6th|
|2018/19||Watford – 77||Liverpool – 38||72||5th|
|2019/20||Arsenal – 86||Liverpool – 38||86||8th|
|2020/21||Sheffield United – 73||Liverpool – 40||47||8th|
|2021/22 – thus far||Leeds United – 61||Leicester City – 26||33||5th|
|2021/22 estimated||Leeds – 105 est||Leicester – 47 est||57 est||16th est|
As we can see the number of yellow cards varies season by season, and this season PGMO does seem to be getting quite carried away with the card waving. Indeed the Arsenal number of cards has shot up and at current rates is estimated to total 57 by the end of the season – ten more than last season.
Partially this is due to a new wildness among PGMO referees in their card waving (no club has ever had over 100 yellows before in a season but that is where Leeds are heading).
But Arsenal also have had particular issues as they brought in a completely new defence this season, and it has taken them a while to get used to the way that PGMO referees react to Arsenal players.
Indeed if we look at the defensive record we can see we are getting things under control. Last season Arsenal conceded 39 goals in the league – the third-best defence in the league. This season we are going to be not far from this, having conceded 25 goals in 22 games, giving us an estimated 43 goals against by the end of the season. Just four more than last season, and with a totally new defence.
So the number of goals conceded is going to be almost identical but with a 72% increase in yellow cards!
It’s a funny ol game.