WHU v Arsenal: the injuries and cards and why are clubs fouling 4 teams particularly?

By Bulldog Drummond

Explanation: in this piece I started out with a regular look at injuries and yellow cards.  But in so doing stumbled upon one of the most curious sets of stats I’ve seen in the Premier League in the past year.  So, sorry, I got diverted, but we’ll be back to WHU v Arsenal in the next piece.

Part 1: The injuries.

As we know, Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey are out for the long term, but Bukayo Saka appears to have recovered from the knock he got in the last game and should be ready to play.

West Ham have three players out: Issa Diop could return before the end of the season, but is not ready yet, Craig Dawson is suspended and Angelo Ogbonna is said to be very unlikely to play again this season.

Part 2: Yellow cards

Moving on to yellow cards Leeds now have an unassailable lead for yellows with 93.  Newcastle United are second with 75, while Aston Villa and Everton are on 70.  Of the traditional “big six” Manchester United are top with 68.

Three of the traditional “big six” are in the bottom six of the yellow card table for the Premier League this season.

Rank Club Yellow cards
15. Arsenal 50
16. Leicester City 47
17. Norwich City 47
18. Liverpool 43
19. West Ham United 40
20. Manchester City 37

Leeds, with their 93 need just two more to become the carded, to reach the record total which is currently held by Sunderland who in the infamous 2014/15 season were outright winners.  Here’s the top of the yellow card league for that season

Rank Club Yellow cards
1. Sunderland 94
2. Stoke City 82
3. Tottenham Hotspur 79
4. Manchester City 77

And the current situation at the top of the table for 2021/2…

Rank Club Yellow cards
1. Leeds United 93
2. Newcastle United 75
3. Aston Villa 70
4. Everton 70

Part 3: Tackles, Fouls and Yellow cards

So we can now look at the tackles, fouls and yellow cards for the season.  As we have done sometimes before, Leicester are also included because quite often we find their figures to be totally out of kilter with other clubs, suggesting something odd is going on, which no one at Untold, nor anyone working in the media at large, seems able to identify.  Or at least able to identify in a way that stands up to statistical scrutiny.

Club Tackles Fouls Yellow cards
Arsenal 475 310 50
West Ham 486 291 40
Leicester 570 304 47

And the relationships…

Club Tackles /Foul Tackle / yellow Foul / Yellow
Arsenal 1.53 9.50 6.20
West Ham 1.67 12.15 7.28
Leicester 1.88 12.13 6.47

So West Ham can get away with slightly more tackles before a foul is called, but a lot more tackles before a player gets a yellow card.  In fact as can be see West Ham have now reached Leicester City’s level of over 12 tackles before a yellow card is given.

Arsenal and Leicester are close together on how often a referee will give a yellow card in relation to the number of fouls.  But here West Ham can get away with an extra foul for each yellow.

Of these three teams, Arsenal are the club that suffers most throughout – a tackle is more likely to be called as a foul, a tackle is much more likely (28% more likely in fact) to result in the player being given a yellow card.  West Ham are 17% more likely to have a foul penalised just with a free kick rather than a yellow card.

In fact West Ham are penalised for fewer fouls per game than any other Premier League club – they get on average 8.56 fouls per game, lower even that Manchester City.

Teams playing against West Ham also get a smaller number of fouls against them, than when they play other clubs  The figures are just for this current season and is in the order of fouls committed by the opposition per game this season.

Part 4: Teams marked in red commit more fouls on average than the opposition in individual PL games this season.

The percentage of fouls committed by the opposition column represents how different the opposition is from the first named team.  So in the first line, in an average West Ham game the opposition commit only 90% of the number of fouls as West Ham.

Team Fouls committed by  team per game Fouls committed by opposition per game % of  fouls committed by opposition compared to home team
West Ham 8.56 7.71 90%
Liverpool 9.58 8.27 86%
Man United 10.32 8.53 83%
Burnley 10.18 8.58 84%
Man City 8.82 8.94 101%
Watford 11.85 9.58 81%
Wolves 10.24 9.61 94%
Brighton 10.56 9.76 92%
Arsenal 9.39 9.85 105%
Southampton 10.85 9.94 92%
Brentford 9.82 10.09 102%
Leeds 12.18 10.21 84%
Newcastle 10.26 10.26 100%
Everton 9.84 10.75 109%
Tottenham 10.24 10.79 105%
Chelsea 10.69 10.94 102%
Leicester 9.50 11.22 118%
Norwich 9.48 12.06 127%
Crystal Palace 10.70 12.94 121%
Aston Villa 10.34 13.72 133%

Now some of these figures are really strange and they are going to take some consideration.  But to be clear with one example, Arsenal commit on average 9.39 fouls a game.   In those games the opposition on average commit 9.85 fouls a game.  So they foul us more than we foul them – but only by a tiny amount.  Five percent more in fact.  Fully understandable because Arsenal have a policy of avoiding tackles and therefore getting fewer cards against them.  Most teams playing Arsenal tend to tackle Arsenal more than Arsenal tackle them, so they get more fouls than the opposition against them.

Part 5: Why are some teams fouled much more than others?

Consider Aston Villa.  Villa are 13th in the fouling league.  To be clear, 12 clubs commit more fouls than Villa do.  This means they are fairly near to the average (which would be 10th).  But when the opposition come to play Villa, they seem to go beserk, committing 33% more fouls against Villa than Villa do against them!!!  


Do teams really play against Villa and go into the game thinking “Let’s kick them off the park?”   And if the answer is “yes” then again, why?

In fact the figures of Leicester, Norwich, Palace and Villa are all weird.  They are persistently being fouled by the opposition, irrespective of who the opposition is.  Yet none of them have players so good that the only way they can be stopped is by fouling them.

So could it possibly be that those four teams are encouraging referees to think that they have been fouled when they have not?  

In simple terms here is the conundrum…

Why are so many clubs fouling the players of Leicester City, Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa so often?

when they don’t seem to be fouling the other teams in the league in the same way.

Here’s one possible conclusion: it’s a funny old game.

One Reply to “WHU v Arsenal: the injuries and cards and why are clubs fouling 4 teams particularly?”

  1. Here is another possible conclusion : IAM – Incompetent Arrogant Morons in charge of refereeing and players are not stupid. They know ther referees and know what they can afford (or not afford in case of Arsenal players…..).

    So add up the 2 and you get that result : some teams can get clobbered more then others.

    It ain’t just Arsenal getting a tilted playing field and it is great to see that statistical proof published first here on Untold.

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