Liverpool v Tottenham, 7 May: An Arsenal preview

By Bulldog Drummond

Normally we don’t preview games not involving Arsenal, but with just four games to go and two points between us and Tottenham, it seems there is as much attention being given by many Arsenal fans to the games involving the neighbours as there is to Arsenal’s games.

So I thought it might be interesting to do a preview of Tottenham’s game this weekend using the stats that we use to preview Arsenal games, before getting onto the usual Arsenal previews.

There is no doubting the importance of the occasion for as the Guardian says, “falling five points behind Arsenal this weekend could prove very costly going into Thursday’s north London derby and it adds to the sense that neither team can really afford anything but victory at Anfield.”

The complete league table shows Arsenal ahead on points but behind on goals scored, and with a slightly worse defensive record than Tottenham, who now have to play Liverpool.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 34 26 5 3 84 21 63 83
2 Liverpool 34 25 7 2 86 22 64 82
3 Chelsea 34 19 9 6 68 29 39 66
4 Arsenal 34 20 3 11 54 41 13 63
5 Tottenham Hotspur 34 19 4 11 59 39 20 61

So here is the table we regularly produce ahead of Arsenal’s games not comparing all matches, but the home against away results.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool home 17 14 3 0 45 7 38 45
5 Tottenham Hotspur away 17 11 1 5 34 19 15 34

The dominance of Liverpool across 34 games (21 points making it 0.62 more points to Liverpool per game), is replicated when we compare Liverpool at home with Tottenham away (0.65 more points per game to Liverpool).

So that confirms it looks like Liverpool all the way, especially as they have not been beaten at home in the league this season.

Which leads us on to the regular tackles, fouls, and yellow cards table.

You might recall the suggestion – indeed the utter assertion – made by a correspondent recently that “everyone knows” that cards are given for the severity of fouls not the number of fouls, but as we showed there is a direct correlation between the number of fouls and the number of yellow cards.  This was dealt with in-depth in the article “Do refs give yellow cards because of the quality or quantity of the fouls committed?”

In these tables, I have included Arsenal as a reference point, and Leicester because they generally have such extraordinary figures that are ceaselessly out of kilter with the rest of the league.  How they manage it is still a matter for debate, but since we started publishing their figures, it is noticeable that they have been reigned in somewhat.

Club Tackles Fouls Yellow cards
Liverpool 481 327 46
Tottenham 545 351 60
Arsenal 491 319 52
Leicester 586 312 50

So we can see Liverpool commit fewer tackles than Tottenham, get fewer fouls given against them than Tottenham, and receive fewer yellow cards than Tottenham.  Which is logical, but hides a very odd relationship…

Club Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Liverpool 1.47 10.46 7.11
Tottenham 1.11 9.08 5.85
Arsenal 1.54 9.44 6.13
Leicester 1.88 11.72 6.24

Quite clearly, as the second table covering relationships, shows, Liverpool have the better of it on every metric.   They can put in more tackles before committing a foul, they can put in more tackles before getting a yellow, and they can commit more fouls before getting a yellow.

Arsenal also have much better figures that Tottenham, we may note, but Arsenal is still quite a way behind Liverpool in avoiding the referee’s attention in relation to tackles.   But we are massively better at avoiding fouls and cards than we were before Arteta’s total revolution in the first third of the 2020/21 season.

Leicester’s situation, our eternal benchmark for oddity, has changed since we first highlighted their utterly extraordinary figures which showed

Team Tackles 2019/20 Fouls 2019/20 Yellow 2019/20
Arsenal 584 421 86
Leicester City 742 418 41

That was the season when Leicester were able to tackle, tackle, tackle throughout each game and simply not have fouls or yellows given against them.   They put in 27% more tackles than Arsenal, had within a gnat’s whisker the same number of fouls against them, but Arsenal got more than twice as many yellow cards against them!!!   It was bizarre, and I do still feel that our publicity of this outrageous situation helped call the referees to order.

But back to Liverpool v Leicester, all the stats point firmly in favour of Liverpool.  Obviously, the league table does, and as we can see now, the home v away table is the same.  Tottenham are likely to pick up more yellow cards and this can inhibit players’ willingness to tackle, and occasionally force the manager into pre-emptive substitutions to avoid having a player sent off where a second yellow seems to be approaching at speed.

So, there is nothing in the stats to suggest anything other than a straightforward Liverpool win.  Even an analysis of the last ten games for Liverpool at home and Tottenham away doesn’t help Tottenham much, despite their impressive revival of late.

Last ten Liverpool home games vs last 10 Tottenham away games.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool home 10 10 0 0 27 2 25 30
6 Tottenham away 10 6 1 3 19 10 9 19

Any result other than a Liverpool win would surely need the footballing equivalent of a “steward’s enquiry” in horse racing, except, of course, there are no enquiries into refereeing behaviour.  They are secretive, almighty and unchallengeable.

Odd that.


One Reply to “Liverpool v Tottenham, 7 May: An Arsenal preview”

  1. off topic – congrats to Mikel and Jonas for their new contracts.the future for Arsenal football club looks bright, secure and are in the safe hands for the next 3 more years. hope the club will continue to create so many feel good memories and moments in the future. Arsenal ’till i die

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