by Tony Attwood
The opening day’s tackles, fouls and yellow cards table has thrown up some unexpected numbers.
For a start, and as we have mentioned before, Arsenal have reversed their previous policy and gone for multiple tackling. And so as we have entered new territory it is worth seeing what the impact of this is, even though after just one match the results have to be taken very much as preliminary findings.
The range of tackles per club is very large: six by Manchester City, almost five times as many by Arsenal.
One very strange oddity comes with Aston Villa who committed 10 tackles but had 16 fouls awarded against them. Of course fouls can be awarded for swearing, punching, elbowing, headbutting, timewasting, deliberate handball and shirt pulling. Indeed the Guardian’s report says “Jacob Ramsey, who was booked just before half-time for tugging at Pearson.”
These things tend to balance out as the season progresses, and our point has always been that most fouls are given for tackles, and most yellow cards are given for fouls.
|Team||Tackles||Fouls||Tackle per foul||Yellow||Tackles per yellow||Fouls per yellow|
|9. Crystal Palace||18||16||1.13||1||18.00||16.00|
|11. Nottingham Forest||15||14||1.07||3||5.00||4.67|
|13. West Ham||14||8||1.75||0|
|16. Manchester United||12||7||1.71||4||3.00||1.75|
|19. Aston Villa||10||16||—||3||3.33||5.33|
|20. Manchester City||6||4||1.5||1||6.0||4.00|
So what can we conclude from this?
Arsenal could commit 2.63 tackles per foul. The average across the league is 1.79, so that reflects the reason why Arteta has suddenly changed tactics.
And just as Arsenal could commit more than the average number of tackles per foul, so they could with tackles per yellow card. The average is 11.13 and Arsenal committed 14.50.
The average number of yellow cards per team was 1.5 – Arsenal came in with two. And this took their average number of fouls per yellow card to 5.5 while the average across the games was 6.57
So if this opening game was anything to go by, Arsenal are going to be far less hampered with fouls, making the increase in the number of tackles a good ploy.
One match of course doesn’t make a season, but it does give us an insight as to where things are going. It is of course possible that this one match at the start of the season was an oddity, but the defence was basically put together by the manager last season, and the one major addition is an Arsenal player who has been out on loan – so presumably, he has had a lot of information about how Arsenal are playing this season.
This is in fact a mature Arsenal defence – one that knows exactly what the manager is after. Far less mature looking is Manchester United who managed to make just three tackles per yellow card – a rate which is so low that if they carry on this way they are going to have players suspended after about ten games.
And so what does this mean for the season:
|2021/22 – Arsenal||540||363||60|
|2021/22 – highest (all Leeds)||786||469||101|
|2022/23 after one game||29||11||2|
|2022/23 estimate for the season||1102||418||76|
Of course estimating a season on the basis of one game is not reliable, but it does show just how radical the change of policy is, and what would happen if it were to be kept up all season.
And thankfully we have not turned into Leeds Mark II in terms of fouls or yellow cards. If this match were typical we would commit 1102 tackles in the season – 316 more than top tackling Leeds last season. But we would still commit fewer fouls than Leeds last season, despite all these extra tackles. And although we would be stacking up the yellow cards, we would still have 25 fewer than Leeds last season.
It’s going to be an interesting campaign – especially when the media finally wake up and realise something unexpected is happening. I imagine that will be around January, although I wouldn’t put money on it even then.
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