Arsenal’s new tactics explored in detail and what it means for the season ahead

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
1. Arsenal 29 11 2.63 2 14.50 5.50
2. Tottenham 24 11 1.18 3 8.00 3.67
3. Everton 24 14 1.71 3 8.00 4.67
4. Fulham 24 7 3.42 2 12.00 3.50
5. Leeds 21 13 1.62 2 10.5 6.50
6. Bournemouth 20 18 1.11 3 6.67 6.00
7. Chelsea 19 11 1.73 2 9.50 5.50
8. Newcastle 19 9 2.11 0
9. Crystal Palace 18 16 1.13 1 18.00 16.00
10. Wolverhampton 16 9 1.79 0
11. Nottingham Forest 15 14 1.07 3 5.00 4.67
12. Southampton 14 6 2.33 0
13. West Ham 14 8 1.75 0
14. Brighton 14 12 1.17 1 14.00 12.00
15. Leicester 13 6 2.67 0
16. Manchester United 12 7 1.71 4 3.00 1.75
17. Liverpool 11 9 1.22 0
18. Brentford 11 5 2.20 0
19. Aston Villa 10 16 3 3.33 5.33
20. Manchester City 6 4 1.5 1 6.0 4.00
Total 334 197 30
Average 16.7 9.85 1.79 1.5 11.13 6.57


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:

Season Tackles Fouls  Yellows
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.

4 Replies to “Arsenal’s new tactics explored in detail and what it means for the season ahead”

  1. Tony, without wishing to pour cold water on your efforts you really should have undertaken it after a reasonable amount of matches have been played. Coclusions based on results from one round of matches are worthless. The Arsenal numbers are totally misleading as one of our two yellow cards was nothing to do with tackles it was for a Xhaka dive so rendering Arsenals tackles and fouls per yellow figures exactly half what they should have been. It is quite likely that other teams figures have been just as distorted.

  2. @Mick,

    I find it very refreshing to see how Tony is doing with his statistics what the whole world did last year when Arsenal went 0-3 at the start of the season. Remember ? Sack the manager, welcome to Championship, etc. etc.

    He is upping the ante by doing it after one game, which means if someone want to better him now, they’ll have to make conclusions before the first game starts.

    So he is having a little fun with everyone and no one sees it. Interestingly, his figures stand up and raise a good point. Something was odd last week. During the game there were I think at least 2 situations, maybe even 3, can’t remember, where I was expecting a penalty against Arsenal – just the kind of ‘been there-seen that’ situation. But no. None… left me quite surprised.

    Xhaka got his yellow, we got more yellows by fouls then Palace I believe, but I was not aware of the number of tackles – albeit I did see a team defending to the last man, so it was happening in front of my eyes, I was just not perceiving it. And Tony did the analysis which I find enlightening.

    Which proves you can have some fun and still make sense and share information, not just crap news.

  3. It will be difficult to make any reasonable predictions for Arsenal early this season because we don’t play the top teams until October. We do play ManU at the start of Sep but at present they are decidedly mid table.

  4. @GGG,

    yes and no. We need to stop losing points to lesser teams. So to begin with, such games need to be won, not drawn or lost. As Tony demonstrated qui extensively, 4th and above is decided on razor’s edge. One more victory, one less loss or draw makes all the difference.

    The ability of Arsenal to win a maximum number of games against non-top teams will be decisive. So I do believe that by october we’ll have a better idea of how well the team plays.

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