Arsenal v Leicester: how will the ref handle Leicester’s multiple tackling?

By Bulldog Drummond

So far this summer Leicester have bought no one and got rid of or loaned eight players, the only one of whom has brought in any money is Kasper Schmeichel who was sold for £1m to Nice.

Arsenal however have brought in five players at a cost of around £113m.   Quite a difference.  And it is the same with departures.  24 players have either been sold, released or loaned out by Arsenal bringing in £22m.

These two sets of figures tell us a lot about the state of the two clubs.  Arsenal have a clear vision of where they are going and how they are changing.  Leicester, well… it is hard to say.  Maybe they just think that last season’s finish of 19 points above relegation, and the same number of points below qualification for the Champions League, is about right for them.

Part of Leicester’s problem is that in recent years they have introduced two new strategies which have indeed worked astonishingly well for a while, but then been found out, or if you prefer, countered, by referees.  First the multiple tackle approach and then the mega-penalties.

It was the 2019/20 season in which Leicester took on the rest of football by devising a tactic in which they could tackle at levels not seen since the 1970s but get far fewer fouls given against them than other clubs.   Here are just the figures for Leicester and Arsenal in 2019/20.

Club Tackles Fouls  Yellows
Arsenal 2019/20 584 421 86
Leicester 2019/20 742 418 41
Difference – 112 +3 +45


That anyone could actually try to defend those figures (112 more tackles during a season, but three fewer fouls and 45 fewer cards than Arsenal), is odd, but they did.   And figures like that carried on into 2020/21 before referees began to get a grip.

Leicester then went for getting multiple penalties and looked at first to be in line for a record number of penalties – by a huge number.  But then by a curious coincidence, once we had published our article on these strange stats, the level of penalties (like the number of tackles) dropped dramatically.  All very odd.

And it seemed then that Leicester had run out of ideas, for having gone in for wholesale tackling without being penalised, and heading for the all-time record number of penalties – it all stopped.  Leicester finished last season in eighth.

So eighth in the league – and no new players coming in…  Maybe they now have a new tactic up their sleeve.  Or perhaps a return to the multiple tackling of previous years.  Time will tell.

In the tackle league table for last season Leicester were still near the top, although almost 100 tackles behind Leeds United…

pos Club tackles fouls tackles per foul
1. Leeds United 786 469 1.68
2. Everton 705 368 1.92
3. Leicester City 690 356 1.94
17. Liverpool 554 363 1.53
18. Arsenal 540 363 1.49
19. West Ham United 534 324 1.65
20. Manchester City 498 320 1.56

Everton and Leicester were the two clubs who could truly could get away with tackling last season, far fewer of those clubs’ tackles being called out as fouls.   The notion that Leicester and Everton have far more able defenders, who can deliver clean tackles, than three of the top five clubs of last season is very, very hard to explain other than through the notion that these top tackling clubs simply bore the referees into submission.  In short, they tackle so often the referees just stop giving fouls against them.   It’s not right, of course, but I can’t find any other explanation.

Whether Youri Tielemans, having been part of Leicester, would now fit into Arsenal’s approach, given that the club seems also to have moved over to multiple tackling (at least in last weekend’s game) is hard to say, but that is what the media thinks: Tielemans to Arsenal has been the journalists’ go-to story since before the end of last season.

But let’s move on.  Our concern over Leicester’s tackling policy comes as much from last season as earlier seasons.   150 more tackles by Leicester, yet fewer fouls and fewer yellow cards than Arsenal in the last campaign.


Club Tackles Fouls  Yellows
Arsenal 2021/2 540 363 60
Leicester 2021/2 690 356 55
Difference -150 +7 +5

The worry for Saturday is that referee Darren England is loathe to call tackles as fouls, and he was 15th in the list of referees for calling fouls last season as we saw in the earlier article.

Indeed looking at the figures above, the referee could be our biggest worry in the match against Leicester.

4 Replies to “Arsenal v Leicester: how will the ref handle Leicester’s multiple tackling?”

  1. The reality of the Premier League is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of 6 clubs (7 if you include Newcastle). This financial inequality has intensified in recent seasons. All of the 14 non-rich clubs have to sell before they can buy. You say Leicester have let 8 players go but none of those have been first team players (with the exception of the goalkeeper who has been replaced by another international. Last season, the rich 6 won 70% of their games against the other 14. That figure, which is likely to increase this season, illustrates how uncompetitive the Premher League is.

  2. @Ash G,

    yes, however, how competitive is the championship in Germany, Spain, France, Italy ? One or 2 teams, that’s pretty much it.

    Then again, the top 6 have avoided relagation if I am not wrong since the PL started, which may not be the case of all or most others. That alone means, I’d venture, hundreds of millions in terms of revenue difference over 10 years. Which put them in a position of advantage that just kept growing with each year in the top part of the PL, and then, onto that, was added owner’s money, with some clubs getting more then a billion. oher clubs need to play roulette with relagation, which, when you think about it, just means any long term strategy is mostly futile.

    This is why I’m all for a closed league like the NFL, with strict salary cap and rules. Which in theory the ESL would be.

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