Why Arsenal recruited a new defence first, then a new attack

By Tony Attwood

Journalists may, by and large, choose to ignore the way in which PGMO officials react to clubs, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the longer-established managers know exactly how to get their players to twist referees around their little fingers.  It is often the manager coming to a Premier League club in England for the first time who is taken by surprise by what happens.

To give a flavour of the variability on offer we can look at Arsenal’s yellow card record of late…

  • 2018/19 – 72 yellows (Emery as manager) – fourth highest number in the league.
  • 2019/20 – 86 yellows (Arteta appointed December 2019) – highest in the league
  • 2020/21 – 47 yellows (zero tackling approach instituted)  – 17th in the league
  • 2021/22 – 60 yellows (new defence) – 13th in the league
  • 2022/23 – 3 yellows in 2 games = 57 at current level   (Comparisons, Man U 8, four clubs on 1)

There has of late been more commentary than usual about how established defenders, who are fully aware how PGMO refs work will manipulate the situation to get the attackers carded or sent off.   Indeed the Telegraph for recently ran a whole piece about how Joachim Andersen worked to get Darwin Nunez sent off,   They didn’t actually say Nunez was hampered by a lack of knowledge of how PGMO works, but it is a clear explanation.

Last season, Anderson’s team – Crystal Palace – were fouled 500 times in Premier League matches – more than any other team than Aston Villa.   And as we pointed out before not just more, but a lot more.  In fact Palace players suffered a third more fouls upon them than Arsenal did.

So as we have said before, the question arises, why do Palace players get fouled so much more than the players of other teams?   And I think the answer is now to be seen and was seen again in the Liverpool v Palace match.

But the odd thing is that even with all the multiple write-ups after the match, no one in the media (at least no one that I could find, and I did read quite a few commentaries) noted the single key point that Palace get fouled more than 18 of the 19 other teams in the league.

And now we have the explanation.   They get fouled more because of the behaviour that was to be found in the Palace v Liverpool game.

And indeed the Telegraph even praised the approach calling it “a 57-minute blueprint for every centre-half in the Premier League to copy.”  Disgracefully, they also call the approach “a textbook” detailing the step by step approach.

So they track “A sly shove”, and “two hands in his back” and an “exchange of words”, and then “a few choice words” as the striker is trying to get up from the latest assault, the “shoulder barge”, the “slap on the back”,  the lean that “sends him tumbling to the turf”…

And all of this is written up WITHOUT A SINGLE MENTION OF THE REFEREE because in effect the referee is doing nothing except give more and more fouls in Palace’s favour, as every other PGMO man does.  And that is the trick of playing along with PGMO and is what certain clubs are engraining into their defenders, knowing that PGMO staff will just let it all go by.

And it is the explanation to the question posed in the “Why do Palace players get fouled so often?” article and the piece The more clubs tackle, the more they get away with it. The stats.

The Telegraph does nothing to condemn the approach – just as it fails to mention just how many more fouls against them Palace get than every other team than Aston Villa (who practice the same approach).

As a final insult to the teams that actually play the game within its spirit and rules, the Telegraph ends by suggesting that there is “a shortage” of players who can do the niggling all the way through a match and finally taunt a player so much that he responds.   “Fees are going up,” they say, and “Chelsea, Leicester City and West Ham are among those looking. All of them must regret not signing Andersen when they had the chance.”

And that really is all you need to know about the reporting of Premier League football.  The suggestion that clubs are regretting not bringing in players who push and taunt rather than play football, and whose one desire is to make the opponent lose his cool and foul them.  The Palace approach is not to be condemned but instead seen as a model for others to copy.

Of course the approach has been in the game for decades, but what Palace and Villa are now doing is taking it to an industrial scale as their “tackles received” figures show.   Just as a reminder, here’s the table we ran before

Fouls committed by Opposition
Position Team Total Per Game
1 West Ham 292 7.68
2 Liverpool 311 8.18
3 Man United 333 8.76
18 Norwich 443 11.66
19 Crystal Palace 500 13.16
20 Aston Villa 512 13.47


One Reply to “Why Arsenal recruited a new defence first, then a new attack”

  1. What next ? Blame Patrick Viera for finally extracting revenge of the EPL refs for all those undeserving red and yellow cards dished out to him by those bumbling clowns ?
    Well played , sir !

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