Club are being encouraged to tackle more and more by referees’ approach

By Tony Attwood

So we have finally got some of our data back – although not on all sites, and not everyone is sorted out yet.   For example type “fouls” into the search box of and at the moment of writing (1155 BST, Friday) one sees this…

Results for ‘fouls’ from over 500 tournaments, 10,000 teams, and 100,000 players are shown below


Name Team Age
Jay Foulston
Jay Foulston


which is not exactly helpful.  Type in “fouls per game” and the reply comes up “Did you mean: foulds per game”   Click on that link and one gets No result found for “foulds+per+game.”

Is anyone leaning on WhoScored?  No of course not, that would be unthinkable.  It must be a coincidence, just like the coincidence we looked at in Suddenly a key set of referee statistics does not appear. Why is that???

And this is odd because WhoScored is normally an excellent source of data, and this is happening just at the moment when our other regular sources of data have removed tackles for and against from their data set (see Suddenly a key set of referee statistics does not appear. Why is that???)

Of course this is not an order from PGMO.  But nevertheless we have something – the tackles and fouls per game data which allows Untold to run its tackles per foul chart (which incidentally evidence suggests does rather upset PGMO)…   The list is in order of fouls per game committed by teams.

Team Tackles pg Fouls pg tackles per foul
1. Bournemouth 15 13.5 1.11
2. Arsenal 18.5 13 1.42
3. Leeds 24 12.5 1.92
4. Aston Villa 12.5 12.5 1.00
5. Crystal Palace 20.5 12 1.71
6. Nottingham Forest 15.5 12 1.29
7. Manchester United 12 11 1.09
8. Everton 20 10.5 1.90
9. Fulham 22 10.5 2.09
10. Chelsea 23.5 10 2.35
11. Tottenham 24.5 10 2.45
12. Brighton 16 10 1.60
13. West Ham 15 9.5 1.58
14. Southampton 15.5 8 1.94
15. Liverpool 15.5 8 1.94
16. Wolverhampton 17 8 2.12
17. Leicester 12.5 7.5 1.67
18. Newcastle 15.5 7.5 2.06
19. Manchester City 7 6.5 1.08
20. Brentford 8.5 5.5 1.54


This puts Arsenal sixth in the league table of clubs that get penalised the most for their tackles.

The team putting in the most tackles is Tottenham with an extraordinary 24.5 per game.  The lowest is Manchester City at 7.00 per game.  So Tottenham are tackling at over three times the rate of Manchester City!!  But they are only getting called for a foul once every 2.45 tackles!  For Manchester C it is once every 1.08 tackles – over twice as often as Tottenham.  Tackle twice as much, and get fewer fouls against!!

Let’s consider these ranges.

  • Tackles per game range from 7 per game for Manchester City up to 24.5 per game for Tottenham.  An utterly astounding range.
  • Fouls per game range from 5.5 per game for Brentford to 13.5 per game for Bournemouth
  • The tackles per foul ratio ranges from 1.08 for Manchester City up to 2.45 for Tottenham.

So Tottenham have, at least for the moment, found the golden ticket.   They can tackle more than anyone else in a game, AND do so in the certain knowledge that the referees are really just going to let this go.

Now we have seen in the past that the more a club tackles the more likely the referee is to reduce the number of times he calls a foul, which is how Leeds survived last season.  This is continuing this year, but now seems to be running utterly out of control.  .

So Tottenham can dish out 2.45 tackles per foul whereas for Bournemouth the ratio is 1.00.    Now before we go on, we should perhaps pause to deal with an issue that has been raised before, that the number of tackles is irrelevant because clubs can put in tackles that are perfectly legal, and if they have a bunch of defenders who are all quality tacklers so they should be able to tackle without giving away fouls.

This was dealt with in the article “Do referees give yellow cards because of the quality or quantity of fouls” where we compared clubs in terms of tackles, fouls and yellow card tables – and found that indeed there is indeed a link between all three.

But the point is that the more clubs tackle, the ratio of fouls and yellows against tackles declines.  This shows that referees are reluctant to dish out multiple cards to teams that tackle a lot probably for fear that it will look as if the referee is “out to get” that team since they will be carded over and over again.

But let’s extract the Tackles per Foul data.  This table puts clubs in the order of tackles per foul.  Villa are first because virtually every tackle they put in becomes a foul.  Tottenham are bottom because they can put in 2.45 tackles before getting a foul called – a huge advantage which they are exploiting remorselessly.


tackle per foul pos Team Tackles pg Fouls pg tackles per foul
1 Aston Villa 12.5 12.5 1.00
2 Manchester City 7 6.5 1.08
3 Manchester United 12 11 1.09
4 Bournemouth 15 13.5 1.11
5 Nottingham Forest 15.5 12 1.29
6 Arsenal 18.5 13 1.42
7 Brentford 8.5 5.5 1.54
8 West Ham 15 9.5 1.58
9 Brighton 16 10 1.60
10 Leicester 12.5 7.5 1.67
11 Crystal Palace 20.5 12 1.71
12 Everton 20 10.5 1.90
13 Leeds 24 12.5 1.92
14 Southampton 15.5 8 1.94
15 Liverpool 15.5 8 1.94
16 Newcastle 15.5 7.5 2.06
17 Fulham 22 10.5 2.09
18 Wolverhampton 17 8 2.12
19 Chelsea 23.5 10 2.35
20 Tottenham 24.5 10 2.45


The sheer range of the tackles per foul data is astonishing.  Tottenham can put in 145% more tackles before a foul is called, than Villa.

So again, tackle more and a lower percentage are given as fouls. The six clubs that have put in over 20 tackles per game so far this season all appear in the lower half of the table for tackles per foul.

In short, to be penalised less for tackles, tackle more often!!

It’s a funny ol game!

One Reply to “Club are being encouraged to tackle more and more by referees’ approach”

  1. Just go on Whoscored. Click on Premier League. Click on Team Statistics and all the information on fouls committed and fouls against is there.

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