By Tony Attwood
Can Arsenal really ‘do a Leicester’ and win the Premier League?
That really is the headline over a piece in the Telegraph today.
The piece was written by Jim White – and that may explain something. A recent piece of his in the Telegraph was headlined, “From anal beads to iPhone apps”
But “do a Leicester”??? That suggests some links between Leicester City and Arsenal. But Arsenal have been in the top division of football since 1919, (if this White character wants to know about it, he might care to check our series “100 years in the top division”).
Leicester on the other hand were, in 2008/9 Leicester, in what we used to call the Third Division (now League One) and they won that league. In 2013/14 they got promotion to the Premier League, and two years later they won it.
And at the moment they are bottom, 20 points behind Arsenal after just nine games, which is a pretty extraordinary achievement.
But let’s take this a bit further. Since 2008/9 Leicester have had two promotions and won the league once and the cup once. And indeed it is true to say that during that period Arsenal has not won the league. But we have qualified for the Champions League eight times, and won the FA Cup four times.
So I ask again, what on earth does “Do a Leicester” actually mean? Leicester rose from 14th to 1st in two seasons – an extraordinary achievement I agree. If Arsenal rose 14 places, we’d be… well not in the league because we haven’t finished 14th or lower since 1976. Which, for the sake of Telegraph journalists is, I should explain, 46 years ago.
But there is another factor, for obviously the media is still desperate to avoid anything that remotely looks like an investigation of Leicester’s activities in the past, after the discoveries revealed here about Leicester’s “arrangement” with the referees.
In case you have forgotten let’s go back just a few years and look at the most bizarre set of data we’ve ever found. You will see from the data below that Leicester tackled more in 2019/20 than any other club…
|Team||Tackles 2019/20||Fouls 2019/20||Yellow 2019/20|
|Brighton & HA||641||385||57|
|West Ham U||696||387||62|
But now consider this
|Club||Tackles per foul||Tackles per yellow||Fouls per yellow|
Now of course you might want to argue that Arsenal’s tackles were 28% worse than Leicester’s so fouls were called that much more often. But then why were Arsenal tackles getting two and a half times as many yellows as Leicester’s? And why were Arsenal’s fouls getting over twice as many yellow cards as Leicester’s?
These figures were utterly bonkers, and it wasn’t only Untold that noticed. Arteta noticed as well which is why Arsenal moved from being the most yellow-carded club in the league in 2019/20 with 86 cards to Leicester’s 41, down to 47 cards the following season. Meanwhile (and this may not have had anything to do with Untold’s constant publicity of the situation) Leicester’s cards shot up from 41 to 61.
In fact, we kept on analysing Leicester’s figures in articles such as “Why do Leicester get such strange stats for fouls, cards and penalties?” and our conclusions were clear. Leicester were tackling just like everyone else, but were simply never getting pulled up for it.
Then, following our publicity on the issue Leicester supporters wrote in to tell us it was all because they had a specific player who was the world’s best tackler, and that when suddenly their figures changed, and refs started to give Leicester the fouls against, and the yellow cards we thought they deserved, that was because one player was injured.
It was an interesting theory and we checked – but the dates didn’t match. But by pure chance (!), once we had highlighted that Leicester were, unlike any other team in the league, tackling with impunity, it stopped, and they started to get fouls against and cards just like everyone else.
Later they had another try, this time getting more penalties than anyone else had ever had (Leicester heading for all time record number of penalties). This time we even helpfully explained how they were getting them. And by an amazing coincidence after our article, the penalties stopped.
Now four disasters have hit them at once. First their owners are in real financial trouble and can’t give the club any more money. Second, while all the media was saying that Arsenal were about to get clobbered under FFP regulations, it turns out there was never any suggestion of this, and it was Leicester who were getting the warnings. Third, every referee is aware of Leicester’s tackle / foul / card figures because of our publicity. Fourth every referee is aware of the Vardy trick for getting penalties (ditto).
And so they are bottom of the league. All of which makes “Can Arsenal really ‘do a Leicester’ and win the Premier League?” the most insulting headline ever produced by a sports journalist. Which, considering some of the headlines we have seen, really is saying something.
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- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate