How Arteta built the new Arsenal and took us to the top of the league Part 1.



By Tony Attwood

The problem with pundits is they start from the premise that they know.  And because they know they can immediately draw conclusions, without bothering to provide much evidence.

Speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, Neville said, “You ask the question now: would Arsenal strengthen in January? What risk does that bring? Do you strengthen to boost the squad or do you strengthen to actually boost the first XI?

“If you strengthen to boost the first XI do you upset one of the players or two of the players that are in there? And that’s the sort of conundrum that will be going through the Arsenal board’s mind at this moment in time.”

Except that statement takes no account of how Arteta has transformed Arsenal.   Now if you tend to read most of Untold’s articles, you’ll know what’s coming next.  But for those who don’t, to be top of the league on 14 November 2022, Arsenal went through a step-by-step transformation.

Step 1: Get rid of the yellow cards

On 20 December 2019 Arteta joined and did not make major changes to the style of play and as a result, at the end of the season, the club had been given 86 cards, more than any other club.  It was not the highest number of yellows (it was in fact the fifth highest – Sunderland got 94 in 2014/15 and that was the record at the time although Leeds reached 101 in 2021/22).

But it was bad news because yellow cards mean that effectively the referee has control of the players’ style of play since once a player has a yellow he will change his style in order to stop the referee giving another yellow.

Now the obvious way in which yellows are given is for bad tackles, and I am sure Arteta would have noted something very strange going on.  Arsenal were solidly mid-table (10th in the league) and I believe he watched in amazement through the rest of the season as the yellow card figures piled up, while he was left noting how differently Arsenal were being treated by the referees from Leicester (to take one example).


Tackles pg Fouls pg Yellows pg
Arsenal 15.4 11.1 2.26
Leicester 19.5 11.0 1.08
Manchester City 13.5 9.5 1.58


Those numbers were wildly different.   Particularly with Arsenal getting twice as many yellow cards as Leicester while actually undertaking fewer tackles per game.

The comparison analysis shows this even more clearly


Tackles per foul Tackles per yellow Fouls per yellow
Arsenal 1.39 6.81 4.91
Leicester 1.77 18.05 10.19
Manchester City 1.42 8.54 6.01


My view is that Manchester City were well aware of this level of variation during Arteta’s time at Manchester City and indeed video of matches show him sitting alone at the side of pitch with pen and clipboard noting data.  And what data it was.

Step 2: Study Leicester

Leicester could commit twice as many tackles as Manchester City without getting a yellow card.  Leicester could commit almost twice as many fouls as Manchester City before getting shown a yellow.  The figures are outrageous, and although I can’t prove it, I believe Arteta’s job included taking note of such data to see exactly how Leicester could commit so many more tackles and fouls than Manchester City without getting cards.

Now Arteta clearly did not change the situation immediately at Arsenal when he arrived – for that could have been a disaster as players tried to adapt.  He needed weeks and weeks of training in the new system before any games were to be played.

Arsenal were 10th in the league when Arteta arrived…


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 17 16 1 0 42 14 28 49
2 Leicester City 17 12 3 2 40 11 29 39
3 Manchester City 17 11 2 4 47 19 28 35
10 Arsenal 17 5 7 5 24 27 -3 22


... way below the low tackling clubs, Leicester, Manchester City and Liverpool.  Besides Arsenal were in free fall when he arrived and he needed to steady the ship.

So he waited and changed the approach through the summer of 2020, and at first it looked like a disaster as Arsenal did not rise up the league.  But tackles dropped by a quarter, fouls dropped by 18% and amazingly yellow cards dropped by 45%.  Interestingly Leicester’s fouling stayed almost exactly at the same level but their yellow cards went up by 49%!!!

Why was that?   Well, you’d have to ask PGMO, but one obvious possibility is that PGMO referees realised that the oddity in Leicester’s figures for tackles – fouls – yellow cards had been spotted and so were no longer giving them special treatment.  Leicester fans argued on this site that it was because their best tackler was injured, but the change in numbers did not coincide with the injury.

Arsenal key data tables 2020/21

8 Replies to “How Arteta built the new Arsenal and took us to the top of the league Part 1.”

  1. Sorry to go of topic so soon but sometimes these idiot scribblers do beggar belief.

    This from another numb nuts masquerading as a ‘football writer’. This time it’s an idiot called James Nursey doing his best to show the World just how stupid he is. This from a piece in the Mirror online basically telling us how Jesus is warning his apparently trophyless teammates that they can’t afford to enjoy being top at Christmas. This is what we were told:

    “Mikel Arteta told Arsenal fans to enjoy being top at Christmas but as one of Arsenal’s few experienced trophy winners, Gabriel Jesus insists their stars cannot afford to”.

    Okay, I’ve no problem with what Jesus says. Keep a lid on it and all that. It’s Nurseys little dig about Jesus being one of Arsenals FEW experienced trophy winners. Is that so Mr Nursey? Let’s have a look:

    Ramsdale: Nothing.
    Zinchenko: 4 Titles, 1 FA Cup, 4 League Cups.
    Gabriel: 1 Croatian Title.
    Saliba: Nothing.
    White: Nothing.
    Xhaka: 2 FA Cups, 2 Swiss Titles, 1 Swiss FA Cups.
    Partey: 1 Spanish Title, 1 Europa League, 1 European Super Cup.
    Odegaard: 1 Spanish Cup, 1 European Super Cup.
    Martinelli: 1 FA Cup, 1 Olympic Gold.
    Saka: 1 FA Cup
    Soares: 1 Europa Cup, 2 Portuguese Titles.
    Elneny: 1 FA Cup, 4 Swiss Titles.
    Holding: 2 FA Cups
    Marquinhos: Nothing.
    Nelson: 1 FA Cup.
    Nketiah: 1 FA Cup
    Tierney: 1 FA Cup, 5 Scottish Titles, 3 Scottish FA Cups, 3 Scottish League Cups.
    Vieira: 2 Portuguese Titles, 1 Portuguese Cups
    Turner: 1 Gold Cup

    So, apart from Jesus’s 4 Titles, 1 FA Cup, 4 League cups and 1 Cupa America, I make that something like:

    20 Titles
    32 Domestic Cups
    5 European/South American Cups

    57 Trophies in total.

    Despite such a young squad just 4 of the youngsters have yet to win a trophy at senior or top tier level.

    So yes Nursey, very few trophy winners there.

    What a prat.

  2. I forgot 2 lads:

    Tomiyashu: Nothing

    Smith Rowe: Nothing.

    Although he has won an U17 World Cup meddle and an U21 Premier League meddle, which isn’t too shabby for someone so young.

    Neither of those change the fact that suggesting we have FEW trophy winners is simply ridiculous.

  3. What Neville fails even when he had been a manager is that when you buy someone it is difficult to keep everyone happy but he has to manage expectations and achieve the team goal.. Would explain why he did so bad.

  4. @Nitram,

    if I am not wrong, I believe Xhaka was FIFA U18 World Cup winner in 2008 or something like that.
    As for ElNeny, did he not win a CAF title ?

  5. Chris

    Thanks for that, you could well be correct. I just had a quick scan through the excellent ‘Transfermarket’ web site, so I could well of missed some trophies.

    It’s called ‘research’, sadly a concept that seems entirely alien to most of these hacks. In fact, as I’ve said before, it’s actually worse than that. They don’t even want to know, or care about facts, or the truth. They have an agenda, for example to endlessly undermine everything we do as a club, and they are going to perpetrate it regardless of any actual facts.

    I know in this case it was just a small dig, but I thought it was a great example of the steady ‘drip drip drip’ of undermining us at every opportunity. A perfect example of how any article with a hint of positivity about it MUST have a hint of negativity in it. You know, just so we don’t get carried away and actually start believing we do actually have some wonderful players on our books.

  6. @ Nitram

    I actually think it’s worse than that. I genuine think that sometimes they may look for evidence to support their argument but if they find anything that contracts their message, they simply ignore it. At the end of the day, a huge percentage of football followers don’t do research either so will simply believe what they’re are fed. I still get fans of other clubs telling me Arsenal are defensively weak and it really doesn’t take much research to disprove that one!

    The media has an agenda which they will peddle with or without evidence. On the odd occasion that there is evidence to support the story they have chosen, they will use those facts……although we all remember how they’re used….ask Tony about Amy Lawrence and our “weakness” in terms of players scoring over ten goals in a season.

  7. Mikey

    Exactly. I’ve said on here before, at work, that the moment I start going into the minutiae of some of the topics covered by Untold and Tony in particular, they glaze over. I don’t blame them really. All they want to do is watch their team. See them win. Check their ‘acca’.

    The truth is, when you dig as deep as Tony does. When you expose the filthy underbelly of those that run our game, it can be pretty depressing. They don’t want to be depressed. They just want to enjoy their football. They will tut and moan, but do they really care? Not really. ‘It all evens out in the end’. ‘It will all come out in the wash’.

    And that’s what these nunbnut hacks rely on. The apathy of an ‘I couldn’t really care less’ football audience.

    The truth. The real truth. Is so unpalatable they don’t even want to know it exists.

    As for:

    “..ask Tony about Amy Lawrence and our “weakness” in terms of players scoring over ten goals in a season.”

    That article has become so notorious amongst us Untold regulars that that particular method of statistical manipulation has earned its own Monica of ‘Lawrenceing.

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