Arsenal the most penalised by refs among the current top four teams



By Tony Attwood

In this analysis, the raw stats are provided by Who Scored while the analysis and comparisons have been undertaken by Untold Arsenal.

And what we are looking for are the factors that have helped the current top four in the Premier League (Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle and Tottenham) achieve and maintain that position.

Goals –  although of course it is possible for a club to get to top of the league with a series of 1-0 wins, in fact this is not how it works in reality.  The current top four in terms of points are indeed also the current top four in goals scored.

Shots – the current top four clubs occupy the top five places in the list of shots.  Liverpool are the interloper having more shots than each of Arsenal, Newcastle and Tottenham.  What they don’t do is turn those shots into goals – they are fifth in the goal scoring league.

Tackles – all the current top four clubs are in the bottom half of the table for tackles, but Newcastle only just make it, committing the same number of tackles as Nottingham Forest.  We can imagine that by this time next year Newcastle’s tackling level will be down at the level of other leading clubs, not least because it is the tackle that gives the power to the referee in terms of calling fouls.

Fouls.   According to the referees, Newcastle commit 42% more fouls than Manchester City.  Arsenal, they say, commit 29% more fouls than Manchester City.  One might expect some variation but this seems weirdly large.  So large it looks like bias.

Yellow cards.   Finally, measuring the basics of defence Newcastle are the seventh worst fouling team in the league which leads to them getting the 11th highest number of cards.  Tottenham are the ninth worst offenders.  Manchester City, of course, get the least yellow cards Arsenal are 14th in the list.   This is a great step forward since back in 2019/20 we were get twice as many yellows as clubs like Leicester and Liverpool.

Pulling all this together we can see in the table below that Manchester City are not only top of the league but also winning in all these main categories – most goals, most shots per goal, fewest tackles, fewest fouls, and most possession.

That quite clearly is the winning formula and the formula to which other clubs must aspire.  The table below shows how close their four rivals are to achieving this.

Arsenal Man C Newcastle Tottenham
Goals 33 (2nd) 40 (1st) 29 (4th) 31 (3rd)
Shots p.g. 15.9 (3rd) 17.6 (1st) 14.5 (5th) 14.7 (4th)
Tackles p.g 14.7 (18th) 12.5 (20th) 16.7 (16th) 15.5 (11th)
Fouls p.g 9.9 (14th) 7.7 (20th) 10.9 (7th) 9.9 (13th)
Yellows p.g. 1.64 (14th) 0.79 (20th) 1.67 (11th) 1.73 (12th)
Possession p.g. 58.1% (4th) 66% (1st) 50.8% (7th) 50.2% (10th)


Looking at these numbers we can see where each club needs to improve to reach the Manchester City level of performance.  Arsenal need to reduce their fouling rate (which can of course be difficult because this is totally in the eye of the referees – the route thus far has been to cut out tackles). 

Newcastle also need to reduce this, even more so than Arsenal.  Tottenham need to reduce all of  the number of tackles, fouls and yellows, which means they have a much longer journey to travel than the other top three teams.  Their whole defensive strategy needs to change if they are going to stop referees giving the advantage to the other team.  Indeed one might say it is a bit odd that they haven’t done this already.  Regular changes of management don’t help however.

In terms of possession, Manchester City are out on their own, and only Arsenal is anywhere approach their level of possession.  Newcastle and Tottenham have a long way to go in this regard.

But let’s see just how referees are treating each team.  The aim in each case is to get the number of tackles per foul, and indeed fouls per yellow card up as high as possible.


Arsenal Man C Newcastle Tottenham
Tackle/foul 1.48 1.62 1.53 1.56
Tackle/yellow 8.96 15.82 10.00 8.96
Foul/yellow 6.04 9.75 6.53 5.72
Possession 58.1% 66% 50.8% 50.2%


Manchester City can commit more tackles before having a foul called, more tackles before a yellow card is given and commit more fouls before a yellow is shown.   As the figures show, they are miles ahead of their rivals in all three areas.   They can basically tackle and foul with near impunity compared with Arsenal, Newcastle and Tottenham.

Part of their strategy comes with holding onto possession, and only Arsenal come within eight percentage points of Manchester City’s ability here.   The difficulties that Tottenham and Newcastle have are shown throughout this chart including that final row on possession – they are over 15% behind Manchester City in these measures.

Of course, whether you think that the number of fouls called and yellow cards shown is a matter of bias or simply a matter of player talent and possession will affect how the club responds.  But certainly aiming for a possession figure of two-thirds, as Mancheseter City have, must be what Arsenal (if not their rivals) clearly have in mind.  Clearly Arteta knows how it was done, and that gives us a huge advantage.

2 Replies to “Arsenal the most penalised by refs among the current top four teams”

  1. World Cup reffereeing

    Brazil – Croatia

    22 fouls on both sides
    1 yeallow on both sides

    Go figure….

  2. English referee , also highlighted by the TV coverage showing Neymar kicking out in frustration , obvious mistake by the referee not seeing it also VAR didn’t think the kick on an opponent worth looking at , just think Xhaka

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