Arsenal: fewer tackles and fouls, but more yellows than Brighton. Why?

By Bulldog Drummond

For me, one of the most interesting innovations of Untold Arsenal in recent years is the comparison of the level of fouls, tackles and yellow cards between different clubs and different referees.  It really does give a clue as to how clubs approach games and how referees approach clubs.

These figures also give a massive insight into what is wrong with refereeing in the PGMO as we have noted before – and will of course come back to again.

Arsenal and Brighton are very close to each other in the number of fouls they commit per game.  (Figures from WhoScored).


Club Tackles per game Fouls per game Yellows per game
Arsenal 14.7 10.1 1.5
Brighton 17.5 10.9 1.4
Manchester City 12.5 8.1 0.9
Tottenham 15.6 9.9 1.7
Chelsea 18.7 10.1 2.0
Liverpool 14.7 8.9 1.2


But although, expressed at the per game level, the difference between Arsenal and Brighton looks modest, when we consider other factors it looks seriously odd.

Arsenal undertake 18% more tackles per game than Manchester City.  But Arsenal have 25% more fouls called against them.  And Arsenal get 67% more yellow cards than Manchester City.   That seems utterly out of all proportion with just 18% more tackles.

And indeed if one were a Chelsea supporter and working out these figures there really ought to be some outrage going on.  (Although we did note that last season Chelsea were tackling with near impunity.  Perhaps the previous owner was able to have a word with PGMO.)

Even now Chelsea undertake 50% more tackles per game than Manchester City and only get 25% more fouls against them than Manchester City.  So maybe Chelsea are better tacklers than Manchester City.  But now, under the new ownership Chelsea get over double the number of yellow cards that Manchester City get.

Obviously Chelsea’s problem, given the oddities of the way PGMO referees behave, is that they have given the outcome of the game to the referees by committing all these tackles – just as Arsenal did under Emery.  

What we can see at once from the figures is that Arsenal now put in fewer tackles per game, commit fewer fouls per game, and yet they get given more yellow cards per game than Brighton – a very weird set of figures.

Overall Brighton commit 19% more tackles than Arsenal.  But Brighton only get 8% more fouls against them than Arsenal.  This means that either Brighton players are much more adept at tackling than Arsenal players or the referees favour Brighton.

Worse, despite committing more tackles than Arsenal, and despite having more fouls called against them than Arsenal, Brighton actually get 9% fewer yellow cards than Arsenal.

Now this is a brilliant trick for any team that can pull it off: more tackles, more fouls and yet fewer yellow cards.

The reality of course is that there is no way of bringing pressure to bear on the PGMO who run the refereeing operation in the Premier League, nor on their individual employees.  The newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and most of the blogs won’t touch the subject of referees, and anyone who does mention refereeing is generally either ignored or said to be looking for excuses.

Yet the figures are there for all to see.  Arsenal commit fewer tackles and fewer fouls than Brighton, but Brighton get 9% fewer yellow cards than Arsenal.  It’s bizarre.

Now of course there might be another explanation for figures such as these, but because, as noted, the media absolutely will not touch the subject we have no debate and no discussion.

The Manchester City figures above are understandable in the sense that they commit fewer tackles than any other club – but Arsenal are 18th in the tackling league.   

Indeed this is a story that we have been tracing from the moment that Arteta took over at the club.  Cut out the tackling, and the club starts to get control of the game back from the referees.  And this is something that Unai Emery never understood while at Arsenal, perhaps because in Europe as in England it is believed that blaming the referee is always nothing other than an excuse. At present Emery’s Aston Villa have the second-highest number of yellow cards from the fifth-highest number of tackles.  But that of course is not our problem.

Arsenal have now taken their tackling down to the same level as Liverpool, but just compare the results.  Arsenal get 13% more fouls against them and 25% more yellow cards than Liverpool.

Of course it might be that Liverpool simply have better players than Arsenal, but even so the feeling remains that there is something seriously odd about the way referees deal with tackles, award fouls and hand out yellow cards    The only thing that is seriously odder, is that utter refusal of the media ever to mention it.

Tackles, fouls and yellow cards


7 Replies to “Arsenal: fewer tackles and fouls, but more yellows than Brighton. Why?”

  1. If I am not wrong, one other odd element is the number of cards Gabriel Jesus has been racking up compared to when he was at City. Then again, maybe playing in an Arsenal shirt makes any player forget the basics ?

  2. So it would seem that referees have received some kind of shock therapy that manifests itself as a strong aversion to certain shades of red combined with white . Would it be too much to ask for a new colour blind refs (Sorry , thats match officials ) association replacing the regular ones and their guide dogs ? Not sure how to proceed with those individuals in the VAR striped tent camped outside . Possibly super gluing lens caps is the way forward .
    Did I dream Jon Sammels having cheery banter with a ref ? Must’ve done .

  3. It’s easy to understand Man. City’s yellows per game when watching Rodrigo. He regularly scythes his way through the opposition without receiving the cards he deserves until at least the 70th minute. Meanwhile substitutes who have been on the pitch for less than 3 minutes immediately receive a card for their first (usually, minor) offence.

  4. At last! Rodrigo’s immunity to sanction has been observed. The other main candidate is Fabinho of Liverpool. At Villa Park he committed a late tackle from behind which went unpunished. It came as no surprise as the referee was the odious Paul Tierney.

  5. I see that Gallagher defended the West Ham penalty by saying that it made up for the one that they were not given on Matt Jarvis many years ago.
    Referees have long memories and this suggests that they try to even things up over time . Hopefully things will change under Webb but don’t hold your breath.

  6. I have observed Rodrigo fouling and being generally aggressive to opponents and even referees, with apparent immunity. Perhaps he benefits from special category protection in the same way that Harry Kane is immune from sanctions for his regular cheating by diving.

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