Arsenal v Brentford analysed
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By Bulldog Drummond
This time we take a look at the tackles, fouls and yellow cards for Arsenal and Brentford, and then by way of comparison add in two other teams: Leeds United and Manchester City. Our figures are taken from Who Scored.
|Club||Tackles pg||Fouls pg||Yellows pg|
Manchester City commit the fewest tackles, are whistled for the equal fewest fouls, and receive the smallest number of yellow cards of the four selected teams
Now we turn to the ratios…
|Club||Tackles / Fouls||Tackles / yellow||Fouls / Yellows|
Arsenal, and Manchester City commit the lowest number of tackles before getting called as a foul. That would suggest that Arsenal’s and Manchester City’s defenders are far worse at the art of tackling than those of Brentford and Leeds United. Which seems very unlikely and contrary to all observations. But it is was the referees say.
Arsenal can commit the smallest number of tackles before getting a yellow card – in fact committing only 69% of the number of tackles before getting a yellow card that Manchester City have to commit.
Not surprisingly therefore Arsenal are penalised more heavily for their fouls than the other teams in this chart. Arsenal commit six fouls before getting a yellow card, while Leeds and Manchester City can get away with 45% more fouls before getting a card.
Whichever way we look at this Arsenal are being penalised more harshly than the other teams in this chart, and so either one must take it that Arsenal’s tackling is between 45% worse and 69% worse than that of Leeds United and Manchester City – which seems hard to believe – or that the referees are more prepared to penalise Arsenal than other clubs.
In fact, we know from repeated analyses of this type that the more a club tackles the more lenient referees become – probably for fear of handing out yellows so often that players start being taken off or sent off. Indeed this pattern appears through the whole Premier League. The more a club tackles, the less often a referee is likely to card the club’s players – when in fact the reverse should be the case.
Arsenal are thus once again being penalised by referees in an unreasonable way.
This was the reason why after he first came to Arsenal, Arteta started the process of reducing the number of tackles the players put in, in order to stand a greater chance of Arsenal finishing with 11 players on the pitch.
But despite Brentford and Arsenal committing the same number of tackles per game on average, Arsenal are awarded more fouls against them and more yellow cards against them than Brentford! If you think that Arsenal are persistently committing far worse fouls than Brentford, then that would seem reasonable. But watching the club play does not suggest that to me. It is the referees’ propensity to call a lower percentage of tackles as fouls, the more the club tackles. Leeds United know this and is exploiting it.
The clubs with the most yellow cards this season are Fulham (54) Manchester United (52), Nottingham Forest (48) and Crystal Palace (47)
The clubs committing the most fouls per game are Leeds United, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United
So we can see that two of the top four yellow-carded teams, are also two of the teams in the top four for fouls, which is some consolation in that clearly the cards are not being handed out utterly at random.
But still there are oddities. Arsenal and Manchester City are almost identical in terms of the number of tackles committed before a foul is called. Yet Manchester City commit 44% more fouls than Arsenal before getting a yellow card. We are therefore asked to believe that Arsenal’s fouls are 44% more dangerous than Manchester City’s. Watching both teams on TV where it is possible to get a close look at the fouls, it really doesn’t seem that way to me. In fact nothing like that.
Referee belief in whether a club is a “fouling team” or “essentially honest” seems to come into play. Or if not that, then there is some referee bias, either conscious or unconscious, which is rather unsavoury.
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