Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal were said to be ‘too nice’ so are they any nastier under Unai Emery?

English referee Paul Tierney shows a yellow card to Arsenal's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
English referee Paul Tierney shows a yellow card to Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

Arsenal picked up a host of yellow cards against Huddersfield on Saturday. In fact, they picked up three for simulation while Huddersfield only picked up four for kicking the crap out of Arsenal for 90 minutes. I do sometimes wonder what order football has its priorities, but that’s not what I wanted to look at here.

With Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis picking up their fifth yellow of the season following on from Granit Xhaka getting his and three more players being on the verge of a suspension, I wondered what this year’s yellow card rate looked like compared to the last few years under Wenger.

English referee Paul Tierney shows a yellow card to Arsenal's German defender Shkodran Mustafi (L) for simulation during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
English referee Paul Tierney shows a yellow card to Arsenal’s German defender Shkodran Mustafi (L) for simulation during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Huddersfield Town at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

Of course, this doesn’t overly tell you how cynical a team is playing. Anyone watching Arsenal v Huddersfield on Saturday would be left with no room for doubt that the Terriers were the team doing the terrorising, yet somehow Arsenal came away with more yellow cards.

But it should give us a rough idea of how things are playing out. If you’re interested, I previously looked at whether Arsenal get more yellow cards for fewer fouls than other teams.

This season Arsenal have picked up 41 yellows and one two-yellow red in 23 games, but I’m not really concerned with reds at this point.

That’s a yellow rate of 1.78 per game.

Looking back over Wenger’ final three seasons, this is indeed a higher rate than the Frenchman’s sides produced, but not by as much as you would think.

  • 17/18 – 55 games, 88y 1 2yr 4r = 1.6 per game
  • 16/17 – 55 games, 95y 1 2yr 4r = 1.72 per game
  • 15/16 – 54 games, 68 y 2 2ry, 2r = 1.25 per game.

As you can see, there is a massive jump between seasons 15/16 and 16/17 and, while Granit Xhaka’s red card record before he signed for Arsenal has been massively exaggerated, it’s hard to miss the fact that he signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2016.

This season, he leads the Arsenal yellow count with six.

Last season, he topped our charts with 12, the same number he got in his first season (we won’t mention his Jon Moss reds because, well, you know).

So, although it seems like Arsenal are tougher on the pitch, at this point of the season they aren’t really picking up that many more yellow cards that would indicate a massive sh*thousing sea change. Lots of shouting and protesting but not much line-crossing.

Extrapolated out over a 55-game season and we’re on course for 98 yellows by the end of the season.

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.