Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Statistics never lie…Or do they?

Warren Smith returns to look at whether the Swans really have been getting a raw deal of it from match officials

After the most recent game against Everton where the team once again felt hard-done by following yet another unfortunate sending off, I immediately began working through the statistics of fouls in the Premier League. As a biased Swansea fan, in each game I increasingly feel a greater sense of injustice due to some missed calls and seemingly biased refereeing. Unfortunately, the simple statistical ratio of cards to fouls did not really help my cause… on the surface.

As you can see in the table above (statistics courtesy of, when sorted by the number of fouls per yellow card ratio, we fall near the bottom. Our overall number of fouls lies in the top 8. We also have nearly a 1-to-1 fouls to fouled ratio, which makes sense considering most teams have learned that fouling a beautifully aesthetic display of passing can disrupt its progression of play. Therefore, why have I walked away each game seeing our team fall victim to another red card without ever seeing the same of another team? It is rather telling when you see that for every 5 yellow cards we receive a red, which is easily the highest ratio. These results offer many separate suggestions. 

First, as Eric mentioned in the article about Shelvey, maybe our players are being too reckless after receiving a yellow card. Shelvey certainly put himself in the hole early by making the dumb decision to kick away the ball after the foul. While I agree with Eric that the second yellow card may have been a little harsh, there was no reason to be in this position in the first place. Bony certainly made some poor decisions that led to his sending off against Southampton. However, can you blame these players for playing so physically? When you are constantly being physically tormented out of your style of play, the natural decision is to play physical back. Bony and Shelvey are both more physical specimens that want to put a tackle in to protect the rest of the team. So why are they then brandished with yellows each game, and other more physical players on other teams are able to escape this same fate?

This leads to my second point - that I believe Swansea are truly living up to Monk’s words. Monk has integrity for the game. While this integrity may lose Swansea some points here and there, it makes me even more proud to be a fan. Monk claimed in a press conference that he fines his players for flopping. On multiple occasions against Everton I saw moments where our players could have taken advantage of an opportunity to slightly deceive the ref due to poor challenges by the opposing team. Montero had an opportunity in the box where the defender stuck a leg out and caught the end of his foot. 

Montero could have made a meal of this challenge, but instead maintained his balance and continued playing. Dyer was also roughly challenged, but he maintained his composure. Sigurdsson is well-renowned for his lack of flopping under intense physical pressure. I would say that these statistics are somewhat skewed because our players do not lie writhing along the ground after a simple ankle-to-ankle contact. The truth of the matter is that until referees stop rewarding such Oscar winning performances, many players will continue taking advantage of the situation. Meanwhile, Monk wants to uphold the beauty and integrity of the game, which I certainly support. Plus who knows? Maybe it will start a trend…

Finally, I must end by making the same point as many writers have before me; that there is a desperate need for the addition of technology. As much as we can hound the refs for poor decisions, we must understand that their job is nearly impossible. First, humans are emotional, so there is no surprise that a crowd can get in their heads. Look at the statistics again. There is a huge difference between the ratio of yellow cards to away fouls and those to home fouls. Secondly, the game goes extremely fast making it nearly impossible for the ref to always make the correct call. I made my second appearance as a Swansea contributor on the podcast Premier Punditry last night, and the Everton contributor made a fair point about the handball earlier in the game. 

He explained that while from our point of view it was fairly obvious it was a handball, but from one camera angle at which the referee was stationed it appeared to go off of the player’s hip. The linesman had a similar poor angle as well. We can argue that the referee should be situated better to make that call, but we must understand how quickly this game is moving. Each year, players get bigger and faster and the speed of the game continues to increase, so we must finally make the move to use the technology at our disposal. I firmly do believe the BPL refs are some of the best in the world and yet even they seem to have trouble making the right calls, so I think it is about time for the league to make the switch.

Thanks to Warren for this piece - it's hard to argue with the introduction of technology and it's something I'm firmly in favour of. Would you like to see referees aided by a video-ref in real time? Use the comment section below to get involved! Give Warren a follow on Twitter @WarrenSmith21