How many times did Saka get kicked against Villa? Five, three were called.

There’s an article in the Telegraph (archived here) in which the author wonders why Saka isn’t drawing many yellow cards. He doesn’t find an answer (though he seems to vaguely suggest that it’s because Saka doesn’t dive) but he does provide some data about how Saka draws about half as many yellow cards as he gets based on the number of fouls he’s conceded and that he’s drawn.

Most Arsenal supporters know this to be true but we would also just add that those are the fouls which are called, I think a lot of us believe that Saka is fouled often without drawing a call much less a card. In order to see if that was true I went back and watched the Villa game this morning and took some notes on the referees and on how both teams felt about the job he was doing. Here they are:

19 – Alex Moreno leaves his studs up and catches Saka on the shin, no call

20 – Saka fouled from behind, shoe pops off, no call

25 – Kamara leaves a high boot in on Benjamin White, no call

35 – McGinn Greco Roman wrestling in the box with Xhaka, no call

37 – Buendia goes down in the 10 yard circle, angry that he doesn’t get the call

39 – Saka leves a boot in on Alex Moreno, no call

42 – Buendia TRIED to foul Saka but Saka throws him to the ground, no call

46 – Saka fouled by Coutinho, referee calls the foul. But there had been three fouls in the buildup: one on Nketiah, then a follow through by Mings on Odegaard before the foul by Coutinho

47 – Saka and Douglas Luiz get a yellow card for a scuffle with Coutinho after the foul above, end of first half.

Noticed that the referee was using GPS accuracy on throw ins in the first half. Also the 4th official at one point went over and told Arteta to get back in his box.

67 – Alex Moreno fouls Saka, referee calls it

77 – That Odegaard miss…

82 – HUGE save by Ramsdale

82 – Saka fouled, referee calls it. Saka wouldn’t be fouled again.

83 – Martinez yellow card for timewasting, I was fast forwarding through all of his goal kicks and on average he took 1 minute each starting in the 11th minute.

89 – Referee stops Arsenal’s attack after three passes because he said the ball was still moving when we took the free kick, leads to the GIF of Arteta mocking the referee

92 – Another big save by Ramsdale off Duran

Conclusion: the ref let a LOT of physical play go in the first half. I think both Saka and Alex Moreno could have been booked for their little late, studs up challenges. Ref also could have booked Kamara for that high boot which caught Benjamin White on the shin.

But he was consistently a bad ref in the first half which eventually led to the emotional outburst by Saka and the yellow cards. In the second half, both teams dialed it back a bit and the physicality of the game subsided. Ref should have given Emi a yellow card for Time Wasting in the 11th minute if I’m honest. It was blatant and absurd. I think even his own teammates were angry with his nonsense.

Another weird thing, at one point in the 2nd half, Saka and Benjamin White had an angry exchange. Not sure what that was about. Probably just two fiercely competitive men wanting the best from each other. White had a great game, I thought. One of his best this season.

Anyway, that’s what I got for today. Maybe I’ll go watch the City match again tonight and take some notes from that. I bet Saka got kicked a LOT in that one.



  1. Thanks for taking the time to build this minute-by-minute record. In the legal system, you’d be applauded for building the factual record.

    It appears the zeitgeist is beginning to take notice of the physical abuse Saka has received/is receiving (

    Before publicly going to a dark place in explaining the perceived discrepancy, filling-in the empirical gaps (like you have done here) will be essential.

    1. It’s difficult because what I call a foul and what you might call a foul are different things. He was pulled a few times as well (by the arms) and I generally tried to just count the big fouls. You know, like kicking him on the shin when clearing the ball or stepping on him from behind and having his boot blow off!

  2. White had a good game? He was stranded for Villa’s second goal, allowing the pass inside that created the cut-back pass. Then, second half, he coughed up the ball a lot. I thought Tomiyasu needed to come on at half time, already. For me, White’s had a drop in form the last couple weeks. Saliba a slight drop too. Not sure if it’s coincidence or causation, if Saliba is having to cover for White’s misplaced passes or if White isn’t getting decent support from Saliba.

    1. Bro, settle down. For the second Villa goal, White just gambled and got it wrong. Gambling is part of his game…he gets it right more often than not.
      Saliba? I refuse to believe you are actually having a go at a 21 y/o who has had a stellar season. Take a breath and look again, mate.

      1. Peace, brother. Love all of em. Don’t see how it’s in the wrong to just point out that they may be going through a dip. I didn’t think White played great on Saturday, that’s just me tho. Martinelli’s been off a bit, Nketiah’s dipping too. It happens.

        1. Just a few things here.

          It’s totally fine to say whatever you want (we have guidelines against ad hominem, racism, and so on).

          I think it’s weird you blame White for the 2nd goal and then say you want Tomiyasu in instead. Tomi was responsible for at least one of Man City’s goals. I’d also point out that Zinchenko was to blame for Villa’s first goal and that I know White was beaten (somewhat) on the outside but that pass to Coutinho should have been cut out by Xhaka. Xhaka swings and misses. Blaming White there is a bit of a stretch in my mind.

  3. One of the many things I love about this season is how the boys stand up for each other. In years past, too few of their fellow players stood up for Diaby, Wilshere, etc. as they were getting kicked to pieces.

    This won’t help to prevent fouling Saka, or helping if he’s injured (yes – knocking on wood as I write) but it will hopefully give him and the team in general, more belief that there exists moral and brotherly support, and this is a real team, a proper collective joined together in singular purpose to achieve something this season.

  4. Remember when there was an uproar that Villa got Buendia ahead of us? He looks like a good progressive passer who works hard off the ball but doesn’t do enough to justify the erstwhile hype or his price tag. He doesn’t make goals or score them often enough for where he plays on the pitch, doesn’t dribble and is not a 1 v 1 threat. He’s really more of a CM profile than a #10, a bit like MacAllister (who incidentally wears #10 despite not playing as one) if he played further forward on a tactically terrible team.

    It’s an interesting counterfactual to think about what if roles were reversed and he ended up with Arteta and Odegaard had to play under Gerrard, but even so I don’t think there can be much argument about who the better player is. Arteta would have got the best out of him and we would love him because he’s ours, but he wouldn’t have elevated us the same way Odegaard has. It’s not just the technical quality, it’s also the leadership, tactical discipline, stamina and mentality to keep improving that he has over Buendia. It’s funny, Odegaard’s defensive numbers look terrible, but anyone who sees him for 5 minutes can tell he never stops running and is the crux of arguably the best counter press around. Buendia’s defensive numbers look good but I didn’t see him make a meaningful contribution on that side of the ball. Arsenal sliced and diced that Villa press.

    1. Yeah, I don’t put any credence in defensive numbers any more, and agree that Ode is a good defender. So much of the game is literally not about the 1-v-1 duels that people get excited about and just about being in the right place. I think he’s excellent at making the passing lanes tighter and helping teammates box in the opponents and I noticed it in this game especially.

      1. What I like is that he’s impatient with slopping defending and positioning.

        The Sambi incident against City in the FA Cup we talked about already. Against Villa, Vieira was running back to defend a Villa attack with Bailey charging down our left with the ball, and someone else charging through the middle. Saliba sprinted back to cover the central runner and bailey’s passing lane to him. Vieira seem momentarily confused about which man to cover, ended up covering neither, Bailey got a good shot off and Ramsdale made a good save. Both Ode (further behind the play than Vieira) and Ramsdale were frantically gesturing to Fabio to go cover Bailey.

        btw Saliba didnt have a faultless game. Perhaps he got too easily done on Villa’s first goal (it was a good shot), but what about that box to box sprint?

        1. I think Vieira did an admirable job of denying both the Bailey drive and the square ball to the other Villa attacker. It was classic 1 v 2 break defending. Plus Vieira couldn’t see Saliba, so I highly doubt he could see Odegard. Finally, I think it was Ramsdale (who could see the entire play develop) who gives Vieira the alert to close down on Bailey after Saliba arrives. Vieira effectively cuts off half the goal for Ramsdale to cover the other half.

          1. Disagree. He ending up marking a space that Saliba had covered, marking no one, and running kind of blind — doing the opposite of what Ode and Ramsdale were yelling and pointing to him to do. I think they know better than us how he should have handled his defensive duty. Should never have let Bailey get off a shot uncontested.

            However, perfect timing of the release to Martinelli for goal 4.

      2. Odegaard is a double revelation for me. He went from a disappointment at Real to a good midfielder at Arsenal, one that is always available, recycles the ball, does not lose it, is technically accurate. Then, with the help of coaching and confidence, he went from that guy to one of those rare midfielders who sees the pass before others, who is in love with the danger he can create, who always favours verticality to lateral passing but if lateral passing is the right choice, it will be executed a bit faster, a bit more accurately. And then he scores goals. He gets closer to a De Bruyne: he always already knows what to do to create maximum danger. Great recruit! And so young still!

      3. Jorginho is another player who doesn’t win too many duels but just knows where to be and where the ball is going. So underrated defensively.

  5. How about Luca Modric at 37, still able to orchestrate a total annihilation of Liverpool at Anfield? Truly a legendary footballer.

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