The Blind Hammer Column

In part 2 of his analysis Blind Hammer investigates how referees are failing to protect West Ham.

Last week I discussed how West Ham were, by a massive margin the most fouled against team in the league. The disparity is startling and not at all marginal. You can look at the post here
In essence West Ham is not only the most fouled team, they attract more fouls by a huge total. West Ham in first place suffers 33 more fouls than Bournemouth in second. This is the biggest gap between teams. In contrast Bournemouth leads a pack with similar records. They have suffered only 4 more fouls than Manchester United, whilst Chelsea is only 7 further behind. In fact the gap between West Ham and the rest is astonishing. To reproduce the gap between West ham and Bournemouth you need to cover a further 10 Clubs, ironically then arriving at the often complaining Manchester city and Arsenal who suffered 66-and 67 less fouls than West Ham. Liverpool who also make similar complaints suffer a staggering 117 less fouls than West ham.

Given the sheer torrent of fouls being executed against West Ham you would thought that referees would be interested in providing protection. Not a bit of it. Across the country referees are not only standing by whilst West Ham suffer foul play more than any other, they are also, bizarrely, in an apparent classic case of blaming the victims, taking disproportionately punitive action against West ham.

West ham not only suffer the most targeted foul abuse, but also suffer disproportionately from referees punishment. Taken Together, the toleration of foul play, and superficially, the apparent disproportionate level of referee discrimination represents A SERIOUS ISSUE. On first analysis it seems that before a ball is kicked the club has a mountain to climb. Not only can West Ham expect their opponents to foul them but also they can expect bizarrely to suffer more from referees punishments.

Here is the table of yellow cards as it stood last weekend.
West Ham are again at the top of the table.
Pos Team Yellow Cards
1. West Ham United 58
2. West Bromwich Albion 54
3. Burnley 51
4. Crystal Palace 50
5. Manchester United 47
6. Watford 44
7. AFC Bournemouth 43
8. Huddersfield Town 43
9. Manchester City 43
10. Arsenal 42
11. Everton 42
12. Southampton 39
13. Brighton and Hove Albion 38
14. Newcastle United 37
15. Stoke City 36
16. Swansea City 36
17. Liverpool 35
18. Tottenham Hotspur 35
19. Leicester City 34
20. Chelsea 30

Whilst the margins are not as dramatic as for the foul table, the appearance of West Ham at the top of both the Yellow Card and fouls suffered tables cannot be coincidence.

So what is going on here? How can this extraordinary correlation of statistics be explained? Now I don’t personally think there is a nationwide conspiracy by referees to discriminate against West Ham. However I do believe there is, in effect, a tactical consensus if not conspiracy by other PL clubs who have commonly subscribe to a specific fouling tactic. I believe this is widely subscribed to as the most effective theory to nullify West Ham. It is difficult to understand the sheer level of inequality in the amount of fouls West ham players experience without some context and explanation of this kind. The margins are far too great for this to be explained by randomness and chance. I discussed the possible tactical rationale and scenarios underlying this in my column last week.

However it is also clear that this unfair tactic is reaping unexpected rewards for opponents. Understandably West Ham players are reacting to being fouled more. Referees are choosing to interpret these battles in each game in what they think is a “fair way”. So in any particular game it is likely that yellow cards will be evenly distributed amongst West Ham and their opponents. The problem becomes apparent though if most if not every game West Ham compete in results in a physical battle. What this means is that over a season West Ham players will be engaged in more confrontations regularly , week in and week out. This would mean that they are not only consistently more at disproportionate risk of injury, West ham are also often at the top of the injury table, but also at more consistent disproportionate risk of picking up yellow cards.
When viewed in this light the appearance of West Ham at the head of the fouled against table, and also the yellow cards table ceases to be coincidence and instead becomes entirely predictable and expected. it is completely logical that West Ham should not only lead by a large margin the table of teams that suffer most from fouls, but simultaneously also lead the table for players picking up yellow cards in retaliation to this physical onslaught.

Picking up yellow cars disadvantages our players by inhibiting their tackling options, and of course also leads to worries of suspension for key games.

Some Sceptics will try dismiss or ignore these objective facts but will also struggle to provide any other convincing explanation of why West Ham should appear at the head of both tables. One thing is indisputable. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if Manchester United or City were suffering from the tactics revealed by these bald and incontrovertible statistics Mourinho and Guardiola would be making more of this. They would insist on making it a focus of national football discussion across all media. This scandal would not be hidden and invisible but shouted from the rooftops. As it is West Ham suffering nobody really cares or is interested. Starting with complaints from David Moyes I think it is about time that West Ham did far more to expose and reveal the this disadvantage that they have endured all season. When all is said and done they are suffering from what is, in the end, a blatantly unfair fouling tactic.
David Griffith
NB. Source for yellow card table.