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Talking Tactics

Season trends: Tackles tumble behind closed doors

Adrian Clarke 31 Jul 2020
Seamus Coleman and Ben Davies

Adrian Clarke analyses how the Premier League was different in post-lockdown matches, including fewer challenges but more fouls

Adrian Clarke looks at trends from the 2019/20 season.

Tackles, fouls and bookings

There have been fewer tackles in Premier League matches since the season resumed behind closed doors.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the campaign to be postponed in March, there were on average 33.7 tackles per match.

This continued a downward trend since 2006/07, when the figure was 47.5 per match. And the numbers have dipped even more post-lockdown.

Without supporters inside the stadiums, there have been just 29.4 tackles per fixture.

Has the absence of fans made players less combative? Perhaps.

Nine of the 10 full Matchweeks that took place behind closed doors were below average for the frequency of tackles. And five of the season's lowest six totals arrived after Matchweek 30.

Matchweeks with fewest tackles
Matchweek Fewest tackles
35 243
31 277
36 278
37 288
24 288
34 292

Interestingly, despite the decrease in the number of tackles, there were more fouls.

Players may have lost some of their sharpness during lockdown and then mistimed more challenges when they returned.

The lack of noise inside the grounds is also a possible a factor.

With contact between players more audible in an empty stadium, officials may have been able to spot fouls a little easier.

Tackles and fouls per match
2019/20 Pre-lockdown Post-lockdown
Tackles/90 33.7 29.4
Fouls/90 21.2 22.3

Yet interestingly, in spite of the increase in fouls, there were fewer yellow and red cards than usual in matches played since June. 

Prior to the break there were on average 35.1 yellow cards per Matchweek, or 3.51 per fixture.

But from Matchweek 30 onwards, that average dropped to 29.2 cautions across the 10 fixtures, or 2.92 per match.

And in terms of sendings-off, there was one red card per Matchweek post-lockdown, down from 1.2 across the first 29 weeks of the season.

Although a sample size of 92 fixtures is not large enough to draw any definite conclusions, it does appear that Premier League football has changed without supporters inside the grounds. 

Also in this series

Part 1: Season trends: High press more popular than ever
Part 3: Season trends: Quality on rise as midfield takes focus
Part 4: Season trends: Wolves pioneering formation shift

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