Both teams have now played 15 home and away games each in the league and it is the disciplinary records in these games which I shall compare. Now I'm not saying there is a conspiracy to undermine City's season and to install United as league champions for the umpteenth time. However, I think after looking, you will agree that some of these figures just don't add up.
City's disciplinary record
Seeing as this is a City blog, we'll start with City's home and away record, and here it is.
You'll be able to quickly see there is a large difference to how City are being dealt with home and away.
City have a pretty good disciplinary record at home, ranking 4th fewest bookings, and the truth is that City have had a pretty good disciplinary record for quite some time, even qualifying for European football through the FIFA fair play rankings in the not so distant past. Although this takes into account several other factors, the club's disciplinary record is a major contributor to the overall standings.
Away from home this season, City have averaged one fewer tackle per game than at the Etihad yet apparently commit 4 more fouls and are punished twice as much which makes City the 9th most punished team in the league away from home.
Is it just me that finds this really strange? I sincerely hope not.
What about City's opponents?
I'd say those numbers were fairly even ish, although opposition fans could still say these show that refs still favour the teams further up the table and that smaller teams don't have a 'home advantage' when it comes to officials when they play the bigger teams.
What I would say to that though is that City are being punished equally away from home as their opponents as the numbers quite clearly show, which as I said is twice as harsh as they would be if they were at the ETIHAD stadium. Where's the advantage City are getting away from home against teams lower down the league? There isn't one. In fact it's quite a clear disadvantage.
United's disciplinary record
Unlike the figures produced for City so far this season, United appear to be treated rather the same both home and away and on the face of it that appears to be more lenient than the treatment of City.
United are on average making more tackles with the same number of fouls and the same number of yellow cards resulting from them. What is quite clearly different is that only 1 United player has been sent off, compared to the 3 red cards shown for City.
The biggest difference is actually the treatment of the opposition.
Despite averaging a similar number of fouls on United and City when taking both sets of figures into account, you've got an overall increased chance (17%) of being booked and 4 times the chance of being sent off if you're playing against United.
Basically the opposition are getting a pretty raw deal wherever they play United, but especially at Old Trafford. No surprises there then.
So how consistent do the number of fouls match up with the number of cards shown. You'd expect in general that the higher the number of fouls the higher the bookings. Even accounting for differences in tactics home and away you would still expect a measure of similarity considering we've been told several times by the FA that the referees are fair and consistent.
Unfortunately, that's just not the case with City and United. As you can see by the table to the right, away from home City are pulled up for more fouls compared to the number of tackles and even more of those are being booked. As mentioned earlier, even when you take into account any differing tactics, that doesn't strike me as very consistent.
There is an inconsistency with the way opponents are being judged too. At the Etihad the tackles to fouls ratio is similar to that of City's but there is a greater number of bookings.
Away from home though, more fouls are being called for per challenge but much fewer bookings, meaning that more fouls are going unpunished when City are away from home.
There is much more consistency when looking at how United are being judged. Slightly fewer challenges are being pulled up as fouls compared to City, and slightly fewer of those are being punished with a card.
The major difference is once again with how the opposition appear to be treated. More challenges are being called as fouls and more cards are being shown per foul.
Putting it in overall figures opponents against City are being judged to commit a foul every 1.9 tackles and it's taking 6.3 fouls before a card is produced. With United's opponents though, a foul is being called every 1.8 tackles and a card is being produced every 5.7 fouls.
Just be sure you are aware that this is not the fair play table, that is something entirely different. This shows the disciplinary rankings. Basically the lower the rank, the fewer bookings that team has received, with reds obviously counting higher than a single yellow.
What I have done is taken the liberty of adding in the comparison between the home and away rankings. In essence, a negative difference meas that a team picks up more bookings away from home, and a positive means they pick up fewer.
Fully half of the sides have a + or - difference of 1-4 and this seems to be the 'norm'. A difference of 5 and 6 is pretty rare as there are 3 scores of each, and then there are a few total anomalies with Norwich, QPR, Newcastle and Wigan.
Interestingly, other than Arsenal who have a 'positive' difference of 1, United are the only team expected to challenge for the title to have a positive difference away from home with +6.
Just to reiterate, this means that United have picked up the fewest bookings away from home of any team in the Premier League, so much fewer that they are ranked 1st in the overall rankings despite being 7th best in their home ranking.
City's -6 means that although they are 4th at home, they actually come in at 7th overall.
Newcastle have one of the largest difference between home and away with a -9. Spurs also fall outside what may be deemed as a 'standard' difference with -5.
Could it just be a coincidence that the 3 teams that have been the largest threat to an established order this season are amongst the ones with the highest negative values, picking up many more bookings away from home? Is it also a coincidence that United, who many perceive to get an easy ride have a +6 difference which is outside what could a considered a standard difference of 1-4?
Now I'm not saying that there is a conscious effort being made by officials in favour of United or against City, or that there is a conspiracy within the FA to hinder the possibility of other teams breaking the once closed party of elite clubs, but there are the figures. All I have done is present you with the figures and asked the questions. It's up to you to decide the answers and what the figures mean, if anything at all.
Of course some teams are just dirtier than others and deserve to be picking up more bookings and there is room for interpretation in certain situations. You never know, United might just be the best disciplined team in the league after all...
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