Granit Xhaka’s yellow card against Aston Villa angered Arsenal fans but do the stats suggest he is harshly treated?

Granit Xhaka’s booking in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday prompted an angry reaction from supporters who believe he is treated harshly by officials.

The midfielder was shown his sixth yellow card of the season after tangling with Emiliano Buendia late in the first half at Villa Park, where Bukayo Saka’s strike gave the Gunners an important win.

But what exactly led to the booking? And what do the statistics say about Xhaka’s treatment by officials this season?

What did Xhaka get booked for?

Xhaka was penalised for a foul on Emiliano Buendia

In the final minute of the first half at Villa Park, Xhaka goes to ground on the left-hand side of the Aston Villa box following a challenge by Buendia which is deemed to be fair.

Xhaka immediately gets up and attempts to regain possession but appears to pull Buendia back as he attempts a tackle, with referee Andy Madley blowing for a foul.

A frustrated Buendia then tries to shove Xhaka in the back and the Switzerland international responds by offering to shake his hand, before pushing Buendia in the chest when the Argentine refuses.

Madley then confronts Xhaka and points to three different areas of the pitch, implying it is not his first offence, before raising his card.

What was the Ref Watch verdict?

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Dermot Gallagher gives his view on Xhaka’s yellow card against Aston Villa and backs referee Andy Madley’s on-pitch decision

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher told presenter Rob Wotton he backed Madley’s decision in Monday’s edition of Ref Watch on Sky Sports News.

WOTTON: “An innocuous-looking challenge [by Buendia], Xhaka reacts to it, and then he ends up getting a yellow card for three offences that also took place.

“Does his reputation play into it? What’s going on there? Because to me it looks like a very harsh booking.”

GALLAGHER: “The referee actually signals that it’s for an accumulation of offences.

“It wasn’t just for that, it was one that had been coming.

“I think that’s why he gets it. It’s not that he’s picked on, as you put it.”

Does Xhaka commit a lot of fouls?

Arsneal player protest a decision during their 2-1 loss to Manchester City
Xhaka has received four red cards and 48 yellows in the Premier League

Xhaka has a reputation for disciplinary issues.

He has received five red cards in six seasons at Arsenal, including four in the Premier League – the joint-most in the division in that timeframe – while only Oriol Romeu has received more than his 48 yellows.

Against Aston Villa on Saturday, however, it was pointed out that, despite the referee’s gesture before raising his yellow card, Xhaka’s foul on Buendia was his first and only offence of the game.

In fact, across the Premier League season as a whole, his total of only 19 fouls places him 110th among all players.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win at Aston Villa

Angry Arsenal fans took events at Villa Park as proof that Xhaka is unfairly treated by officials – something the player himself agrees with.

“When you see some tackles and imagine if I was in this position? I would be sent off straight away,” he said in an interview with The Athletic in January.

“This makes me do things in a different way sometimes because I know that my risk compared to the risk of other players is not the same.

“If I [take a] risk, I know I am closer to a red card than any other player in the Premier League. Maybe I am wrong but that is what I feel.”

Do the stats suggest Xhaka’s fouls are disproportionately punished?

Arsenal fans are entitled to feel aggrieved by his booking at Villa Park, and a look at the season as a whole shows he ranks 29th among Premier League players in terms of fewest fouls per yellow card.

That may not sound particularly high, but it should be noted there are 240 Premier League players to have received at least one yellow card this season, meaning Xhaka is in the 87th percentile for fewest fouls per booking at 3.2.

Leeds’ Rodrigo has made the fewest fouls per yellow card having received eight bookings from only 14 fouls, while Brentford’s Pontus Jansson (six bookings from 11 fouls) and Tottenham’s Cristian Romero (eight bookings from 12 fouls) rank second and third respectively.

The rankings are dominated by defenders and defensive midfielders, unsurprisingly given they operate closer to goal, where infractions are more likely to be punished, but Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo is fifth having received five bookings from 12 fouls.

Who makes the most fouls per booking?

Chris Wood takes on a Watford defender
Chris Wood has only received one booking despite making 27 fouls

At the other end of the scale, the players who average the most fouls per booking are Crystal Palace and Newcastle forwards Jordan Ayew and Chris Wood respectively, who have both made 27 fouls but only received one yellow card each, perhaps by virtue of committing most of their offences in less dangerous areas of the pitch.

Among players in Xhaka’s position, Leicester’s Youri Tielemans stands out having only received one yellow card despite making 20 fouls.

West Ham and Watford midfielders Tomas Soucek and Juraj Kucka, meanwhile, have only picked up two bookings each despite making 35 fouls apiece.

And what about teams?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp greets Sadio Mane.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have averaged the most fouls per booking this season

In terms of teams, Liverpool have averaged the most fouls per booking in the Premier League this season having received 35 yellow cards for 285 fouls at an average of 8.1 per card.

Watford, Manchester City and West Ham make up the rest of the top four in terms of most fouls per yellow card, with Arsenal sixth having received 40 yellow cards from 264 fouls at an average of a card every 6.6 fouls.

Leeds receive the most cards per booking having been shown 90 yellow cards – the most in the division – from 363 fouls, a statistic which perhaps reflects their tendency to press their opponents aggressively under both Marcelo Bielsa and his successor Jesse Marsch.

Who has made the most fouls without being booked this season?

That honour goes to Xhaka’s former Arsenal team-mate Joe Willock, who has made 30 fouls for Newcastle this season without receiving a yellow card.

He is closely followed by Xhaka’s current team-mate Alexandre Lacazette, who has made 28 fouls without being booked, with Southampton’s Che Adams (23) and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus (22) next on the list.

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