Five Most Disciplined Sides of EPL 2015/16


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English Premier League 2015-16 season is almost done; almost because there is still one game to play after Manchester United’s final-day fixture with Bournemouth was abandoned and done because the lone remaining game is inconsequential. Man United’s game against Bournemouth will not drastically change what’s already dusted for the season.

Leicester City are the champions and Arsenal contrived to escape the ignominy of finishing below Spurs. Manchester City chose to dillydally between Champions League and Europa League qualification before settling down on giving Pep Guardiola the welcome he deserves. At the other end of the table, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Norwich City chose at least one year in oblivion by getting relegated.

But that’s not all as far as the season goes as there are many parameters like goals scored, shots saved and fouls made to decide the success of a club. While forwards often hog the limelight, their poor cousins at the back don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s at the back that the discipline of a team is developed, which defines the shape of the team and eventually their fortunes. So, what defines the defensive discipline for a team?

It’s never easy to zero down on specific criteria but for the sake of discussion let’s look at the following:

  • Goals Conceded
  • Clean Sheets
  • Cards – Yellow & Red
  • Fouls given

We used the data from WhoScored and Sportsmole to determine which sides will top our criteria for disciplined teams.

Goals Conceded

Surprisingly, it’s the brittle defence of Manchester United that tops the list here and the bulk of the credit goes to the infallible David De Gea, who led his team’s steely defence that leaked 34 goals, with still one more game to go. That’s a ratio of 0.89 goals per game.

Tottenham had a great season that defined largely by the goals of Harry Kane but one can’t discount the effect of the back four. The five goals conceded in the final game of the season blotted their otherwise good record, but Spurs still boast an excellent record having conceded just 35 goals at a ratio of 0.92 goals per game.

Arsenal aren’t far behind. The Gunners conceded 36 goals at a ratio of just 0.95 goals per game. And these numbers are the same for champions Leicester City too. The Foxes’ back four led by Wes Morgan has been a revelation. Manchester City have Vincent Kompany to thank for its record of 41 goals (1.08 per game) for the season.

Clean sheets

A clean sheet is always the sign of a disciplined defence and numbers don’t lie. Once again, it’s De Gea who heads the list with 19 clean sheets that should be a tribute to his own form than of United’s defence. Arsenal are following closely with 18 clean sheets, something that Petr Cech has improved ever since crossing the divide.

Manchester City and Leicester are close behind with 16 and 15 clean sheets of their own while Hugo Lloris picked up 13 clean sheets for Tottenham.

Cards – Yellow & Red

What better to rate the discipline of a team than the cards dished out to a team! As far as yellow cards go, it’s Arsenal that are the best in the business with just 42 cards, a little over one card per game. Leicester City again shows their utility with 51 cards while Manchester City and United are a bit more frail with their defence having picked up 61 and 64 cards respectively. Spurs are a little poor in this record with 72 cards, almost two yellow cards per game.

But Spurs haven’t picked a single red card throughout the season, which is the same as Manchester City. United picked just one red while Leicester and Arsenal received three and four respectively.

Fouls Conceded

Cards don’t reflect the fouls committed by a team. Though, most teams end up making strategic fouls. Arsenal are once again at the top of the pile with 31 fouls while Leicester City gave away 41 fouls. Manchester City, Spurs and United are a little too benevolent with their fouls. They gave away 48, 52 and 56 fouls of their own.

Our top five

And if only the above criteria is used, Arsenal would pick up the mantle of being the most disciplined. Leicester City wouldn’t be too far while Manchester City and Tottenham will be stacked close together. And just like the Premier League table, United will have to make do with being fifth on the list.

Do you feel this is indicative of the defensive capabilities of the teams?

Azhar Nadeem
Azhar Nadeem
Ordinary person, Humble Soul, Wordsmith, love to hear solid arguments, Daring to express diff. of opinion, Islam, Pakistan and @PakistanTribune are my passion


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