Why do we get so few penalties?

One of the first pieces I did on here back in August 2009 was entitled “Why do we get so many penalties?” – with us having been given three penalties in our first four matches in 09/10, it had got to the stage where there was a 36% chance we would be awarded a penalty if you went by games played in 08/09 and 09/10. The number of penalties we got continued at around the same rate for the next couple of months and, by the end of October, we had been given a further four in our next thirteen matches which meant that in a spell of sixty nine matches we had been given twenty four penalties – that’s one every 2.9 matches or one in 35% of games we played.

Something odd happened after Peter Whittingham converted a penalty on his way to his hat trick at Sheffield United in late October 2009 though. In the seventy seven games we have played since then, we have been given a total of eight spot kicks so we are now getting one every 9.6 matches or in just over 10% of our matches – why such a drastic change?

Back in August 2009, I produced a list which identified the players who had been fouled for our penalties – here’s the updated list which covers the whole of the 08/09 and 09/10 campaigns;

Fouls on

Bothroyd 6

Ledley 5

Chopra 5

McCormack 2

Burke 2

Scimeca 1

Whittingham 1

McPhail 1

Eddie Johnson 1

Roger Johnson 1

Handball 2

So, virtually two thirds of all of our penalties over the previous two seasons were given for fouls on three of our players. After those three pens in our first four games of 09/10, we earned a further seven penalties over the rest of the season with four of them given for fouls on Bothroyd, two for fouls on Chopra and one for handball. However, only three of the penalties came after October with one for a foul on Jay, one for a foul on Chops and one for handball. Bringing things up to date, this season we have been given five spot kicks – two of them for handball and one each for fouls on Whittingham, Chopra and Olofinjana.

An increasingly rare sight - Peter Whittingham taking a penalty (this one was against West Brom and it's the only spot kick we have been given for a foul on Jay Bothroyd since October 2009).

Given that the large majority of our penalties were being given for fouls on one of three players, it is easy to see the reason why we are not getting so many now – referees virtually stopped penalising defenders for penalty area clashes involving Bothroyd, Chopra and Ledley from October 2009. In Joe’s case, there is the obvious mitigating circumstance that he is no longer at the club, he also spent a good portion of the latter half of last season out with injury and, when he did play, it tended to be in a deeper role. As for Bothroyd and Chopra, they have both had a pretty lengthy spell out injured this season, but the fact of the matter is that over the past seventy seven matches we have been awarded a total of three penalties for fouls against them whereas we were given nine involving them in the previous sixty nine.

So, are our two main strikers not looking to go to ground as often and easily as they once did? Hardly – if anything, I would say they do it more now than they did before and I am guessing this would be the reason match officials would give if they were able to give an honest answer to a question about their attitude to penalty claims involving these two players now. It seems to me that from November 2009 onwards, Messrs Bothroyd and Chopra have been in some sort of refereeing black book which identifies, for want of a better word, divers!

When you look at those three fairly recent penalties we were given for fouls on Bothroyd or Chopra, they all fall into the pretty blatant category (the fouls by Bruce of Leicester and Turner of Coventry on Chops certainly do and while the one by Olsson of West Brom on Jay is not as clear cut, I reckon it was the right decision), but, anything more debatable than that then it would appear that the benefit of the doubt goes to the defenders whereas pre-November 2009 the opposite tended to apply.

Having now seen them on Cardiff City World, there were two reasonable claims for penalties in Saturday’s match for fouls on Bothroyd and Chopra, but I don’t think either fell into the obvious spot kick category and it seems to me that this is what it needs to be now for us to get anything for penalty box clashes involving our two strikers.

In what was, arguably, our most important league match of the season, at QPR, Jay Bothroyd was brought down late on in the penalty area – it looked a clear penalty, but Kevin Friend didn’t give it. Would Mr Friend have given the spot kick if, say, Seyi Olofinjana, had been the City player involved and, conversely, would the very soft penalty Jon Moss gave us at the City Ground have been awarded if Jay had been the player involved rather than Olly?

I honestly doubt whether we would have got that penalty at Forest under those different circumstances and I am afraid that it’s hard to see the situation changing any time soon. While I suppose it is reassuring to know that penalties are still being given for obvious fouls on our strikers, it looks like we are going to continue to miss out on ones involving them that they we would have got a while back or if a different player was involved. If I am right in the conclusion I’ve come to, then, no doubt, opposition supporters will say that Bothroyd and Chopra brought it on themselves and, to be honest, it would be hard to disagree with them.

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