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Feb 14, 2013

Penalty powers; London living

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Thus far this season, Liverpool have only been awarded one penalty. Is that the lowest in the Premier League? If not, which teams have less? Is there any correlation between table position and amount of penalties awarded? I guess what I'm asking is: is there any statistical evidence to suggest that bigger clubs get awarded more penalties? Luke Wronski asked.

Since Luke sent his question in, Liverpool have been awarded a second Premier League penalty. Steven Gerrard, who scored at Stoke in December, failed from 12 yards against West Bromwich Albion on Monday. That total of two puts them level with five other clubs, including Arsenal and Everton, and ahead of five more, three of whom are yet to get one: Norwich, Swansea and Tottenham.

The last provides an answer of sorts to Luke's third and fourth questions: Spurs are fourth in the league but at the foot of the penalty table. Those at the top, however, are among the bigger clubs: Chelsea lead the way with eight, followed by Manchester City (six) and Manchester United (five, though they have missed three of them). A generalisation, though, is that successful teams could be expected to be awarded more spot kicks, as they are likely to spend more time in opponents' penalty areas and have players whose skills may mean they are fouled.

That said, while the two Manchester clubs got the most penalties last season (United 11, City eight), they were followed by two relegation strugglers, Blackburn and Wigan, with seven apiece. Liverpool were among four teams awarded six; Stoke, Swansea and Bolton, who went down, were the others. The fewest went to Norwich and Sunderland, who finished 12th and 13th despite only getting two apiece.

However, while bigger clubs tend to get more penalties, it is hard to draw sweeping conclusions. Sometimes it simply varies season by season. Chelsea got 12 penalties in 2009-10; the previous year, they got just two. Sunderland got nine in 2009-10, but they have only had more than two in one other Premier League season since 2002.

And does the same club get more decisions when they are near the top of the league? Sometimes but not necessarily. Everton finished 17th in 2003-04 and fourth 12 months later. They got two penalties both years. In comparison, Manchester City have had 35 since the start of the 2008-09 season - i.e. since they became first wealthy and then successful - after only getting 18 in the previous six years, when they finished between eighth and 16th every time.

The most spot-kicks ever awarded to a club in a single Premier League season is 12, to champions Chelsea in 2009-10 and relegated Crystal Palace in 2004-05, largely for incidents involving Andrew Johnson.

The 2004-05 season was also the last campaign when a club did not get a single spot kick: Charlton were either unlucky or not fouled, depending upon interpretation. In the last decade, only two other teams - West Brom in 2002-03 and Blackburn 12 months later - completed a season without getting a spot-kick.

Since the start of the 2002-03 season, by the way, Manchester United have had the most Premier League penalties, 62, which is one more than Chelsea. Arsenal and Liverpool (57) are joint third. However, it is worth pointing out that only nine clubs have been in the division for each of those 11 seasons; of those, Everton (40) have the fewest.

If anyone is interested, we can investigate which teams concede most penalties in a future column.

What is the maximum and minimum number of London clubs that have played in the Premier League in a single season? Sam, a Chelsea fan in India, asked.

The capital currently has six representatives in the top flight in Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, Tottenham and West Ham and three of those - Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham - have been ever-present since the division's inception in 1992. They are reasons why London has always had at least five teams in the top flight in that time. There have been 10 seasons, including last year, when it has had a quintet of teams.

But there is only one campaign when there have been seven London sides in the Premier League. That was 1994-95 when Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, QPR, Tottenham, West Ham and Wimbledon formed almost one third of a 22-team division. Spurs were the highest-placed London side, by the way, in seventh, with QPR and Wimbledon occupying the next two positions and both Chelsea and Arsenal outside the top 10.

In total, nine London clubs have played Premier League football: Arsenal, Charlton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham QPR, Tottenham, West Ham and Wimbledon.

In Arsenal's game against Stoke City, Stoke brought on all three substitutes at the same time. Do you know if this had happened before? Abhash Khatri from Kathmandu, Nepal asked.

It has, on plenty of occasions. By way of illustration, Tony Pulis also made a triple substitution against Everton last May, swapping Rory Delap, Jon Walters and Peter Crouch for Glenn Whelan, Ricardo Fuller and Cameron Jerome. Walters and Crouch also came off against Arsenal on February 2, along with Geoff Cameron, as Jerome, Michael Owen and Kenwyne Jones came on.

Nor are Arsenal strangers to triple changes: in their Capital One Cup win over Coventry in September, Marouane Chamakh, Serge Gnabry and Emmanuel Frimpong all entered proceedings in the 72nd minute as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud departed. Those are but two examples: there are many more.

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