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Against the penalty rate

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

I was very interested in your column regarding my question (Penalty powers; London living). You mentioned you'd be willing investigate statistics regarding conceding penalties if there is interest. I, for one, would be very interested in reading about that side of the equation in penalty procedure as well, Luke Wronski asked.

So far this season, the team who have been penalised most are Wigan, who have given away seven spot kicks. Indeed, since the start of last seven, they have conceded 15 penalties in the Premier League alone. Joint second are the local rivals Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion, who have both seen the referee point to the spot six times. Norwich, Southampton and Stoke, who have conceded five penalties apiece, complete the top six.

At the other end of the spectrum, two clubs have not had a penalty given against them at all. They are, perhaps surprisingly, the top and bottom sides, Manchester United and QPR. In addition, two clubs, Chelsea and West Ham, have only conceded one penalty apiece.

By way of comparison, last season (38 games as opposed to 29 or 30 of this season, of course) Tottenham conceded one penalty and everyone else at least three. The most penalised sides were Newcastle and West Brom - nine apiece - followed by Wigan, on eight, and three clubs on seven.

The last club to complete a Premier League season without having a penalty given against them were Manchester United in 2007-08. Two years earlier, Arsenal were the only other club to escape such sanction from referees in the past decade. The most penalties awarded against a side in one season during that time, by the way, is 10 against Blackburn in 2006-07.

The most penalties conceded since the start of the 2002-03 season, by the way, is 61 by Aston Villa, who enjoy - if that is the right word - a huge lead. Fulham, Newcastle and Tottenham have all conceded 46 and the Magpies, who were a Championship side in 2009-10, have played one fewer top-flight season than the others. Meanwhile, Wigan have conceded 45 in less than eight seasons meaning that, per game, they are the most penalised team.

Of the ever-presents in the Premier League during the last 11 seasons, Manchester United have had fewest penalties given against them (26), followed by Chelsea (30). Everton, who get few penalties, also concede few, with 35. One other statistic stands out: QPR have played 68 Premier League games in that time, almost two full seasons, and as relegation strugglers, but have only conceded three penalties.

What is the maximum and minimum number of Lancashire clubs that have played in the Premier League era in a single season? Sam from India asked.

The answer to that depends on our definition of Lancashire. The old-fashioned interpretation includes the areas now known as Merseyside and Greater Manchester as well as the current county of Lancashire. The issue is complicated because Wigan and Bolton are technically in Greater Manchester, but many Wiganers and Boltonians would class themselves as Lancastrians.

To start off with the fewest, anyway, in 1999-2000, the North-West of England only had three Premier League clubs: Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United. All have been ever-presents in the Premier League era, so the area has always had a minimum of three representatives from the old Lancashire. None are in what is now Lancashire, so by the current boundaries, the answer is zero.

For the most, we only have to go back a couple of years. Between 2009 and 2011, the North West had eight top-flight teams: Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Wigan along with first Burnley and then Blackburn. In each season, four might be classed as Lancastrian clubs (Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley and Wigan in 2009-10, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton and Wigan the following year), but only two technically are.

I just read that Liverpool once won the league utilizing only 14 players. Bearing in mind the current squad rotation policies, what has been the least number of players that a league-winning team has utilised in the Premier League? Tanel Joon, an Estonian living in Holland asked.

Liverpool did indeed win the league title with just 14 players in 1965-66, a feat which was emulated by Aston Villa in 1980-81. In the Premier League, as Tanel points out, that is unlikely to happen again and indeed the winners to have used fewest players were the initial champions. Sir Alex Ferguson only sent 20 players on to the pitch in the Premier League in 1992-93 campaign and, as three of those - Nicky Butt, Neil Webb and Danny Wallace - made only four substitute appearances between them, in effect United won the league with 17 players.

By the way, United, the probable champions this season, have already used 25 players while Manchester City used 24 when winning the league last season.


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