Which clubs are getting up the league by raising the number of fouls committed?




By Tony Attwood

This season has seen an explosion in the world of yellow cards in the Premier League with some clubs becoming notorious for the number of cards they have picked up.  Chelsea for example have collected 56, Aston Villa and Brighton each have 48 and Tottenham Hotspur have received 47 plus four reds.

At this rate Chelsea will end up with 118 cards, whereas last season they received 77 – a 53% increase.  Put another way that is more than half as many again as previously.

OK so maybe that is Chelsea – they are perhaps just going mad on bad tackles as they are on bad transfers.   But what about the media’s new favourite: Aston Villa?   They have had 48 cards meaning that if the current rate continues they will end up with 107.    Last season they got 80 – which means they are heading for a 34% increase this season.  Not as big an increase as Chelsea but still pretty large.

Now one of the main areas of expansion for yellow cards has been “unprofessional conduct” which the PGMO seems reluctant to define, but examples have been given to include…

  • Arguing with officials over a decision.
  • Persistent fouling, with none of the individual fouls being worthy of a card, but continuing after the referee has given warnings about future behaviour.
  • Diving as if one has been tackled
  • Serious foul play
  • Delaying the restart of the game after a foul, goal, award of a corner etc
  • Dissent either by arguing with the official or by an action (such as an arm action) to indicate contempt or disregard for the official and his/her decision
  • Using vulgar or coarse language
  • Violent conduct
  • Disrespecting opponents
  • Unsporting behaviour
  • Entering the referee review area
  • Lack of respect for officials
  • Spitting

So now we know the line-up let’s see who has been guilty – and here we can see that even when we have separated out the fouls from the unprofessional behaviours that have generated cards we have a large number of “other” reasons…

R Team Fouls Unprofessional Other
1 Sheffield United 39 2 18
2 Chelsea 32 5 18
3 West Ham United 31 1 14
4 Nottingham Forest 30 6 8
5 Aston Villa 30 3 16
6 Tottenham Hotspur 30 3 20
7 Burnley 28 0 11
8 Everton 27 2 9
9 Fulham 27 1 16
10 Brentford 26 4 11
11 Manchester United 25 2 17
12 Brighton & Hove Albion 25 4 21
13 Crystal Palace 24 1 12
14 Newcastle United 24 4 14
15 Wolverhampton 24 5 22
16 Arsenal 22 0 8
17 Luton Town 22 0 12
18 Liverpool 19 3 15
19 Bournemouth 17 3 14
20 Manchester City 16 7 11


So what might these “other” reasons be?   I can’t find anything official from PGMO to describe “other” situations – and of course we know from years of experience that where they can make things more obscure they will always do so – but hints that we can pick up suggest we might well be looking at reckless fouls, trips, kicks, diving, the excessive celebration of a goal, verbally distracting an opponent, and sarcastic words and actions.

What we do know however is that Tottenham Hotspur have put in more tackles than any other team this season – averaging 20.4 tackles per game.   They are also fouled more than any other team with 14.9 fouls against them per game.  This would suggest the two activities are related – the more a team tackles and fouls, the more it gets fouled in return.   If that is right, then it is another reason for clubs to lay off fouling, and another suggestion that Arsenal are getting this right..

But the contrast between Arsenal and Tottenham does lead to an interesting discussion, for those interested in unravelling which approaches to playing are working best these days.

WhoScored has a listing of Premier League teams organised by their own rating procedure which takes into account a range factors but does not include how many times each team commits a foul.    We’ve taken the top dozen clubs in that ranking and then added the number of fouls per game, so that we can see if each club in the top rankings is fouled by others more than it commits fouls, or vice versa.

In this table the numbers show us the number of offences per game.   So Fouled pg shows the number of times the club is fouled per game and Fouls pg the number of fouls the club commits per game.   That allows us to create the final column showing whether the club is fouled more than it fouls, or vice versa.

The clubs that are committing more fouls than the number of times they are fouled are shown in red.

Team Fouled pg Fouls PG Dominant
1. Manchester City 11.4 9.5 Fouled
2. Liverpool 10.3 11.9 Fouls
3. Tottenham 14.2 11.3 Fouled
4. Arsenal 10.9 9.8 Fouled
5. Newcastle 12.7 10.5 Fouled
6. Aston Villa 13 11.0 Fouled
7. West Ham 10.4 11.2 Fouls
8. Everton 9.1 12.6 Fouls
9. Crystal Palace 12.6 11.4 Fouled
10. Chelsea 11.8 12.1 Fouls
11. Brentford 10.8 11.2 Fouls
12. Manchester United 9.7 10.6 Fouls


Now this is interesting because the only clubs in the group that we have been looking at which commit more fouls than they receive are all clubs that we might consider to be engaged in the less creative side of the game – except for Liverpool and Manchester United.  

Liverpool are considered by most to be engaged in interesting and exciting football, and they are highly praised by the media for this.  

And yet they are fouling more than they are fouled – as are Machester United.

Now with Man U we might expect this, as they are struggling somewhat in the league, and trying to find any means possible to get back into the top group, but looking at these figures what becomes clear is that Liverpool have carried themselves up the league with a vigorous and indeed illegal form of football generally more associated with Leeds’ attempts to win the league than the way Liverpool are portrayed in the media.

I’ll try and take this further in a future article

3 Replies to “Which clubs are getting up the league by raising the number of fouls committed?”

  1. There are two very interesting points to note about comments like this. One is the absolute lack of evidence that is offered in the suggestion that the article has errors. The other is that the article is sent from a non-existent email address. I think these two factors do tell us quite a lot about the person who wrote it. The only thing we do have is the individual’s ip address, which does help a bit, and is of course on occasion.
    But I think the repeated sending of emails like this in relation to Liverpool does say something.

  2. People. I’ve said for a few years that Pool is probably the dirtiest (dark tricks) side in the league. An example of that is Tsimikas on Saka when they throw their arms in the air after contact as if to say ‘What are you doing?’. See Diaz and the way he kicks the opponents and is allowed to continue with it while Havertz gets a yellow as an afterthought so he may miss the WHAM game. I’ve also stated to my Pool friends that Klopp has taught Pool to fall over at home as they get the free kicks that way many a time. Watch Salah & see how he goes down as if he’s shot every time an opponent touches him. I said last week I think we’ll get a point and am very happy to have been right in this instance. Remember how we lost the game there last season when 2-0 up & see the dirty tricks they engaged in to rattle us. This time we stood up to them & I can assure you Tsimikas wouldn’t lie to play against Saka again soon. Just see how he was holding Sakas leg while stopping him to get past him to play the ball. These are the things that I say is justified as I think his collarbone was broken by Klopp falling on him, not by Saka.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *