From prolific tactical foulers and elbow swingers to aerial aggressors and less than subtle hatchet men, every Premier League club has a dusting of players that tread the line between competitiveness and downright dirty play.
Some of the players who fall into the aforementioned nefarious categories have reputations and records that reflect their on-the-pitch personas, though others have such a profound mastery over the game’s dark arts, that they can throw their weight around with relative impunity.
Below, we we’ve turned the spotlight on the Premier League’s most potent merchants of misconduct, and our research has returned some pretty intriguing results.
Highest Number of Fouls Committed 2018/19
Brighton’s heavy-shouldered veteran centre-forward Glenn Murray tops the charts for most fouls conceded so far this season, illegally impeding his opponents 59 times in 26 appearances for the Seagulls.
Murray is well clear of Crystal Palace’s James McArthur as the division’s filthiest footballer, having fallen foul of the referees 34% more often than the Eagles’ midfielder. (Read about Crystal Palace’s chances of making it all the way to Wembley in the FA Cup here)
Glenn Murray is also just 1 conceded free-kick away from matching his entire foul total from last season (60) – a foul haul that made him the 3rd worst offender in the Premier League behind serial chopper Luka Milivojevic (69) and Swansea’s Jordan Ayew (63).
Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette makes a surprise appearance on the list having committed 40 fouls in 25 Premier League appearances this season, and it’s interesting to note that the Frenchman is 1 of 4 strikers in the top 10 list of the Premier League’s most prolific foulers.
Those forwards are joined by 6 Premier League midfielders, though somewhat remarkably, there isn’t a single defender among the top 10. In fact, Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin and Huddersfield’s Zanka are the only 2 defenders to make the cut in the top 20.
Curiously, there are 3 Scottish players in the list of top 10 Premier League foul makers (McArthur, Ritchie & Paterson). Maybe there is something in the Highlands air that triggers the development a larger amygdala – the section in the brain responsible for controlling aggression. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence…..
Highest Number of Yellow Cards 2018/19
Now, here is where things get a little more interesting. Our list of the Premier League’s most booked players of 2018/19 had to be stretched to 12 to accommodate all the recipients of 7 yellow cards this season, but immediately we can see that only 2 of the division’s most frequent foulers are among their number.
Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic and Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie have seen their numerous transgressions suitably punished by referees this season, though the rest of their cynical counterparts seem to have got off scot-free, in terms of cards at least.
Watford’s Jose Holebas is the only Premier League player so far this season to reach double-digit bookings, and the 34-year old left-back has been shown a yellow card for every 2.9 fouls committed this season. Ouch.
The Greek international is currently serving a suspension for Watford after reaching his unwanted 10-booking milestone against Everton, and Holebas will miss the Hornets’ next league fixture at Cardiff on Friday having sat out their FA Cup win at QPR last weekend.
Holebas can count his lucky stars that he hasn’t been given as rough a ride by referees as Newcastle’s Fabian Schar however. The Swiss defender has been shown yellow 8 times despite fouling his opponents just 20 times all season.
Schar’s modest foul-total of 20 puts him 90th on the list of the Premier League’s dirtiest players, yet the 27-year old has been booked once for every 2.5 fouls he has given away.
Who is getting away with it?
Before we get stuck into our naming, shaming and general grassing up of the Premier League’s most unpunished offenders, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that some fouls are obviously worse than others, and that 1 dreadful, dangerous tackle is far more damaging 10 little infringements.
Some players on the list above are probably guilty of being annoying rather than filthy. Still, the rate at which some of them commit fouls is undoubtedly worth more punishment than the reprimands they have received so far this season.
The Premier League’s most whistled player, Glenn Murray, has been booked only 3 times for his 59 fouls this season.
It seems like “The Teflon Titan” (ironically, we hope this nickname sticks) has been given licence by referees to rattle into defenders as often as he likes this season, and amazingly, Murray has been booked just once every 19.6 fouls this term.
The key to avoid being carded, in Murray’s case at least, is to react to every foul given against you in a way that suggests that your very soul has been wronged, sending you into a maniacal existential crisis where you question the very existence of the universe, and if it is in fact real, why was it designed to do in you at every turn?
Murray has been ever so slightly out-done by Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette however. The French centre forward has been shown yellow only twice this season so far, despite fouling opposing players a hefty 40 times. That equates to just 1 booking for every 20 fouls the former Lyon star has made.
Based on those numbers, Lacazette could conceivably have fouled each member of every centre-back pairing in the Premier League without being cautioned.
Fernandinho, a player long-thought to have special dispensation to foul as often as he likes, has been booked only once for every 7.4 of his famed counter-attack ending fouls for Manchester City.
However, having been shown 3 yellow cards in his last 6 Premier League appearances with City, his fouling and his reputation might finally be catching up with him.
How can I use this information in the betting markets?
While the data we have compiled could easily be used to fuel a prolonged fist-shaking session at “The Unpunishables”, it’s probably smarter to apply the information to some popular betting markets, and the figures certainly point us in some useful statistical directions.
If you are poring over the “player to be booked” markets trying to identify an individual who is likely to be carded, the stats tell us that you’d be better served to concentrate on the competing teams’ midfielders.
50% of the most carded players in the Premier League’s top 20 are central midfielders, while just 25% are centre halves, 15% are fullbacks and just 10% are attackers.
In terms of the individuals, it’s worth highlighting that 6 of the 8 bookings Luka Milivojevic, Luke Shaw and Robert Snodgrass have received this season were shown in Premier League away games for their respective clubs, while Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka has been shown a yellow card in 5 of his last 7 away appearances against the other clubs from the “Big 6”.
Hopefully you can turn that information into some winning bets while you watch Glenn Murray knock defenders from pillar to post for Brighton.