Crystal Palace have found themselves topping a table that none of the club will want, currently leading all Premier League sides in fouls per game after 12 gameweeks. The Eagles are also tied for the most sending offs of the season, level with Swansea and Manchester United on three dismissals each.
Perhaps this data can provide some insights into the playing style of Palace. Whilst they top the charts of fouls per game, they are well under the average number of yellow cards (22.85) and in fact sit fourth lowest in the league on yellow cards. Looking at their style of play under Neil Warnock illuminates why this may be the case. Often second best in possession, Palace are set up to soak up pressure and then hit quickly on the counter. The pace and tenacity of Dwight Gayle and Fraizer Campbell, alongside pacey wingers Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon allow for this quick transition style play and Marouane Chamakh’s deeper positioning shows their intent to sit deep and defend. As a result, we can see the initially confusing data set become clear, as Palace’s defensive approach is naturally going to allow the opposition to draw fouls. This explains why The Eagles top the fouls per game but are ranked lower when the teams are ranked by cautions and sending offs.
Top 20 Dirtiest Premier League Teams (based on fouls per game average)
On the other end of this idea is Arsenal. Low on the table when ranked by fouls per game, the Gunners have the highest total of cards so far this season. A lot has been made of Arsenal’s shortcomings when dealing with counter attacks and over committing when in attack this season, and perhaps this data set reinforces these ideas. Whilst the number of fouls Arsenal commit is low, the nature of the fouls, as they seek to desperately defend a counter attack causes more yellow cards to be shown to the players. Furthermore, a higher average pitch position could well lead to more bookings. Mile Jedinak and Mikel Arteta could foul a player in similar positions on the pitch, but because Arsenal are more likely to have fewer players behind the ball at the point of the challenge, the chance of a yellow card it higher. It must also be noted that certain players have been guilty of amassing a number of yellow cards on an individual level this year for the Gunners. Chambers and Wilshere between them have totaled 10 of Arsenal’s 31 cards, showing perhaps that individual improvement in their tackling may be required.