The Big Premier League Yellow Card Guidebook - Part One

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Premier League Yellow Card Guidebook

Every Premier League club has their usual suspects for racking up the cards.

From your Granit Xhakas to your Luka Milivojevićs, the division certainly has its popular picks in the yellow card market - a betting selection that has grown ever popular with the modern-day punter.

Those that back the bookings, will usually do so from the stats. However, instead of simply looking at the serial offenders this season, we've gone a tad further and pinpointed a positional area on the field, that is suspect to getting the cards against each specific club.

We hope the below will serve as a reference point in landing some yellow card selections!

Arsenal: Centre-Backs

The cards usually come out when Arsenal are in action. So far this season, their opposition have averaged 2.03 bookings per game against them.

Of the most serial offenders, are the centre-backs. This was somewhat surprising upon first reading, as many may have presumed the full-backs would be the ones getting cautioned, most specifically because of the wide threats in Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

However, as a side that like to recycle the ball in the final third, it appears as though the opposing CBs become a tad impatient, and step forward to try and break up the play. The likes of Davinson Sanchez, Ezri Konsa and Thiago Silva (to name a few) have all been carded against the Gunners, with the latter starting to pick up the tempo going forward, in the second half of the season.

With Martin Ødegaard as the playmaker and the forwards cutting inside, the central zones seem to be where the action lies. It won't, therefore, come as a surprise to see the central midfielders in close second.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Centre-backs: 18
  • Central midfielders: 15
  • Forwards: 12
  • Left-backs: 8
  • Right-backs: 6

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Aston Villa: Central Midfielders

No surprises here, the biggest culprits when facing Aston Villa are the central midfielders. In a short answer, this is predominantly because of Jack Grealish. The club skipper has become synonymous with being fouled, and the stats certainly justify why.

This season, Grealish has been fouled an average of 4.5 times per game. He tops the charts in this regard, with Wilfried Zaha far behind in second with 3, and in third place, Ashley Barnes in 2.7. As they say, the stats don't lie, and the Villa midfielder is certainly being targeted.

As his side's main source of attacking output, averaging 2.8 dribbles per game, the explosive figure is responsible for driving his team further up the field, carrying the ball forward. If you fancy a card in a Villa game, it tends to come from whoever his directly up against the Englishman.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 24
  • Forwards: 14
  • Centre-backs: 11
  • Right-backs: 6
  • Left-backs: 3

Brighton: Central Midfielders

Despite their low league standing, Graham Potter's Brighton have received praise for their expansive style of play this season. Known on social media as the 'Kings of XG', the Seagulls love to create, but finishing their chances has been an issue.

The creation of such openings predominantly stem from their creative midfield - their wing-backs provide the width, but their play is birthed through the middle. Operating with three central figures, Brighton like to stack the middle of the park, with the likes of Leandro Trossard and Adam Lallana being granted a licence to push on.

Similar to Aston Villa, their nippy playmakers enjoy bursting through the middle, drawing fouls in the process. As the stats below show, the bookings come from exactly that.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 16
  • Centre-back: 6
  • Left-backs: 6
  • Forwards: 4
  • Right-backs: 2

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Burnley: Central Midfielders

At first glance, the positional play of receiving bookings against Burnley is rather sporadic. The top ranking position is evidently in the middle, but well balanced across the back-line.

We would have predicted the CBs to be the highest, given the Clarets direct style of play in getting the ball up-top, but is the CMs that lead the way. Setting up with a traditional 4-4-2, Burnley usually operate with just the two in the middle, typically Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork. From the stats, the two engines are clearly capable of rustling some feathers.

It's worth noting though, that the below numbers are significantly lower, in comparison to other teams this season.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 11
  • Centre-backs: 4
  • Forwards: 4
  • Right-backs: 3
  • Left-backs: 3

Chelsea: Forwards

Here's an interesting one. Of all the areas on the field, it's the forwards that have been carded the most against Chelsea this season. Just for context, we are counting wingers and strikers in our 'forward' category.

Names like Pedro Neto, Bernardo Silva and El Ghazi have propped up down the months - not figures we would normally associate with the fouls, but they are names that like to press from the front. This tends to be a pattern of play from Chelsea's opponents, given the Blues tendency to recycle the ball through the likes of Thiago Silva, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.

Next time the Blues are in town, it may be worth picking a value punt, on a forward that likes to press.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Forwards: 13
  • Central midfielders: 10
  • Left-backs: 6
  • Centre-backs: 9
  • Right-backs: 3

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Crystal Palace: Centre-backs and Central Midfielders

Our first tie-break of the list here, with Crystal Palace's opposing CBs and CMs drawing level at 11 cards a piece. Only five teams into this guide, it's quickly become a frequent trend to see the latter make an appearance with the booking points, as initially predicted due to their action involvements.

A high number of centre-backs was also predicted, but what most catches our eye with the Eagles is the number of right-backs that pick up the yellows. Two players no doubt play their part in such a statistic - Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze, with both wingers topping their squad's ranking in numbers of dribbles per game (1.8, 1.9) and number of times they are fouled per game (3, 2.1).

Like Grealish, Zaha's name has become closely associated with drawing in the fouls, due to his direct and lively style of play. His new partner in crime, Eze, also follows similar suit, with both players enjoying getting on the ball and driving down the channel. Both right-footed, the duo naturally drift over to the left with the aim of cutting in central and operating as an inside forward.

When both players start, take note of which opponents are set up down the right.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 11
  • Centre-backs: 11
  • Right-backs: 7
  • Forwards: 5
  • Left-backs: 1

Everton: Central Midfielders

Through Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan, Everton have seriously bolstered their midfield general this season, establishing some much-needed solidity to the middle of the park. Such security has granted freedom to James Rodriguez, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, with the trio serving as the Toffee's main source of attacking output, to some effect too.

Their midfield, though, evidently draws in the fouls. In fact, as per WhoScored, only five more PL clubs have focused their attacking attention through the middle this season. This primarily stems from a distributional stand-point, with those in the centre feeding through the front-runners (hence the opposing CBs and RBs also racking up the cards), with oppositions looking to cut out the 'beating heartbeat' of the side.

Although the numbers below are rather well-rounded, the stats yet again support yellow cards in the middle of the park.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 13
  • Centre-backs: 11
  • Forwards: 10
  • Right-backs: 9
  • Left-backs: 4

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Fulham: Central Midfielders

Despite sitting second in the table for number of yellow cards received, Fulham's opposition don't tend to pick up too many. You guessed it though, if they do, they predominantly come from the central midfielders.

At first glance, it was somewhat surprising to not see the opposing full-backs pick up a few more bookings, given the lively wide figures of Ivan Cavaleiro and Ademola Lookman, but both men do like to drift inside. The three in the middle for Fulham aren't always willing to push forward, usually it being one advancing whilst a double pivot sits.

As mentioned, their opposition don't tend to rack up the cards, presumably due to this fact that the Cottagers are a tad reluctant to push men on from the off. When they come in though, the stats yet again make the case for those usual suspects in the middle.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central Midfielders: 16
  • Forwards: 9
  • Centre-backs: 8
  • Right-backs: 3
  • Left-backs: 3

Leeds: Central Midfielders

Leeds have brought the entertainment in their returning season back in the top flight, scoring more goals than Chelsea, but also conceding more than Fulham. It's been rather manic, but it's fair to say that Marcelo Bielsa's side have been a breath of fresh air in the division.

Amongst the hectic velocity of their games, a fair few bookings have been dished along the way. Given that they have scored the most counter-attacking goals in the league this season, this won't come as a shock to readers. Their fast tempo in the final third often sees the opposing defenders drag back their players, with the majority of cautions coming in the middle.

Across the back-line, the bookings tend to come down Leeds' left channel - Raphinha and Jack Harrison's interchanging no doubt plays its part in such.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 12
  • Forwards: 8
  • Centre-backs: 7
  • Right-backs: 5
  • Left-backs: 3

Leicester: Central midfielders

Leicester City have been firing on all cylinders this season, with only the two Manchester clubs registering more league goals than them. Their explosive output has been shared across the board during the second-half of the campaign, with the likes of Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison all finding serious form.

The former in particular, has shone, penetrating down the left wing and occupying those attacking pockets of space in and around the right-back area. From the winger alone, it isn't a shock to see 8 RBs be carded against the Foxes this season.

Topping the charts (feels as though we can now copy and paste this part!), however, are those pesky central midfielders. The other two aforementioned names certainly contribute to this stat, with both Maddison and Tielemans enjoying runs through the middle into the final third. With Jamie Vardy making runs in-behind, the Foxes have options all across the park, with most opponents struggling to match the frontrunners.

Opposing positional yellow cards:

  • Central midfielders: 17
  • Centre-backs: 11
  • Right-backs: 8
  • Forwards: 7
  • Left-backs: 3
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