Sunderland are now far and away the heaviest booked team in the Barclay’s Premier League with 54, averaging almost 2.6 cards per match.
They have acquired 6 more cards than the nearest side, Aston Villa, who incidentally, share the lead in red cards with Swansea City at 5. Both Swansea and Leicester City have the highest percentage of red cards to all bookings with 12.5% and 16.1%, respectively.
In order to understand why these teams are so heavily booked you can assume part of it is the referee’s ability to make extremely quick decisions. But, the majority of it has to rest with the the players themselves.
Time after time we see players do incredibly dangerous things to gain an advantage and the player takes the risk of it being seen (and punished) by the referee. Usually, there are simple late tackles, aerial duel elbows, and the like.
But then you have cases like the choke hold Charlie Adam put on Alexis Sanchez that was not seen by referee Anthony Taylor, and more recently Marko Arnautović’s push of Mathieu Debuchy while he was in-flight. The latter although clear in retrospect, was deemed a “run of play” by the FA since referee Jonathan Moss saw the incident, but decided that something that caused a dislocated shoulder with ligament damage wasn’t very dangerous.
Despite this style of roughhouse play, Stoke City amazingly have the same amount of bookings as Arsenal (46).
When looking at the player detail, Stoke only have two players booked more than 33% of the time. Phil Bardsley has received only six yellows in 15 appearances, and Steve Sidwell only three in seven. In comparison, Calum Chambers has six yellows and one red in 18 appearances, and Jack Wilshere has four in nine.
It’s an interesting comparison given the large difference in the style of play – one that would even make Jose Mourinho think there was a conspiracy by the officials.
Arsenal’s journeyman defensive midfielder, Francis Coquelin, is also quickly becoming the new Mathieu Flamini, getting booked in every other match he plays. Since being recalled from his loan spell at Charlton he’s acquired 3 yellows in 6 matches. Sunderland’s part-time right back Billy Jones has made 5 starts and received a yellow card in each one of them but one. This is an incredible 80% card rate given the small sample.
His teammate, Lee Cattermole however, is the overall card king, receiving nine yellow cards – the most in the Barclay’s Premier League. Runner ups are West Ham’s Winston Reid with eight yellows in 20 matches, and Chelsea’s Diego Costa with seven yellows in 18 – both with close to a 40% card rate.
Honourable mention go to Tottenham’s defender Kyle Naughton and Leicester City’s defender Paul Konchesky (not listed), who both lead the red card race with two apiece. Naughton’s cards are particularly egregious in that he’s only started five matches, and both were straight red cards: One on a handball in the box given by Chris Foy against West Ham on the opening game of the season, and another given by Mike Jones where he denied a goal scoring opportunity to Stoke on 8 Nov.
Looks like a pattern here.