Premier League Fouls Sheet
Aston Villa v Bournemouth
Bournemouth will be hoping to record back-to-back victories for the first time this season when they travel to an Aston Villa side looking to avenge an opening day defeat at the Vitality Stadium.
The Cherries managed to topple top-four hopefuls Liverpool last time out in a 1-0 win and they will need to show the same character, organisation and tenacity if they are going to get the better of a Villa side that have won two and drawn one of their last three league games, helping them step comfortably away from any relegation fears.
Looking at who is fouling Aston Villa players over recent weeks and it’s notable that midfield and forward players are largely at fault. That is hardly a surprise when Ezri Konsa has been fouled in nine of his last 11 matches, Douglas Luiz in eight of his last 11 and Boubacar Kamara in seven of his last ten. Midfielders have committed four, six, six, three and seven fouls against Villa over the last five games.
Joe Rothwell has started the last two games for Bournemouth and given their victory at the weekend, I would anticipate the ex-Blackburn Rovers man starts again here. He has committed a foul in each of the last five games that he has played at least 30 minutes of football in.
Brentford v Leicester City
If you were asked in the summer which of these two clubs would be one point behind sixth place Liverpool and level on points with 18th place Bournemouth, it’s hard to imagine too many would have plumped for Thomas Frank’s Brentford being the former.
That is the situation, however, the Bees proving they are here to stay having responded to a first league defeat since late October with a 2-0 win at Southampton in midweek. Leicester City, meanwhile, have lost their last four in the league and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship Blackburn Rovers.
Over the last five games, Leicester City have seen opposition right-wingers, attacking midfielders and strikers commit numerous fouls and it meant there was only one place to look here.
Ivan Toney thoroughly deserves his England call up. He is the third top goalscorer in the division behind Erling Haaland and Harry Kane and he is also a nuisance for opposition defenders to contend with. His physical approach does get him on the wrong side of referees, however. Since returning from the World Cup break, he has committed at least one foul in nine of ten matches and at least two in seven, including four of his last five.
Opposition strikers have committed at least one foul in each of the last four matches played against Leicester City and at least two in each of their last three. Harry Souttar has been fouled in three of his last four matches and Wout Faes in each of his last three.
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur
This division continues to throw up huge games and this is yet another.
Southampton are now bottom of the league table, unable to capitalise on a midweek fixture that would have taken them from 20th to 16th. Tottenham Hotspur are now 4th but their four and six point lead over the sides below them could be wiped away by games in hand.
Spurs are a side that commits a lot of fouls so I thought I would look first at Southampton and where fouls are being committed against them. The numbers show that opposition right-sided players, strikers and central midfielders are often the main culprits. Central midfielders have committed three, five, three, four and two fouls in recent games.
Yet again, Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg is a reasonable price to commit a foul and I have to back it. The near ever-present Dane isn’t afraid to get stuck in, committing a foul in each of his last nine and 11 of his last 12 league matches. And against a four-pronged attack that likes to counter-press in a narrow shape, Hojbjerg’s job of protecting his back three is likely to require him to take matters into his own hands.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United
Given there are nine teams currently within three points of 18th place Bournemouth, there is always a chance that two of those sides are going to meet on any given Saturday and this is one of those matches.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are near the top of that group, sitting 13th on 27 points, three points above Bournemouth but with a poorer goal difference than Leeds United, who are 19th on 23 points. A win would represent a huge boost for both camps.
The visitors are now under the management of ex-Watford boss Javi Gracia and he will be looking to utilise an exciting, pacy and youthful attack in his bid to get Leeds out of trouble. His attempts to do that are reflected by the number of fouls opposition defenders are committing against them – right-sided centre-backs and left-backs have committed at least one foul in every game played against the Yorkshire outfit over the last five games.
Craig Dawson was an option here but his foul numbers are somewhat inconsistent, so I’m backing Jonny, who has started at left-back in Wolves’ last two games. He has given away a foul in each of the last seven matches he has played when starting at full-back and he will most likely be up against 21-year-old Crysencio Summerville, who has been fouled three, five, one and four times in his last four league starts.
Chelsea v Everton
For the first time since mid-October, Chelsea have recorded back-to-back Premier League victories and they will be looking for a third when they host an Everton side with one point on the road from three league matches since Sean Dyche took the reins in Merseyside.
These two sides are Ying and Yang in their approach, Chelsea preferring to dominate the ball and keep their opposition penned in while Everton are comfortable sitting in a compact shape and breaking into open space.
Chelsea’s game requires a lot of players in central areas to keep the ball moving, either via progression of defence and midfield or forward players dropping deep to receive possession and open space for others. It clearly makes the game difficult for defensive midfielders and centre-backs with both opposition midfielders committing a foul in four and five of the last five games and a centre-back committing a foul in four of the last five, the outlier being the Champions League win against Borussia Dortmund.
With the odds short against Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye, I’m going to back James Tarkowski again. He has committed a foul in six of his seven games under Sean Dyche and at least two in three of those. The left-sided centre-back has committed a foul in both league matches against Chelsea’s new front three, unsurprising with Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling or Mykhailo Mudryk occupying those areas.
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