Premier League Fouls Sheet
Manchester United v Everton
Manchester United will be looking for back-to-back home victories in a week when they take on an Everton side still looking for a first away win under Sean Dyche, and their first in the Premier League since early October.
The Toffees enter this game unbeaten in four league matches and their success has been down to a highly structured and aggressive approach, traits they will need to show again if they are to get the better of a Manchester United side with ten wins from 14 at home.
We have referred to James Tarkowski as a near-automatic pick in recent weeks, something that has paid off nicely. The ex-Burnley man has committed a foul in eight of his nine starts under Dyche and has even committed two or more fouls in five of those, including four of the last five. With Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane nearby to cover, Tarkowski is allowed to step out of defence and be aggressive in the challenge.
A centre-back has committed at least one foul in each of Manchester United’s last five matches. Wout Weghorst has been fouled in six of his nine league starts and Marcus Rashford in his last three starts as the main striker.
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
In-form Aston Villa will be looking to put more pressure on Steve Cooper as they face off against Nottingham Forest on Easter Weekend. Victory for Forest could see them move three points clear of the drop zone with defeat likely to see them return to the bottom three. They could scarcely have chosen a tougher fixture, Unai Emery’s Aston Villa the fourth best side in the division since he took the reins.
As the third most fouled side in the Premier League, I had to start my review here with the hosts. One thing that stood out was that the left-sided centre-back of the opposition has committed at least one foul in each of their last five matches.
That statistic is unsurprising. Ollie Watkins has been fouled in 11 of his last 14 league starts and Emiliano Buendia has been fouled in eight of his last ten and each of his last five.
Ex-Atletico Madrid defender Felipe was thrust into the starting XI after a mountain of injuries and the 33-year-old has performed well. However, typical of a player that has spent years under the tutelage of Diego Simeone, he isn’t afraid to commit a foul, making at least one in six of his eight league appearances and in each of his last five. He will have his work cut out here too.
Brentford v Newcastle United
A fascinating encounter in the race for Europe as Brentford look to force themselves back into contention for a top six finish and dent Newcastle United’s hopes of a Champions League spot in the process.
The visitors have responded positively to defeats in the League Cup final and at Manchester City by winning four on the bounce, including a whopping 5-1 victory at West Ham United. Having key personnel such as Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak back has helped with the energy and structure of their performances improving as a result.
It means Brentford are going to have a lot to cope with and Christian Norgaard will be key to stopping a midfield that aren’t just full of energy but also play with purpose, always looking to run forward. As a result, Guimaraes has been fouled in his last five starts, Joelinton in five of his last seven and Longstaff in 11 of his last 13.
Norgaard, meanwhile, has given away a foul in his last ten and at least two fouls in seven of those, including each of his last three. It’s notable that the deepest midfielder playing against Newcastle has given away three, two and four fouls in the last three matches.
Fulham v West Ham
A London derby for which a result will mean a lot more to visitors West Ham United as they look to respond to a 5-1 thrashing delivered by high-flying Newcastle United and pull away from the drop zone.
Fulham come into this game on the back of four damaging defeats, including at local rivals Brentford and an FA Cup tie at Manchester United in which two players were sent off. However, they remain a side that opposition teams have to stop, particularly down the flanks and in the gaps between midfield and attack.
In their last five matches, the opposition central midfielders have given away a foul in all five and at least two in three. Andreas Pereira has been fouled in ten of his 13 matches since returning from the World Cup break while Manor Solomon has been fouled in three of his last four appearances and Bobby Reid in nine of his last ten starts.
This leads me to Tomas Soucek, the giant Czech midfielder who was briefly dropped by David Moyes only to be recalled as he looks to find balance and experience in their relegation scrap. Soucek has given away two or more fouls in seven of his last nine matches thanks to a combination of general fouls and also the number of aerial duels he finds himself involved in.
Southampton v Manchester City
Like many fixtures presently, this is a huge clash with implications at both ends of the league table.
Southampton are currently favourites to be relegated, rooted to the bottom of the table now four points adrift of safety. Manchester City have well and truly found form recently, winning their last seven in all competitions and scoring 27 goals in the process.
City’s domination in possession appears to lead to fewer fouls than you would anticipate, their ability to remain patient and wait for gaps rather than playing fast and frantic football meaning sides are often penned in waiting for a moment to pick up possession rather than find themselves in duels all over the pitch.
It’s often the wingers that end up on the receiving end of a kick or two, those players usually stretching the pitch and being involved in 1 v 1 situations. That is shown with opposition right-backs committing a foul in each of their last five matches and left-backs doing so in four of the last five. Mahrez has been fouled five, one, three, three, two, zero, three and six times in his last eight matches.
I’m therefore backing Romain Perraud to commit at least one foul here. The French left-back has committed a foul in six of his last seven matches and two or more in four of those. Given he will be up against Mahrez directly here, or whoever does start on the right-wing, it stands to reason he will be forced into making tackles against the trickiest in the division.
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