When Pele called football ‘the beautiful game’, he clearly hadn’t experienced an infamous cold, rainy night in Stoke. One of the great selling points of English football is its inherently physical nature combined with referees who are unafraid to turn a blind eye to brutality not so tolerated in other countries.
But even Premier League refs have to occasionally whistle for fouls, even those inflicted upon Mohamed Salah. Paddy has several markets which cover this aspect of football and we’re here to guide you on how to approach them if you’re having a flutter.
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For individuals there is essentially just one market to worry about: ‘Player To Commit 1/2 Or More Fouls.’ It’s an interesting market. You might assume rock hard central defenders or midfield generals commit the most fouls but that isn’t always the case.
For instance, you wouldn’t be surprised to see that Moises Caicedo, Tomas Soucek and Rodri were in the Premier League’s top 10 players for free-kicks given away in 2022/23, but how about Kai Havertz, Jeffrey Schlupp and Lucas Paqueta? It’s a mixed bag, alright.
There’s also the home and away factor to consider, as with all football bets. Many of the aforementioned players still feature in the leading pack if we split the data by venue but you get exceptions such as Ryan Yates at the City Ground or Bukayo Saka on the road. Do your due diligence before placing your money where your mouth is.
As useful as this information is, we need to dig further down, as we’re not that interested in the total but rather how often they commit one or two fouls (and particularly the latter as the odds are better). There are some interesting anomalies here.
Take Harry Kane, for starters. He committed a foul in 24 league matches in 2022/23, but more than one on just five occasions. Players typically hit the two foul mark in 40 per cent of the matches in which they commit one, but the Tottenham striker is only going at about half that rate. Ruben Neves (at 27 per cent) and Marc Guehi (15 per cent) illustrate this phenomenon is not limited to forwards either.
At the opposite end of the scale are players who get penalised for at least two fouls in around 70 percent of the matches in which they commit any. The men in question include Boubacar Kamara, Thiago Alcantara and Sekou Mara, so keep an eye on them if their teams are in action.
And don’t forget to consider who’ll they be up against. Three of the top eight players for fouls suffered are Jordan Ayew, Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise, so any defender or midfielder up against Crystal Palace stands an excellent chance of being penalised by the ref.
There’s every chance that a particular referee will have a problem with a particular player for whatever reason, they’ll just never admit it. However, we can at least research which whistlers award the most free-kicks, and factor in the tackles in their games too. While the margins are small, they may just impact your bet.
David Coote, for example, penalises 23.2 fouls per Premier League game at a rate of one for each 1.4 tackles which occur. Then you have Jarred Gillett, whose figures are 18.3 and 1.8 respectively. The PGMOL’s decision over which ref is doing which game is worth paying attention to.
Teams have far more markets available, under the ‘Team Fouls Committed’ option on the ‘Cards & Fouls’ tab. Let’s break them all down. We can bet on the total fouls committed in the match by both teams, with the mark set at various levels. They might start at, say, ‘24 or more’ then go up in increments of two to ‘32 or more’ (though these figures may vary).
Using those levels as a case study, we find that approximately a third of Premier League matches feature at least 24 fouls. That drops to 21 per cent for 26 or more fouls, then 12.7 for 28 plus and 7.4 per cent for at least 30. Keep these numbers close to your heart when betting.
You can also wager on whether each team will commit (for instance) 12, 14 or 16-or-more fouls. As the number rises the likelihood of a pay out drops, as you’d expect. It’s important to know your teams. In 2022/23, no team has made more than 13 fouls against Manchester United, while Arsenal are the only side yet to commit at least 16. Most teams are somewhere in between, of course, but the data is freely available so use it.
Our final option is for each team to commit a certain number of fouls, likely starting at 10 and going up from there. Roughly one in 20 Premier League games sees both teams committing at least 14 fouls so it’s probably not worth starting from there, but 40 per cent see both teams reach double figures, with about a quarter going up to 11 (or more) like Spinal Tap.
But don’t forget to take account of the referee, and any key players who either win or give up plenty of free-kicks. It would be a serious betting foul up not to.
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