Dirtiest teams in the Premier League

Using match-day data from the 2003-2004 season and onward, I was able to generate a list of the dirtiest Premier League football teams in recent memory. I was also able to work out which clubs have carried out the least number of fouls over the past 10 years or so.

Dirtiest Teams

A list of the dirtiest Premier League clubs in recent memory, ordered by their average fouls per game (2003-2014):

  1. Watford: 14.79 fouls per game.
  2. Leeds: 14.26 fouls per game.
  3. Leicester: 13.76 fouls per game.
  4. Blackburn: 13.55 fouls per game.
  5. Derby: 13.26 fouls per game.

As you can see, all of the teams that are listed above have been heavily involved in some of the various relegation battles that have occured throughout the years. In fact, Leicester are the only team in the list above that are currently in the Premier League. So, what if we were to only list the teams that have spent a considerable amount of time in the Premier League (2003-2014)? What would that list look like?

  1. Blackburn: 13.55 fouls per game.
  2. Aston Villa: 12.704 fouls per game.
  3. West Ham: 12.31 fouls per game.
  4. Everton: 12.24 fouls per game.
  5. Wigan: 12.14 fouls per game

Note that I have left Blackburn in, simply because they managed to stay in the Premier League until the end of the 2011–2012 season.

OK, but this is a little unfair, isn’t it? I mean, a lot can change in ten years. Players come and go and the manager merry-go-round has picked up the pace. Should the Aston Villa squad of 2012-2013 be blamed for the actions of the Aston Villa squad of 2004-2005? Of course not. So instead, lets work out the dirtiest squads in recent memory.

  1. Newcastle committed 15.79 fouls per game in the 05-06 season.
  2. Blackburn committed 15.61 fouls per game in the 04-05 season.
  3. Aston Villa committed 15.26 fouls per game in the 04-05 season.
  4. Blackburn committed 14.95 fouls per game in the 05-06 season.
  5. Tottenham committed 14.84 fouls per game in the 03-04 season.

The first thing I noticed is that all of these squads existed between 2003 and 2006. i.e. At a first glance, it is easy to assume that more fouls were being committed back then. But is this actually true? I decided to chart the data:

Premier League Fouls

As you can see, this does seem to be the case, as there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of fouls being committed per season. However, the reason for this decrease is up for debate.

OK, so we have identified the “dirtiest” squads in recent memory. However, what about the teams that have committed the least number of fouls?

  • Swansea: 8.13 fouls per game in 2011-2012.
  • Spurs: 8.95 fouls per game in 2011-2012.
  • Cardiff: 9.00 fouls per game in 2013-2014.
  • Spurs: 9.00 fouls per game in 2012-2013.
  • Wolves: 9.08 fouls per game in 2011-2012.

Swansea’s 2011-2012 season is actually pretty remarkable, considering they committed 31 less fouls than the Spurs team of 2011-2012. Another interesting statistic is Everton’s fouls per game, which dropped from 10.87 in 2012-2013 to 9.61 in 2013-2014 (Moyes left). Is this just a case of better-performing teams committing less fouls? Or do managerial tactics have a bigger role to play?

Anyway, if you have any thoughts or insights, be sure to leave a comment below. If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy my post on the biggest Premier League upsets.