Gentlemen and barbarians in European club football – a study based on 22/23 season data

One facet of the game caught our attention during the latest weekend of club action. The regulations are identical for everyone, yet in certain leagues, the officials have been particularly quick to pull out a red card when compared to others. A week ago, on Saturday, September 17th, Japanese international Shoya Nakajima debuted for new team Antalyaspor in the Turkish Super Lig and was dismissed barely 20 seconds after coming in as a substitute. Less than 24 hours later Jan Clair-Todibo of Nice was sent off just 9 seconds after kick-off in the French Ligue 1. This prompted SportingPedia‘s editorial staff to examine the distribution of yellow and red cards throughout Europe’s five major leagues this season. When it comes to yellow cards, nothing out of the usual occurs, but the statistics for red cards are straight out ludicrous. We also ranked the dirtiest teams and those with the fewest official warnings.

Key Takeaways

  • Only 3 Premier League teams have been reduced to 10 men this season
  • In the Premier League the chance to see a player dismissed during a match is as low as 3%, while it reaches 21% in French Ligue 1
  • There has been not a single Premier League round thus far with more than 1 player sent off
  • Ligue 1 is witnessing the fewest yellow cards per game, yet somehow the most reds
  • Only 2 of the 98 teams have received less than 1 yellow card per match
  • 15% of the Premier League sides have seen red card; In La Liga 70%; Serie A – 55%; Ligue 1 – 80%; Bundesliga – 50%

Nathan Collins of Wolverhampton Wanderers was dismissed in the first half of the Premier League game against Manchester City on 17th of September, becoming only the fourth player to see red in the English top flight this season. There has never been more than one sending off in any of the English Premier League’s seven match days! In the course of the current season, there have been just shy of 2 yellow cards on average shown during a Premier League game, the lowest number among Europe’s top five divisions.

Is it the fault of the officials, or is it simply a difference in perception of the football game and physical contact? In stark contrast to the top level of professional football in England, the one in France is far more heated. In Ligue 1, there have already been 34 dismissals.

All five leagues are in the early stages of the season, but the rounds played differ, so we divided the number of cards received by the number of games played, and the results are astounding. There have been less than 0.03 red cards shown in each of the 134 Premier League games, with only the German Bundesliga staying in the single digits with 9% chance of witnessing a player dismissed. The numbers for the other three leagues are all higher.

Cards and Disciplinary Points (DP) per League
LeagueYellow Cards2nd Yellow – RedStraight RedDPMatches PlayedDP/MatchYellow Cards/MatchRed Cards/Match
Premier League251222671341.9931.870.03
La Liga3018133901203.2502.510.18
Bundesliga230662781262.2061.830.10
Ligue 127814204201602.6251.740.21
Serie A3105103751402.6792.210.11

» Yellow card = 1 DP   » 2 Yellow cards(Red card) = 3 DP   » Straight Red card = 5 DP

Manchester City is the cleanest team in Europe’s top five divisions in terms of fair play. After six rounds of play, Pep Guardiola’s players have received less than one yellow card per game. Brentford are second, although their footballers amass 1.14 cards per game, exceeding the 1.0 mark, while Brighton finish off the Premier League top three with 1.17.

Only one other of the 98 teams analysed has managed to stay under the 1.0 DP barrier, with that being the German Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin at 0.86, while Roma, led by Jose Mourinho, earns precisely one yellow card every match in the Italian Serie A.

Just like there are only two teams who so far remain below the 1.0 mark, there are also two clubs that are leaving all of the rest behind when it comes to dirty play. Sevilla and Reims are the only sides across the top 5 leagues who generate more than 5 DP and because of that are crowned as the most ill-disciplined. The Spaniards are “the dirtiest team in Europe” with 5.17 DP per match, while Reims are close at 5.13.

Below you can find a detailed breakdown for all five leagues and the separate teams.

Premier League
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Manchester City50050.717
Brighton70071.176
Brentford80081.147
West Ham80081.147
Leicester90091.297
Southampton90091.297
Liverpool501101.676
Crystal Palace1100111.836
Arsenal1300131.867
Leeds1300132.176
Newcastle1400142.007
Bournemouth1400142.007
Tottenham1500152.147
Chelsea1020162.676
Everton1700172.437
Aston Villa1800182.577
Wolverhampton1401192.717
Manchester United2000203.336
Nottingham2000202.867
Fulham2100213.007
La Liga
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Real Madrid80081.336
Athletic Bilbao1000101.676
Villarreal1100111.836
Girona1200122.006
Barcelona1010132.176
Valladolid901142.336
Real Sociedad1600162.676
Betis1301183.006
Cadiz1510183.006
Celta1401193.176
Espanyol902193.176
Valencia1311213.506
Atletico Madrid1311213.506
Rayo Vallecano1810213.506
Osasuna2101264.336
Getafe1621274.506
Elche1802284.676
Mallorca2800284.676
Almeria2401294.836
Sevilla2311315.176
Serie A
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Roma700717
Inter1000101.437
Napoli1200121.717
Monza1400142.007
Spezia1310162.297
Fiorentina1310162.297
Torino1600162.297
Lecce1700172.437
Milan1610192.717
Bologna1311213.007
Cremonese1601213.007
Sampdoria2100213.007
Sassuolo1701223.147
Empoli1202223.147
Udinese1801233.297
Verona2300233.297
Lazio1801233.297
Salernitana1901243.437
Juventus1112243.437
Atalanta2400243.437
Bundesliga
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Union Berlin60060.867
Eintracht Frankfurt90091.297
Freiburg1000101.437
Bayern Munich1100111.577
Bochum1100111.577
Koln1010131.867
Wolfsburg1300131.867
Borussia Monchengladbach1001152.147
Werder Bremen1600162.297
RB Leipzig1101162.297
Borussia Dortmund1600162.297
Hertha Berlin1510182.577
Hoffenheim1510182.577
Augsburg1900192.717
Schalke1501202.867
Bayer Leverkusen1021213.007
Mainz1601213.007
Stuttgart1711253.577
Ligue 1
TeamYellow CardsYellow – RedRed CardsDisciplinary PointsDP/GameGames
Lorient1100111.388
Toulouse1100111.388
Lyon901141.758
Lens1001151.888
Troyes1201172.138
Brest1201172.138
Clermont Foot1410172.138
PSG1800182.258
Nantes1301182.258
Lille1800182.258
Auxerre921202.508
Strasbourg1211202.508
Marseille1910222.758
Monaco1221232.888
Angers1221232.888
Rennes1811263.258
Ajaccio2120273.388
Nice1412273.388
Montpellier1504354.388
Reims1814415.138