Premier League has always had a reputation for being a very physically tough league. For many, it may even be regarded as the toughest of all the big leagues. The rough gameplay seems to be an integral part of the matches that leave little room for avoiding tackles or withdrawing from duels.
WSN decided to take a deep dive into the stats of the newly completed Premier League season, portraying both the individual heavy-hitters and teams who are notorious for playing rough or dirty. The main focal point was centred around player and team aggressiveness but also regular dirty behaviour.
Our infographic is segmented into multiple parts, each focusing on different aspects of player and team aggressiveness.
Starting off, we decided to rank the five most aggressive players across all teams and portray their individual performance parameters.
Picking up from there, we decided to create an "All-Star" team, consisting of the most aggressive and dirty players per position. Here we focused on disciplinary points and how much each player attributed to the team's total points.
Lastly, we decided to take look at the league as a whole, ranking the teams in accordance with both cards received and disciplinary points during the 2017 - 2018 Premier League season.
Wilfred Ndidi, the king of free kicks
A player to note is Leicester's defensive midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi who ranks high in every aspect. The 21-year old Nigerian has committed more freekicks than any other player in the Premier League this season, and also holds the absolute pole position in terms of disciplinary points. With an average of 4.2 per game, he was the player with most tackles in the entire season. All this combined with a leading amount of red and yellow cards secures his spot at the top of the list.
Regardless of it all, he has still filled a crucial role within the squad by following in the footsteps of N´Golo Kanté as the team's defensive powerhouse.
Dele Alli ranking with the worst free-kick committed
When looking at some of the more isolated incidents, it would be atrocious not to mention Dele Alli from Tottenham Hotspurs. Despite his undeniable talent and bright career, he is known to lose his cool during matches resulting in some nasty fouls.
The absolute worst of the bunch would be the away match against Manchester City where Dele Alli put in a leg breaker on Kevin De Bruyne that potentially could have ended his career.
It was later deemed as an offence worthy of only a yellow card, which might help explain why people rank Premier League as the toughest big football league out there. One could also argue that the incident should have been an obvious red card and 2 quarantine days, regardless of the league.
Despite the nasty tackle, Kevin De Bruyne managed to score a fantastic goal right after against Tottenham which in the eyes of many would be accounted as a well deserving retaliation.
Why Ryan Shawcross deserves a spot among the team
Compared to the rest of the players on our list, the Stoke Captain Ryan Shawcross might look like the odd one out.
The seasoned midstopper has only received two yellow cards during his 27 appearances this season. However, this may be attributed to his ability to avoid obvious fouls leading to either red and yellow cards, more than it is him not playing aggressively.
He has always had the reputation of being one of the toughest players in the entire league. It all probably started when he broke the ankle of arsenal player Aaron Ramsey which kept him away from the pitch for a long time.
Even to this day, he is hated by most Arsenal fans despite the fact that it was something that happened back in 2010. Compared to Dele Alli's tackle on Kevin De Bruynes, this was not entirely done to cause harm but was mostly an accident. However, stakes are always higher when overaggressiveness leads to long-term injuries.
Ryan Shawcross is closing in on his 10th year in the Premier League with Stoke, cementing himself as a household name in Stoke, but also as a notoriously tough player.
West Ham ranking as the most aggressive team
When comparing all 20 Premier League teams in the 2017/2018 season, no one has received as many disciplinary points as West Ham. This ties nicely into a former investigation we did concerning team hooligans.
There, West Ham fans also took the first place in terms of stadium bans and arrests. One could argue whether it's the team or the fans leading the other. However, it is interesting that the team ranks top both on and outside the field.
West Ham received a total of 314 disciplinary points during the 38 matches the team played in the Premier League this season, closely followed by West Bromwich with 310 points.
A team is usually given 4 points for warnings, while red cards are rewarded with 10 to 12 disciplinary points, depending on the situation. West Ham received 73 yellow cards which is a lot more than any other team besides West Bromwich. The team also got 2 red cards during the season which was attributed to Andy Caroll and Marko Arnautovic who is also listed in our top five aggressive players.
Arnautovic's red card was given to him after placing an elbow in the face of Jack Stephens only 30 minutes into the match. Needless to say, he has always had problems controlling his temper.
There will of course always be different opinions regarding which players deserve the title as most aggressive. Many players go into tackles and duels without the intention of hurting the adversary, while players such and Dele Alli and Arnautovic often have motives of causing some kind of harm.
It is not an easy task finding an overly aggressive goalkeeper which is why Kasper Schmeichel is on the list mostly due to his crazy temper during matches.
A team worth mentioning is Liverpool who received this year's Fairplay award. During the entire season, they only received 1 red card, 44 yellows and 188 disciplinary points which is close to half of West Ham.
Premier League is maybe not as tough as it was 10 or 15 years ago, but, the extremely physical playstyle has never been lost.
At WSN you will find infographics, match previews and a lot of other interesting stuff. Our focus is currently geared towards the World Cup which you will be able to read much more about in the coming days.