6 Candidates to Lead the Premier League in Red Cards This Season
Red cards have the ability to change a game in an instant.
And as we saw all too often in the Premier League last season, whenever a player picks up a red card, both teams are drastically impacted by the decision. The card itself becomes the biggest talking point and the definitive moment in the final result—regardless of which team finishes on top.
As long as players want to tackle hard and as long as players get angry, there's going to be red cards, so expect them to be a definite hallmark of the 2013-14 season.
Let's take a look at which players are most likely to get themselves dismissed next season—something which will interest fantasy owners, fans and managers alike.
Steven N'Zonzi, Stoke City
Stoke City are known for their high-pressure defense and strong tackling.
Midfielder Steven N'Zonzi was a fundamental part of that last season, with the 24-year-old making 58 successful tackles from 69 attempts last year. Throw in his 32 interceptions and 10 blocks, and it's clear that N'Zonzi was a strong defensive player and a vital cog in the Potters' defensive structure.
However, he was also incredibly brash in his tackles sometimes.
Out of the 11 unsuccessful tackles that N'Zonzi made, 10 drew cards, including a red card in Stoke's 3-3 draw with Southampton.
Only Sunderland's Craig Gardner (11) was awarded more cards for dangerous tackles than N'Zonzi last year (10), and if Tony Pulis' side are to continue their high-octane and physical defense, it's safe to assume the 24-year-old will receive his share of cards throughout the season.
Adel Taarabt, Fulham
According to reports from The Guardian, Queens Park Rangers' playmaker Adel Taarabt is set for a return to the Premier League—believed to be joining Fulham on a season-long loan.
And while the attacking midfielder will no doubt be a huge boost to the Cottagers' attacking system, there's an argument to be made for Taarabt receiving his share of cards this year as well.
Taarabt might have only chalked up five yellow cards last season, but the 24-year-old is known to have a temper. A glance t his glittered career shows that Taarabt can snap in an instant, and when that happens, anything could happen.
Labelled a "fruitcake" by former manager Harry Redknapp, Taarabt has already vowed he'll never play for his country again after he felt unfairly treated (per Goal). His shining moment came when he famously caught the bus home while the game was still going after being subbed (per the Daily Mirror).
Taarabt is brilliant at his best but a nightmare at his worst, and could very easily find himself on the wrong end of a red card or two throughout the season.
Steven Pienaar, Everton
Steven Pienaar led the Premier League in red cards last season, and there's no reason to suggest the Everton midfielder isn't capable of doing the same thing again this year.
The South African international picked up more yellow cards than goals, and according to his career statistics (per Soccerway), has done every season of his career—totaling 38 yellow cards and just 22 goals in the past nine years.
Pienaar only completed 67 percent of his attempted tackles last season and gave away 45 fouls in total. He is a prolific midfielder when he gets it right (shown by the fact he amassed 70 interceptions and 45 tackles as well as 79 goal-scoring chances), but the veteran does struggle to get that right sometimes.
He'll no doubt learn from last season in terms of remaining disciplined, but as long as he's throwing himself into tackles, the chances of red cards remains high.
Tom Cleverley, Manchester United
Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley might seem a strange choice given that he didn't get a red card at all last year and received just one yellow. However, United (and Arsenal) fans will know that he was lucky not to get himself dismissed when the two sides met last season.
The England international has a brash tackling style that made him a focal point of the Red Devils' midfield during the season, and while it might be very effective when it works, it could also lead to a slew of yellow and red cards if he gets it wrong.
With Cleverley bound to get more playing time this year under new manager David Moyes, his chances of picking up those cards are likely to increase.
Dejan Lovren, Southampton
Southampton's signing of Dejan Lovren from Lyon has the potential to be one of the best signings of the summer—that's how good the Croatian international defender is.
In addition to having Morgan Schneiderlin in defensive midfield (who led the league in tackles and interceptions last year), the Saints have now added a physically strong and complete defender to their back-line in Lovren, and likely will be very difficult to break down at the back.
However, Lovren is certainly susceptible to getting booked. Last season in Ligue 1, he picked up three red cards and four yellows despite only making 18 appearances all season. His three reds were all for bad tackles, with two of them straight reds, which is hard to see changing given the physical nature of the Premier League.
Lovren is a very tough defender, and led Lyon last year in defensive actions per game (11). However, there's a fine line between tough and reckless, and the 24-year-old is certainly capable of crossing that line in the season ahead.
Fernando Amorebieta, Fulham
Our final candidate is another summer transfer; this time it's Fulham defender Fernando Amorebieta, signed on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao.
Standing at 1.92m and weighing in at 85kg, Amorebieta is physically imposing and averaged an impressive 12 defensive actions per game last season. He won 79 percent of his attempted tackles, and his defensive actions per minute ranked him as one of the top three in Europe.
But like Lovren, he's also a transfer to watch in terms of bookings.
In just 10 starting appearances last year, Amorebieta picked up five yellows and a red. In eight seasons at Bilbao, he picked up a staggering 76 yellow cards and has been dismissed at least once in every single season of his career.
As Opta points out, that makes him one of the worst offenders around at the moment, and given the physical nature of the EPL, t's hard to see that changing.
All statistics provided via Squawka unless stated otherwise.
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