The Premier League is home to some of the world’s best attackers, but players from Arsenal, Leeds United and Manchester City are amongst the most fouled in the division.
With referees under more scrutiny than ever, despite the dubious helping hand provided by VAR, it feels like the safest option for the official is to blow up for fouls whenever possible to avoid irate managers bellowing oaths in their direction.
But some players, whether representing teams challenging for the title or battling relegation, come in for greater unwanted attention from opponents than most.
Thanks to the consistently good work of WhoScored, we’ve been able to identify the 10 most fouled players in the Premier League this season.
Note: players must have played a minimum of 500 minutes to qualify.
10. Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa – 39)
We’ve got to be honest, Konsa was one of the last players we expected to find in the top 10 when we compiled this list.
The Aston Villa defender, who has made 23 Premier League appearances this season, has been on the receiving end of four times as many fouls as he’s committed this season.
And if that’s not something to impress your mates with down the pub, we don’t know what is.
9. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal – 40)
Saka is regularly targeted for rough treatment from opposition defences and Mikel Arteta and Oleksandr Zinchenko have called for referees to give the Arsenal star greater protection.
“Teams are not stupid,” Arteta said after the win at Aston Villa. “They want to stop him.
“He’s going to have to deal with that, not every week, but every three days. It’s his game – teams are not stupid and they want to stop him. We need to protect him.”
Zinchenko went a step further. “Bukayo is an unbelievable player,” he said. “All the full-backs from the other teams know he’s so dangerous, so they try to provoke him, tackle him and the referees should know this.
“We can speak about (Lionel) Messi, Cristiano (Ronaldo), Neymar and players like this. The referees need to protect this kind of player, they need to look after them.”
8. Brenden Aaronsen (Leeds – 41)
Despite their lowly league position, Leeds are packed full of slippery young talents that regularly run rings around their opponents. If only they could find someone to biff the ball into the goal…
Aaronsen, a summer arrival from Red Bull Salzburg, is their most fouled player after being on the receiving end of 41 illegal challenges this year.
=6. Ryan Yates (Nottingham Forest – 42)
Nottingham Forest players have been fouled more than their counterparts at Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham in 2022-23, possibly because they have 30 players on the pitch at any given moment.
Tired jokes aside, Yates has taken to top-flight football like a duck to water and opponents wouldn’t feel obliged to foul him if they didn’t recognise his talent.
=6. Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle – 42)
The toast of Tyneside for his imperious displays from midfield, Guimaraes almost never moved to Newcastle in January 2022.
“It’s funny, but when I had the opportunity to move to Newcastle last year, I remember a lot of people telling me, ‘You’re crazy. This could be a disaster for you. They’re going to get relegated. You’ll never make the World Cup squad if you move there,’” Guimaraes wrote in The Player’s Tribune
“At the time, Newcastle were third to last in the table. Everyone knew we were in trouble.
“But any time someone asked me what my dream was, from the time I was 15, I always said it was to play in the Premier League one day.
“So I chose to come to Newcastle. But I have to be honest and say that never in a million years did I expect THIS experience. No, I would be lying to you if I said I would love it this much, and for the fans to have embraced me and my family like this.”
Celebrating a tackle like it was a goal 💪
Bruno Guimarães is one of a kind 😍 pic.twitter.com/iXTdXdV4U2
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) December 26, 2022
5. Jarrod Bowen (West Ham – 45)
Bowen, like the rest of the West Ham side, hasn’t lived up to last season’s exploits; the Hammers wouldn’t be submerged in a relegation battle had the 26-year-old replicated the form that earnt him an England call-up.
But Bowen remains arguably West Ham’s biggest goal threat, ensuring defenders regularly use his shins as target practice.
4. Ivan Toney (Brentford – 47)
Toney has been a shining light for Brentford this season, scoring 14 times and providing assists as the west Londoners defy gravity in the Premier League once more.
Given his status as Brentford’s main goal threat, it’s not too much of a shock to learn Toney has been fouled 47 times by opponents this season.
The Bees will hope he stays fit to spearhead their surprise push for Europe.
3. Jack Grealish (Man City – 49)
Given Grealish’s penchant for tying defenders up in knots, it’s no surprise to see the England international so far here.
The Manchester City forward has received criticism for his willingness to fall over, reaching its peak after he won a penalty against former side Aston Villa this month.
“He doesn’t need much of an invitation, Jack Grealish,” Gary Neville said afterwards on Sky Sports. “I think he’s clever and he’s played the defender.
“Grealish has played for that like you wouldn’t believe. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”
🗣️ "I'm going to text him later on… he made a meal of that!" 📞
Roy Keane and Micah Richards discuss Jack Grealish's fall that saw Man City earn a penalty. 💬 pic.twitter.com/Dzb89eSpvA
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 12, 2023
2. Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace – 50)
Hands up who’d have predicted Ayew would be the second most fouled player in the Premier League, with defenders illegally stopping the Palace forward 50 times since last August.
1. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace – 57)
Zaha is miles ahead of his Premier League counterparts as his combination of tricky footwork and lightning speed causes defenders to decorate his thighs with stud marks.
This has long been the case for Palace’s talisman. “Why am I getting different treatment from other players?” he said after one particularly brutal match at Huddersfield in 2018 “I have tried to speak to referees. There’s nothing I can do any more.
“I feel like I’d have to get my leg broken for anyone to get a red card.”