Hats off to the bruisers
These are players who let you know they’re there. Who leave a mark. Who make sure you’ll feel that in the morning. Who put a name on it, no matter who's in their way. Who get there somehow.
Introducing the 50 players who have committed the most fouls in Premier League history...
47= Jordan Henderson – 293
The Liverpool captain has enjoyed a superb season as the heartbeat of Jurgen Klopp's side. But driving runs and long-range passing aren't the only things Henderson has brought to the table.
The ex-Sunderland man has been penalised 26 times this term, taking his all-time Premier League tally to 293.
47= Raheem Sterling – 293
Raheem Sterling: hatchet man. Who knew? The Manchester City forward is adept at drawing fouls from full-backs but he commits his fair share of offences too.
In 250 Premier League appearances to date Sterling has committed 293 fouls for City and Liverpool, earning himself 28 bookings and one red card.
47= Branislav Ivanovic – 293
Sorry, Branislav, but Mike Dean has spoken. The showman from the Wirral wasn't the only referee Ivanovic got the wrong side of during his nine-year stay at Chelsea.
Indeed, the Serbian defender committed almost 300 fouls in the Premier League, sufficient to earn himself a place in the top 50.
47= John Carew – 293
Carew took his punishment from Dean much better than Ivanovic, but he made the same number of offences as the ex-Chelsea man in 138 fewer outings.
Few players can match the Norwegian's remarkable ratio of 293 fouls in 123 appearances for Aston Villa and Stoke - that's almost 2.5 per game, for crying out loud.
46. James McCarthy – 295
McCarthy has brought his customary bite and tenacity to the Crystal Palace midfield since his switch from Everton last summer.
The Ireland international has now made 295 fouls during his Premier League career, which also included a four-year spell with Wigan.
45. Nigel Reo-Coker – 298
After four seasons in the second tier with Wimbledon and West Ham, Reo-Coker earned promotion to the Premier League with the Hammers in 2005.
He wasted little time in making his mark, mainly on opposition shins. By the time he exited the top flight in 2012, the ex-Aston Villa and Bolton man had made 298 fouls.
43= Morten Gamst Pedersen – 299
Pedersen scored some spectacular long-range goals during his time in the Premier League, but his left foot was just as skilled at tripping up other players.
The Norwegian's eight years in the division with Blackburn yielded 299 goals in 260 matches.
43= Clint Dempsey – 299
Like Pedersen, Dempsey also fell painfully short of the 300 mark - and given that he retired in 2018, the American has no chance of getting over the line.
Dempsey wasn't afraid to stick his foot in during his time on the books of Fulham and Tottenham, although he only had his name taken by the referee 21 times.
42. Tom Huddlestone – 303
Huddlestone has plied his trade in the Championship since 2017, by which time he'd committed enough fouls to enter this top 50 ranking.
The bulky midfielder forced the referee to intervene 303 times during his top-flight career with Tottenham and Hull.
41. Scott Parker – 306
Parker achieved the impressive feat of racking up 368 Premier League appearances for six different clubs while only once leaving the city of his birth.
The ex-Charlton, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham midfielder let opponents know he was there on 306 occasions.
40. Didier Drogba – 307
Drogba had great variety in the fouls he committed. His repertoire included trailing elbows, trips from behind and even the odd dive or two.
The Chelsea legend made 307 offences in total - which is almost three times the amount of Premier League goals he scored (104).
39. Andy Carroll – 311
For all that he's injury prone, Carroll has still managed to record more than 300 fouls in his Premier League career.
That gives him an average of more than one per game - he's made 224 outings for Newcastle, Liverpool and West Ham.
36= Cheick Tiote – 315
The late Tiote was a fan favourite throughout his time at Newcastle, with his willingness to get stuck in endearing him to the St James' Park faithful.
The Ivorian's timing in the tackle wasn't always perfect, though: he committed 315 fouls in 138 top-flight games for the club.
36= Morgan Schneiderlin – 315
At 30 years of age Schneiderlin still has plenty of time to climb further up this list, provided he retains the faith of Carlo Ancelotti.
The tough-tackling Frenchman has earned the referee's wrath 315 times during his Premier League career with Southampton, Everton and Manchester United.
36= Emmanuel Adebayor – 315
There was more to Adebayor's game than goals and knee slides, you know. The Togolese striker was also a prolific fouler, committing 315 offences in his Premier League career.
Most of those breaches came with Arsenal, but Adebayor continued to impede opponents at Manchester City, Tottenham and Crystal Palace.
35. Phil Bardsley – 317
Now 34, Bardsley looks to be coming to the end of a Premier League career that's taken in spells with Manchester United, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Stoke and Burnley.
It's safe to say the no-nonsense right-back has protested his innocence even more regularly than he's committed fouls.
34. Fernandinho – 318
Manchester City have been criticised for their habit of tactical fouling under Pep Guardiola, but Fernandinho was committing misdemeanours long before the Catalan came to England.
The Brazilian, who's turned out in 217 top-flight games for City, has been ticked off by referees on 318 occasions.
33. Vincent Kompany – 321
A long-time team-mate of Fernandinho, Kompany just edges him out on this list - for the time being at least.
The Belgian was an expert at charging up the pitch and making rash challenges, and was duly punished 321 times during his 11 seasons at Manchester City.
31= Ryan Shawcross – 323
Shawcross lived by the maxim that the "ball or man can go past, but never both".
The 6ft 3in Stoke stopper made 323 fouls in 317 Premier League games for the Potters. Now 32, Shawcross may yet get one last chance in the top flight before he retires.
31= Dimitar Berbatov – 323
Yes, that's right: Dimitar Berbatov. The classy Bulgarian wowed Premier League audiences with his flawless first touch at Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham, but he wasn't a total stranger to the dark arts.
Berbatov committed 323 fouls during his time in England's top tier, although they were all probably someone else's fault.
30. Kevin Nolan – 326
We're not clucking joking. The chicken-imitating midfielder was a menace to opponents and referees alike during his time in the Premier League.
Nolan, who turned out for Bolton, West Ham and Newcastle in the top flight, drew the referee's ire 326 times.
29. John Obi Mikel – 328
Close your eyes and picture Mikel. The image that probably comes to mind is him clattering into an opposition midfielder from behind.
A No.10 for Nigeria, Mikel tended to be employed as a destroyer by Chelsea, for whom he conceded 328 free-kicks in 249 games.
28. Alex Song – 331
The combative Cameroonian racked up 190 Premier League appearances for Arsenal and West Ham. Opposition limbs were rarely safe in any of those games.
Song averaged 1.74 fouls per top-flight match, giving him an overall tally of 331.
27. Charlie Adam – 334
Adam was one of the Premier League's standout performers in his debut campaign with Blackpool, but he quickly proved that he had more in his locker than left-footed pings and shots from the halfway line.
Indeed, by the time Adam bade farewell to the top flight in 2018 he'd made 334 fouls for Blackpool, Liverpool and Stoke.
25= Steve Sidwell – 338
Although his total number of fouls isn’t one of the highest in this list, his ratio is among the best: 200 Premier League games, 338 fouls.
Those came during spells with (deep breath) Reading, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Fulham, Stoke and Brighton.
25= Sebastian Larsson – 338
Larsson has now returned to his native Sweden after growing tired of hauling down opponents in England.
The former Sunderland, Birmingham and Arsenal midfielder made 282 foul-littered Premier League appearances but was only sent off once.
24. Craig Gardner - 339
Tough-tackling midfielders are something of a theme of this list and Gardner takes his place among them with 339 fouls in 260 games.
Those were accumulated during spells with West Brom, Sunderland, Birmingham and Aston Villa.
23. Pablo Zabaleta – 350
The two-time Premier League winner takes his place on this list with 350 fouls in 303 appearances for Manchester City and West Ham.
His disciplinary record isn’t exactly flawless either: the Argentine has picked up 68 yellow cards and four red cards in that time.
22. Christian Benteke – 351
Benteke's goalscoring rate has declined in recent seasons, but he's as adept as ever at making the referee blow his whistle.
The Belgium international has been an aerial target at Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace, and committed many fouls in the process.
21. James McArthur - 352
A bundle of energy who never stops running, McArthur has been penalised 352 times since his arrival in the Premier League in 2010.
His decade-long stay in the division has encompassed spells with Wigan and Crystal Palace, where the Scot has maintained his rate of more than a foul per game.
19= Robert Huth – 355
Huth is something of a rarity in this list in that he's a defender. However, anyone who saw him play will know that he deserves his place in the top 20.
The centre-back, who played such a starring role in Leicester’s stunning 2015/16 title triumph, committed an average of more than a foul a game over 322 Premier League appearances for the Foxes, Middlesbrough, Stoke and Chelsea.
19= Mohamed Diame – 355
Handing Diame the No.10 shirt at Newcastle was a somewhat baffling decision, given that he’s registered just five assists and 18 goals in 239 Premier League games.
On top of that, he's spent a lot of his time hauling down opponents in the centre of the pitch during spells with the Magpies, Hull, West Ham and Wigan. No red cards though, to be fair.
18. Wayne Rooney – 368
Rooney is well known for having a hot head and it’s no surprise to see Manchester United and England’s all-time top scorer on this list.
The striker committed 368 fouls in 491 Premier League games for Everton and United, which is by no means a shocking ratio compared to some others in this ranking.
17. Mousa Dembele – 371
Dembele now plies his trade and earns his millions in the Chinese Super League after 11 seasons and 243 Premier League appearances for Spurs and Fulham.
The technically gifted yet tough-tackling midfielder made 371 fouls in that time, but to his credit was never sent off in the top flight.
16. Mark Noble – 376
The long-serving West Ham skipper is bound to move further up these rankings before he hangs up his boots.
Noble has committed 376 fouls in 375 Premier League games, almost exactly one per game. And some people call him inconsistent...
15. Bobby Zamora – 377
Zamora may have rarely been a prolific goalscorer during spells in the top flight with Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham and QPR, but he was a pest for opposition defenders.
The striker was a master when it came to the aggression of his tackles, seemingly; he committed 377 fouls but picked up just 20 yellow cards.
14. Mikel Arteta - 380
Arteta is now teaching the next generation the art of the tactical foul as Arsenal manager following a spell as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City.
The Spaniard spent 16 years in the engine room for Everton and Arsenal, committing 380 fouls, and picking up 43 yellow and four red cards.
13. Shane Long – 390
The Irishman makes more than one foul per game on average, having committed 390 in 313 appearances for Southampton, Hull, West Brom and Reading.
That rarely translates to stricter punishments, though, as Long has never been sent off and has just 28 bookings to his name.
12. Ashley Young - 397
Once a goalscoring winger who occasionally played as a No.10, Young became an aggressive full-back later in his Premier League career.
That allowed him to climb up the foul table, although the former Watford, Aston Villa and Manchester United man was only sent off twice in his Premier League career.
11. Carlton Cole – 401
As the picture suggests, Cole wasn’t one to shy away from a physical battle during Premier League spells with West Ham, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Charlton.
Despite that he was only booked 31 times – although he did pick up three red cards too.
10. Tim Cahill – 402
The Australian was yet another example of a physically combative frontman during his time at Everton.
He plundered 56 goals during his time with the Toffees, and when he wasn’t putting the ball in the net, the flag-punching pest was chasing, harrying and nipping at defenders.
9. Lucas Leiva – 410
A favourite of the Liverpool faithful, Lucas spent a decade tripping people up in the heart of the Reds' midfield.
A record of 410 fouls in 247 games is impressively consistent from the Brazilian, unlike his strike rate: he scored just one league goal for Liverpool.
8. Lee Cattermole – 422
The ex-Sunderland man has forged a well-earned reputation as a tough tackler and can now be found kicking shins in the Netherlands for VVV-Venlo.
Cattermole has 422 fouls, 88 bookings and seven red cards to his name in 271 Premier League appearances.
7. Peter Crouch – 425
Ah, Crouchy. Defenders just didn’t know what to do with you, did they?
The 6ft 6in target man made his presence felt over 468 Premier League appearances, scoring 108 goals and committing 425 fouls for Stoke, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Southampton, Aston Villa and Burnley.
6. Antonio Valencia – 426
The Ecuadorian made his presence felt during spells at Wigan and Manchester United before his return to his homeland in 2019.
To his credit though, Valencia was only ever sent off three times in the English top flight – twice for Wigan and once for United, which isn’t bad going after 325 games.
5. James Milner – 434
Milner still has time on his side to make a push for a podium place in this list as the highest-ranked player currently active in the Premier League.
The England midfielder has committed 434 fouls and counting during spells with Leeds, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City and now Liverpool.
4. Gabriel Agbonlahor – 439
One-club man Agbonlahor became Villa’s record goalscorer in the Premier League over the course of his 322 top-flight appearances for his boyhood club.
But he was also a master of the dark arts, tormenting his markers throughout his career with an impressive 439 fouls.
3. Marouane Fellaini - 588
The Belgian’s name is synonymous with a blur of flailing elbows and tangled limbs.
His efforts at Everton and Manchester United earned him a place in the top three, and if he’d stuck around instead of heading for China, you would’ve backed him to make a surge for the number one spot.
2. Kevin Davies – 605
The final striker on this list, Davies is the most prolific when it comes to fouls, if not goals.
He was a horrible handful for defenders while leading the line for Southampton, Blackburn and Bolton. And also referees. Mainly referees.
1. Gareth Barry - 633
Hats off to Barry for racking up more fouls than anyone else in Premier League history during his time with Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom.
The midfielder was only sent off six times in the top flight, although he was booked on 117 occasions. He could even extend his lead over the chasing pack next season if West Brom win promotion in the coming weeks.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.