The Influence of Player Aggression on the EPL and Betting Markets

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The English Premier League is considered the most competitive soccer league in the world. Games have a high tempo throughout, making them attractive, which is why it is the most-watched league globally. Players receive the ball and pass it to their teammates as they look for an offensive edge to score and win. In contrast, the Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, and Italian Serie A are slow-paced, and players can showcase more flair, but the games are slow.

Statistically, such slow-paced leagues have recorded plenty of fouls by defensive players, especially on attacking players who hold the ball too long and attempt to dribble. On the other hand, in the EPL, because of the attacking nature of the style of play, every player has a deal of aggression as they aim to tackle and win the ball back. Both attacking and defensive-minded players tackle for the ball in the EPL, while in more conservative leagues, this is left to the defensive players.

The aggression and fast tempo exhibited in the EPL are what make it the best league in the world. It is a trait that has also influenced betting patterns, especially in the red/yellow card market. Various sports betting sites have focused on offering odds on the number of players or even specific players to get either a yellow card or a sending-off (red card).

Of the top six leagues in Europe, two of the top three teams that lead the statistics in tackles per game are in the EPL. Leeds United (EPL) leads with an average of 22.4 tackles per game, followed by Nice of the French Ligue with 22.1, and then Chelsea (EPL), which averages 20.1 tackles.

Pundits have argued that the VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) consulted in making decisions that would have otherwise escaped the on-pitch referee’s decision slows down the game’s tempo. Slowing down the tempo after a 4 to 8-minute VAR check kills the momentum often associated with the EPL. Another common aspect of consulting the VAR is that it mostly leads the referee to produce a booking which in most cases is a yellow card offence.

When the referee produces a red card, the game’s flow changes. Fans are used to having Premier League games exhibit end-to-end action, which changes when the manager has to make defensive substitutions to force a draw or preserve a decent scoreline when losing.

All these factors have greatly influenced the betting markets because, statistically, a team playing with a red card usually loses, even if it was the favourite to win. On another note, when a team gets its defensive players yellow carded, they must tone down on their aggression; otherwise, they risk a second yellow and a sending-off. Again, the team has to slow down their aggressive style, or the manager has to change the game plan by substituting the player and focusing on offence.

Because of these uncertainties, which are quite so often in the EPL nowadays, bettors prefer wagering on card markets over an outright winner or a draw and loss. The games have such a high tempo that most offences are tactical fouls, and most referees will warn on a first offence to preserve the game’s momentum and competitive edge.

For instance, a defensive player who prevents an offensive player from making a run for the ball outside the box will get a first-time warning. It is common, especially in the first half, and the tactical foul happens outside the box or in the opposing half, where the other team is unlikely to get a clear scoring chance.

Because offensive players in the EPL are also very involved in playing a significant defensive role, it reduces the burden on defensive players. Of the twenty most booked teams in Europe’s top six leagues, only three EPL teams feature. Spanish La Liga side, Mallorca, has received 98 yellow and 3 red cards in 27 games and leads the list.

The most aggressive EPL team on the list is Fulham which features 14th on the list with 68 yellow cards and one red card in 28 games. Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest feature on the list at 19th and 20th, respectively, with 66 yellow cards, although Palace has received three red cards this season in 29 games.

Bettors have, therefore, figured that the EPL’s physical style, coupled with the pace in most games, will always draw tactical fouls quickly. It has made the card market lucrative because most games average 3.82 yellow cards, where 2 are for the away team and 1.81 for the home team.

Player aggression has also influenced attendance amongst most fans, especially in derby games and matches with a history of team rivalry. There is often a heated atmosphere when Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool play each other. These matches often have a higher card count and record fan attendance in the stadiums hosting the games. Tickets for these games are always pricier and sell out faster for non-season ticket holders. Chelsea vs Manchester United is the fixture with the most yellow cards, numbering 251, while Arsenal vs Tottenham and Arsenal vs Manchester United follow with 227 and 225, respectively.