BuLiStats: Saints and Sinners

Here we identify the saints and sinners of recent Bundesliga seasons by using the “net fouls” metric.

A simple way to identify the Bundesliga’s saints and sinners is to subtract the number of fouls that a team or player has committed from the amount of fouls that they’ve suffered. This “net fouls” metric gives us a broad, although as we’ll see far from perfect, gauge of who the bruisers and the bruised are.

Starting off with this season’s “saints”, most regular Bundesliga watchers wouldn’t be surprised to see the names of Kai Havertz, Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard among them.

Bundesliga net fouls 2018-19 (matchday 22)

There are clearly some flaws to this method, however. If we’re being polite, it would be fair to say that Amine Harit isn’t especially averse to going to ground.

Meanwhile, Joshua Kimmich’s presence near the top of the chart underlines a footballing truth that isn’t spoken anywhere near as frequently as it should be: defenders dive just as much as attacking players do. They just don’t get called out for it nearly as much.

And it’s doubtful that even Diego Demme’s own mother would describe him as a saint.

Moving on to look at this term’s “sinners”, meaning the players who are committing considerably more fouls than they’re suffering, the absence of Stuttgart’s Santiago Ascacibar from the list is quite a shock. Of course, as a specialist defensive midfielder, it’s part of Ascacibar’s job to hack people down, but my goodness does he enjoy his work.

A study conducted a few years ago by Mark Taylor found that:

“[defensive players] were twice as likely to receive a card compared to attackers who committed the same number of fouls”.


This is borne out by the bottom of the table here. Gelson Fernandes’ net foul deficit of -33 has seen him booked seven times, while Andre Hahn’s and Ondrej Duda’s comparable figures of -29 and -31 respectively have only led to each being carded on four occasions.

Looking back to last season, we can see some familiar faces. Amine Harit really has his work cut out for him over the coming months, however, if he’s going to match last season’s remarkable net foul tally of 75.

Bundesliga net fouls 2017-18

Harit was adjudged to have been fouled 94 times in all, although this wasn’t a league-high. That accolade belonged to Kevin-Prince Boateng on 95. But the current source of many Barcelona fans’ bewilderment gave almost as good as he got, committing 72 fouls himself.

We can also see here that Joshua Kimmich’s fondness for falling over theatrically isn’t a recent development and that Diego Demme really is treated with far more kindness than he deserves by German referees.

The presence in the top ten sinners of four players from Domenico Tedesco’s relentlessly cynical Schalke side should come as no surprise to anyone who had the misfortune of watching them play on a regular basis. The big question here is why, ahead of games against Schalke, opposition managers haven’t been flagging up the incessant tactical fouling that they know will ensue.

Finally, here’s the table for the 2016-17 Bundesliga season:

Bundesliga net fouls 2016-17

You can find other BuLiStats articles here and here.

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Warren Pegg

Warren is a long-time admirer of German football and German beer. He roots for Borussia Dortmund, but above all greatly admires the Bundesliga's engaged, boisterous, and principled supporters. You can follow him at @Russell_Pegg on Twitter.

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