Talking Tactics

Season trends: Record low number of red cards

By Adrian Clarke 9 Jun 2023

Adrian Clarke looks at the underlying reasons sendings-off are less than half than the total from eight years ago

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Only 17 straight red cards were issued in 2022/23 - the fewest number in Premier League history.

Raising the threshold for fouls and serious foul play, top-flight referees showed a little more leniency.

This was reflected in the number of times both teams finished a match with a full complement of players.

Taking into consideration dismissals for two yellow card offences, this season’s total of 30 red cards was the fewest since 1993/94's total of 28.

Across the previous four seasons, an average of 45.5 players were sent off per campaign, so this is a pronounced drop.

In 2014/15, only eight years ago, the tally stood at 71.

Red cards in last five seasons
Season Red cards
2018/19 47
2019/20 44
2020/21 48
2021/22 43
2022/23 30

At the end of the 2021/22 season all 20 Premier League clubs had registered at least one sending off, but this year six sides went the distance without losing a player.

There were no red cards for players at AFC Bournemouth, Arsenal, Brighton & Hove Albion, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and West Ham United.

Across the board we saw high levels of self-control from players, in addition to a degree of tolerance from the match officials.

Overall, 1,374 yellow cards were issued (the second highest on record) but only 0.96 per cent of those first cautions led to a second yellow later on in matches.

Wolves had too much bite

Casemiro grabbed the headlines by being the only individual player to receive two red cards in 2022/23, but as a team it was Wolverhampton Wanderers who had the worst disciplinary record.

Diego Costa, Wolves red card
Diego Costa was one of six Wolves players sent off in 2022/23

They received six red cards last season, twice the number of any other side in the competition.

Remarkably, only one of those dismissals was for two yellow card offences.

In simple terms, Wolves were responsible for 29.4 per cent of all red cards last season!

Most red cards 2022/23
Team Red cards
Wolves 6
Spurs 3
Chelsea 3
Leeds 3
Crystal Palace 3

Of the 17 straight reds shown by referees last season, almost half of those were issued due to serious foul play.

Red card offences 2022/23
Offence Red cards
Serious foul play 8
Violent conduct 5
Professional foul 2
Handball 1
Foul language 1

How much did VAR play a part?

The use of VAR contributed to only an additional three red cards across the season.

Officials at Stockley Park rarely intervened with the on-pitch referee’s initial decisions, influencing nine key red card decisions across the 380 matches.

Three red cards were downgraded to yellow cards on review, while six players were sent off for incidents picked up via the video technology.

Red cards issued after VAR intervention 22/23
Player Match
Diego Costa Brentford v WOLVES
Nathaniel Chalobah FULHAM v Newcastle
Douglas Luiz Fulham v ASTON VILLA
Casemiro MAN UTD v Crystal Palace
Casemiro MAN UTD v Southampton
Jonny WOLVES v Leeds
Red cards rescinded after VAR intervention 22/23
Player Match
Gabriel Leeds v ARSENAL
Kieran Trippier NEWCASTLE v Man City
Hakim Ziyech Spurs v CHELSEA 
Stuart Attwell, referee
Stuart Attwell checks the VAR monitor before overturning a red card for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech
Also in this series

Part 1: Favoured formation emerges
Part 3: Comebacks on a high
Part 4: Corner goals on the rise
Part 5: How fast breaks produced a goal rush 

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