Its fair to see we have witnessed some hefty challenges, two footed lunges and controversial dismissals this season that are all part and parcel of the Premier League. When the season draws to a close, most of the focus of the analysis diverts to the Premier League teams and players who have performed brilliantly or terribly and how the season can be assessed. However, sometimes its the players who can’t apply themselves on the pitch accordingly are the ones who are overlooked. Some more than others of course. When we see simulation and diving on the pitch and we see heavy decent directed towards the officials, its a good thing the FA are encouraging fair play and respect towards referees and officials. Some are inept of this concept and in the modern game, it should be time to eradicate the handbags and high tempered encounters. It is tarnishing the reputation of the beautiful game. These players shall no longer be overlooked and they should be honed into the spotlight. But in fairness, this player has had his fair share on the back pages of the papers.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) – 10 yellow, 0 red
The feisty Uruguyian is prone to spark up a few debates now and again. He is a defenders nightmare, especially when he isn’t shy of some off the ball niggles and stamps, anything to give him the upper hand. Quite a number of his yellow cards have stemmed from simulation or dissent. But the biggest talking point over his discipline didn’t even earn him a yellow card. At Liverpool’s home match against Chelsea earlier in the month, Suarez was seen biting the arm of Branislav Ivanovic when the two were jostling for space in the box, an incident that saw him earn a 10 match ban and anger management classes to improve his ability to control himself on the pitch. The incident was not spotted by referee Kevin Friend and instead, the deliberation was judged upon video evidence which showed horrifying images of Suarez sinking his teeth into the flesh. Despite him pitching 30 goals this season for Liverpool and earning a PFA nomination for player of they year, this will be the defining moment of the season for Suarez. After he was banned for 8 games last season for racially abusing Patrice Evra, that is a total of 18 games he has been banned for, equating to nearly half season, 4 months and 1620 minutes of playing time. His world class ability is evident, but his attitude shines through the most.
Craig Gardner (Sunderland) – 10 yellow, 1 red
Its of no surprise that a midfielder come right back tops the disciplinary table this season. He doesn’t shy away from a tackle or two and often vents his frustration at the referee. He has a constant look of anger or intent on his face and doesn’t mind an off the ball kick or two against his opponents. Several pundits claim he has under performed this season, but so has the rest of the Sunderland team as they sit on the brink of the relegation zone. His discipline has often let his side down this season and at one point, he could of made a catastrophic error. On Monday night, his late lunge on Charlie Adam earned him a straight red in a bottom of the table clash against Stoke City when they were 1-0 down. The implications could of turn into a humiliating defeat for the Black Cats and could of been detrimental to the dogfight for relegation. However, the match finished 1-1 thanks to a scrappy goal from saviour captain John O’Shea. Gardner needs to learn how to calm down on the football pitch. He is an important player for Sunderland and his robust style is often his edge in the heart of the midfield. But Monday night was an example of how he needs to tone down on the pitch.
Steve Sidwell (Fulham) – 7 yellow, 2 red
The auburn haired midfielder has been a steady performer for the Cottagers this season. His talent mirrors the performance of his team and there mid table finish season after season. It could be unfair to criticise Fulham’s mid table finishes as they do have the ability to reach for the higher places in the top half and perhaps a European spot. However, Sidwell ranks high in the disciplinary table in the Premier League, mostly due to his 2 red cards. justifiably sent off of course for late challenges, they were both earned in unfortunate circumstances. The game he came back from suspension from the first red card, 13 minutes into the game, he received a straight red for a high lunge and was given his marching orders for another 3 match ban. Fulham aren’t exactly a team who are known for physicality but Sidwell has bumped them up a bit on the disciplinary table this season.
Steven N’Zonzi (Stoke City) – 7 yellow, 1 red
It was quite surprising to see a temper on N’Zonzi this season. Not many thought of him as a player who would react so easily to high challenges or poor decisions from the referee. But the ill tempered Frenchman saw the red mist and also the red card when he lashed out and kicked his opponent and earned himself a second yellow. But the incident was worthy of a red in itself. Stoke have under performed this season and have had probably their worst season since they gained promotion to the Premier League. They went on a run which saw 1 point from 7 games and got pulled right into the relegation mix. But Stoke have performed admirably since then and earned vital victories, especially against QPR. N’Zonzi has helped them on there way to running away from the relegation zone but it doesn’t avoid the fact he has been prone to a few mishaps on the football field. He still has a bit of a temper but it was put quite rightly on Monday night when he was praised for not reacting to a late James McClean challenge. Stoke seem all but they do have the worst discipline in the Premier League and N’Zonzi has been a hefty contributor.