Newcastle United star named the ‘dirtiest’ player in whole of 2022/23 Premier League

Joelinton was statistically the dirtiest player in the Premier League this season - but is that a problem for Newcastle?
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We recently dug into the stats and pulled out the calculators to work out who the dirtiest player in the Premier League had been this past season – who had made the most fouls and seen the most cards waved in their faces by the referee. It turns out that the very worst offender in the top flight is Newcastle United’s Joelinton.

At first thought, it isn’t a shock that a combative defensive midfielder should be top those particular charts. Holding players dominated the top ten – especially Brazilian ones - with Casemiro, Fabinho, João Palhinha and Douglas Luiz all racking up seriously high numbers of fouls over the course of the season, and seeing several flashes of yellow and red as they went along.

But it was Joelinton who came out on top – or bottom, depending on how you look at it. He picked up 12 yellow cards over the course of the league campaign (not to mention a bonus booking in the League Cup final against Manchester United) and committed a whopping 65 fouls – the joint-highest in the division.

None of which is necessarily a major problem – although it did mean that he missed three matches through suspension as the campaign wore on – and Eddie Howe seemed largely unconcerned when asked about Joelinton’s disciplinary record.

“He is competitive, he is a fighter and wants to win”, the Newcastle head coach told the press. “That, at times, will spill over into yellow cards.”

And fair enough – battling midfielders have been a useful string in the bow of many teams, and Joelinton’s pugnacious partnership with compatriot Bruno Guimarães has been at the heart of much that Newcastle did well on their way to securing Champions League football for the first time in two decades.

But there is a concern at the heart of all the statistics – while Joelinton may not be the archetypal ‘dirty’ player, looking to commit deliberate niggling fouls or overcook necessary challenges, he does have a serious bad temper – and Newcastle need to take that seriously.

In pre-season, Joelinton received what would prove to be the only red card of his campaign, in a 3-2 defeat to Benfica in Lisbon. Contriving to lose every ounce of his cool in a warm-up game, Joelinton stamped on opposing midfielder Florentino and was shown a second yellow card – a rather lenient punishment in its own right – before sparking a minor touchline fracas on his way off the field as tempers frayed around him.

It wasn’t entirely a one-off, even if it was the only time he got sent off for the year to come. He could well have seen red for his over-the-top antics in a confrontation with Brighton’s Solly March in October. He got into needless shoving matches several times, getting one of his yellows for a hot-headed tête-à-tête with Michael Olise at Selhurst Park. Last season he was shown yellow for sending Rodrigo Bentancur flying with a shove after the Uruguayan did some squaring up of his own.

Wherever there is a loss of cool and a clash of characters on the pitch, Joelinton is there. Usually, he started it, or at least reacted instantly to a provocation. When he isn’t immediately present, he makes sure he’s involved as soon as possible. His wick is short and his reactions as predictable as a Swiss clock.

Which presents opponents with a constant opportunity – if you needle Joeinton, he will, sooner or later, lose it. He will get himself on the wrong side of the referee’s wrath and, given how many tackles he makes and fouls he commits, it’s a minor miracle that his tinder-box temper didn’t combine with the nature of his role to see him get booked twice during a game that actually mattered.

Joelinton’s numbers for tackles aren’t up there with the very best, but he still put in 70 tackles last season – winning 49 of them. That’s an impressive success rate of 70%, but missing 30% of your attempts when you try tackles more than twice per game means you’re getting on the officials’ wrong side a lot. In the home tie against Brighton, Joelinton committed eight fouls, somehow avoiding a booking for repeated offences – if you add that many fouls to the chance of getting in a needless shoving match with someone like March, you get plenty of potential for a red card.

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Somehow, it didn’t happen last season – but it will eventually come home to roost. Joelinton is 26 years old, past the point where natural immaturity can be blamed for his frequent flashes of fiery temperament. He needs to learn to keep his cool, or one of Newcastle’s most important players will eventually let them down.

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