What does it mean to be the most fouled player?

With nine games left to go in the 2019-20 Premier League season, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish became the most fouled player in a single top-flight English season. The magic number of 128 broke the previous most fouled record giving Grealish a distinction he didn’t actually want.

Many football fans and experts look at the most fouled tally as a way to see that a player is often in control of a match or a dangerous passer that opposing defences want to take out. Yet, Grealish’s record shows something far more interesting and it appears most fouled is misleading.

Prior to Aston Villa’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, Sky Sports’ pundit Graeme Souness gave a great explanation as to why Grealish is the most fouled player of 2019-20. Rather than Grealish’s fouls tally show us how dangerous of a player he is, it actually shows how slow and indecisive he is with the ball.

It is an explanation that few — if any — pundit has used to describe just why a player is fouled so much. Compared to tricky dribblers like Eden Hazard and Cristiano Ronaldo, Grealish isn’t a pacy dribbler. In fact, watching his performance against Liverpool his ball movement was slow and held onto the ball for too long.

So, does most fouled always show that players are slow and indecisive? Not always. The likes of Hazard, who was a fantastic dribbler was brought down often when sprinting past defenders. Ronaldo was the same. Like many stats, most fouled can be interpreted as you would like to see.

Regardless of what the stat truly means, most fouled still indicates that a player’s body has been punished all season long. Players who experience a hefty number of fouls can suffer injuries and struggle to be fit every week to play. It isn’t a stat that most kids want to achieve as young footballers.

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