Daniel James has played three games for Manchester United, and he’s been booked for diving in two of them.
For those who think that means James has made a bad start to life at Old Trafford, it’s worth noting the Welshman has also scored in two of those three appearances.
But receiving a brace of yellow cards for diving has somewhat dampened the instant impact he has made at his new club.
In all fairness, James was arguably unfortunate to be penalised against Crystal Palace; he appeared to be clipped by an opposition player before taking a tumble, and it is difficult for a player with such agility to stay on his feet even when the contact is minimal.
But in any case, James joins a list of 14 Premier League players who have been booked at least twice for simulation since the start of the 2015/16 season.
Who are the Premier League’s worst diving culprits?
Wilfried Zaha tops the list of Premier League players with the most yellow cards for diving in recent seasons and since August 2015 to be exact. He has been booked four times for simulation in that time.
Correspondingly, Crystal Palace have received more bookings (10) than any other club in that time, closely followed by Tottenham and Arsenal (both 9) – no other club has received more than six.
Most PL yellow cards for diving since the start of the 2015/16 season:
4 – Wilfried Zaha
3 – Dele Alli, James McArthur
2 – Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling, Pedro, Adam Smith, Leroy Sane, Joshua King, Martin Olsson, Roberto Pereyra, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Shkodran Mustafi, Daniel James
Dele Alli (3) is Spurs’ worst offender, while Shkodran Mustafi is the only Arsenal player to be booked for diving more than once, meaning eight separate Arsenal players have seen yellow for simulation since the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign.
A contribution from James McArthur (3) helped Zaha boost Palace’s tally, while 11 players – including James – have been booked twice in that timeframe.
Clubs with most PL yellow cards for diving since the start of the 2015/16 season:
10 – Crystal Palace
9 – Tottenham, Arsenal
6 – Watford, Liverpool, Man Utd
5 – Everton, Chelsea, Man City, Swansea, Bournemouth
4 – Southampton, Leicester, West Ham, Huddersfield
3 – Stoke, Sunderland, Burnley
2 – Aston Villa, Newcastle
1 – Middlesbrough, Brighton, West Brom, Fulham, Wolves
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Solskjaer sticks up for James
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended James after the 21-year-old was booked for the second time this season against Palace.
Solskjaer worries James’ pace will often result in him going to ground through no fault of his own.
“Yes. That is what you do get,” Solskjaer said when asked if James is getting a reputation for going over too easily.
“At that pace, a touch or a nudge will be enough for him to fall.
“I am 100% sure there is contact between Dan and their defender. If you look at the video, there is contact and [there was in] the Wolves game. He has been unlucky. Neither yellow card should have stood.”
Both incidents involving James this term have occurred outside the penalty area. If the alleged simulation had happened inside the box, VAR would have got involved to determine the accuracy of the referee’s call.
All-time Opta data reflects badly on Spurs and Man Utd
Opta started collecting data on bookings for simulation from the 2006/07 season onwards, so we’ve also had a look at the players most guilty of diving over the last 13 Premier League campaigns.
Tottenham top the list with 26 yellow cards, over a quarter of which were shown to Gareth Bale (7). Interestingly, Bale – another Welshman – was also defended by his managers at the time, with his pace used as a reason for going to ground.
In 2012, Harry Redknapp said of Bale: “He doesn’t dive and he gets kicked from pillar to post most Saturdays. I’ve never had to speak to him about it [diving] and I have no need to. He runs so quickly and changes direction so quickly that he gets chopped down an awful lot.”
The following season following more accusations against Bale, Andre Villas-Boas said: “Gareth is so fast so it is very difficult [for referees] to judge situations.”
David Bentley, who played for Arsenal, Spurs, Norwich and Blackburn, is second on the list with five bookings, while Ashley Young (4) and Cristiano Ronaldo (3) are among the guilty representatives of Manchester United, the second worst offending team after Tottenham with 23 yellow cards.