Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling says his side are being “butchered” by bad tackles, and team-mate Bernardo Silva suggests the Premier League leaders are being targeted by opponents. Manager Pep Guardiola only named six out of a possible seven substitutes for the 1-1 draw at Burnley, claiming he did not have enough players because of injury. But are City the victims of more — and worse — fouls than their rivals? BBC Sport looks at the stats…
“For football in general players are the artists. The only thing they can do is protect them,” Guardiola said in January.
The runaway Premier League leaders have forged a reputation for fast-flowing, attacking football this season, scoring 74 goals — 15 more than the division’s next top scorers, Liverpool. But their manager has expressed frustration at a number of fouls committed against his side recently, urging referees to protect his players.
Leroy Sane was ruled out for “six or seven weeks” after being injured in a challenge by Cardiff’s Joe Bennett in the FA Cup, with the winger one of seven senior City players currently sidelined. But City are, in fact, only the 12th most-fouled team in the English top-flight this season, with West Ham the victims of 66 more than Guardiola’s side.
City have won 22 of their 26 Premier League games this season to open up a 13-point lead over second-placed Manchester United. But Sterling says some teams have resorted to kicking the league leaders once they go in front.
“Some tackles have been awful,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s not what I expect in a top-flight match, especially when teams are losing and go out to kick players.”
Sterling has been the Manchester City player fouled the most times in the league this season, but the England international ranks eighth for the whole division. The winger has drawn 44 fouls in 24 appearances in 2017-18, making him the only City player to feature in the league’s top 25.
Watford striker Richarlison leads the way after being fouled 77 times so far, with Tottenham’s Dele Alli and Swansea’s Jordan Ayew among those winning more free-kicks than Sterling. – BBC Sport