#1 – The Referee
While it’s ever-more fashionable to berate referees and bang on about how much technological help they need, be it in the form of vanishing spray, goal-line technology or indeed a brand new pair of spectacles, knowledge is power when it comes to assessing how strict or how lenient each ref is.
There are several useful resources for ascertaining a ref’s harshness, such as soccerbase.com, statbunker.com, guardian.touch-line.com and so on. These and others are handy to assess referees’ form in terms of their previous ‘card history’ which are vital tools in predicting the frequency of yellow and red cards.
#2 – The Diver
The cliché ‘make the ref make a decision’ is applied to that master of the theatrical fall, the diver. The more divers picked for a match, the higher the number of cards dealt out will be. Put it this way, if the diver is successful, he will get his opponent booked. If unsuccessful, it is almost equally as likely that he will be on the receiving end of a card.
Obviously, the English Premier League’s most persistent diver, a certain Mr Luis Suarez, no longer plies his trade in the UK, but there are plenty more players who fit the bill. Arguably (and sadly) there is at least one diver in every Premier League first eleven these days as divers are an essential part of all clubs in the age of ‘the best con artist wins’.
#3 – The Local Derby
Derby matches turn even the most mild-mannered players – and fans – into total lunatics for the days leading up to the game and the 90 minutes plus stoppages (for pitch invasions) on match day. Inevitably, cards are rife in derby matches and although the odds often shorten as a result, there is nothing wrong in backing what virtually amounts to a sure thing. Can you really imagine a Celtic/Rangers match, for example, without any bookings?
Factor in which ref has been assigned to preside over the fighting in the event a football match might break out at some point. Some refs, although they are admittedly a dying breed, enjoy the thud and blunder of a derby match and will go to great lengths not to get their book out until someone is virtually decapitated.
Examples of ‘heated’ Premier League derby matches: Newcastle v Sunderland, Aston Villa v West Brom, Arsenal v Tottenham, Manchester City v Manchester United, Everton v Liverpool.
#4 – The Niggler
Like the diver, all top professional football clubs have at least one niggler. You know the one. He’s the player who always pulls shirts, trips opponents up, argues with the ref and generally does everything in his power to get booked, despite his coach claiming that he’s a reformed character and is showing a ‘new found maturity’.
Identify the nigglers before you make your cards market selection and consider yourself to be first in line at the payout queue if both sides happen to have three or four nigglers in their ranks.
#5 – The Strong Centre Half
Inevitably, the strong centre half will have to ‘take one for the team’ from time to time in order to stop the opposition striker having a clear run on goal. There are several strong centre halves plying their trade in the Premier League at present and if there happens to be four of them on the pitch at any given time you might want to turn away as the carnage unfolds.