Mauricio Pochettino has admitted his Saints side are picking up more yellow cards this season because of their style of play.
Four bookings against Chelsea on New Year’s Day took Saints’ Premier League cautions total to 36 in 20 games.
That is compared to only 44 in 38 league games last season.
Nobody could accuse Pochettino of having a dirty side, as not a single red card in the current campaign underlines, but they have had a tendency to collect cautions.
Only four top flight sides have accumulated more this season.
It can be explained by Saints’ style of play. Their high pressing tactics, whereby they try to win the ball back within a matter of seconds of losing it, can contribute.
Of the 20 top flight sides, Saints are second only behind Crystal Palace with the average number of tackles made per game with 21.9.
But that has contributed to them averaging the third highest number of fouls per game with 13.
Victor Wanyama is the most prolific fouler in the division in terms of the average number given away per game.
Only a handful of players have given away more fouls than the Kenyan’s 33, even though he has not played for over a month!
Pochettino explained the reasons behind Saints’ controlled aggression and said: “The way we play is that we live on the limits, we take risks.
“There is a certain impetus about how we play, we always want the ball back.
“Sometimes players arrive late on a tackle and it happens that they might get a yellow card.
“We play with a certain aggressiveness and that will lead us to get some yellow cards, but overall I am happy with the referees’ decisions with us.”
Pochettino’s style of play is inevitably going to lead to cautions, but anybody who thinks they have clocked up quite a few this season had best not look at Spain.
In La Liga, where Pochettino played and managed for most of his career, referees dish out yellow cards far more freely than in England.
In Pochettino’s 124 games in charge of Espanyol, the club amassed a staggering 409 yellow cards as well as 24 reds.
That is largely due to the nature of the refereeing in the division, borne out by stats that show about 60 per cent of red cards in Spain are due to second yellow cards compared with about 25 per cent in the Premier League.
Despite Saints’ recent run-in with Mark Clattenburg, Pochettino says he prefers the style of refereeing in England.
“Yes, there is a tendency to be more nervous refereeing in Spain and week in, week out, every matchday you see one, two, three, four managers sent off,” explained Pochettino.
“Overall there is a lot more tension in Spain in the relationship between players, managers and referees than here.
“I would say that I prefer how they referee here rather than they do in Spain, even though sometimes I complain and don’t appreciate some of their decisions.”