EPL Corner Watch: Round 4

With the transfer window now closed and the first International Break out of the way, Football across Europe is back in full swing.

After four rounds of English Premier League action, we can start to look at meaningful statistics, tactics and trends emerge. The statistic (or area of statistics) I’m watching closely is corner kicks. Read my introductory post on this topic here to get a full understanding of what I’m doing and why.

Without further a-do, here’s the count:

EPL Corners.png

In addition to what you see in the above table, I’m also keeping track on which side of the pitch the corners are being taken and by who as well as assists for players from corners and number of goals conceded from corners by each team. I will be using all these stats to give analysis for each team and make predictions for upcoming matches mainly to assist in decision making for Fantasy Football Competitions.

Arsenal

Pretty straightforward for Arsenal. Granit Xhaka is the main corner taker with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez offering occasional variety. Xhaka has one assist from a corner so far this season but with Arsenal facing Chelsea this week, he would be unlikely to add to that.

Bournemouth

Lot’s of variety here. There doesn’t appear to be much strategy from Eddie Howe as Bournemouth don’t really have a contingent of big men to take advantage of at set pieces. The main statistic of note is that Andrew Surman has taken all five of his corners from the right and remains their leader despite not featuring against Arsenal. Jordan Ibe took both their Round 4 corners despite only coming on as sub. It’s hard to identify Corner Plan A for Bournemouth.

Brighton

Just two corner takers for new boys Brighton so far. Pascal Gross well in front however that is mainly due to Brighton having double the amount of corners from the left than the right. Anthony Knockaert seems to be the preferred option from the right. The tactic here appears to be in-swinging corners from both sides.

Burnley

Robbie Brady takes corners from both sides for Burnley. With Burnley travelling to Anfield this weekend, I would say Brady is a good chance to snag an assist or two. Liverpool are joint leaders for goals conceded from corners with 2, although both of these came in their first game against Watford. But still, questions still remain about Liverpool’s defence against set pieces and with Burnley possessing big target men in Barnes, Vokes and Wood, there are sure to be few chances for Burnley on Saturday.

Chelsea

Eden Hazard made his first appearance for the season coming on to replace Fabregas against Leicester. Since the change, Chelsea had only one corner which was taken by Hazard rather than Willian, who had been subbed on himself earlier in the match. Who takes Chelsea’s corners going forward may be a product of team selection with rotation sure to play a role given the impending Champions League fixtures. I expect the hierarchy to be Fabregas and Hazard then Willian. But whoever is taking Chelsea’s corners will definitely have targets to aim at with Morata’s fine form with his head and the presence of David Luiz and Gary Cahill whose suspension is now over.

Crystal Palace

Nothing has gone right for Crystal Palace so far with 0 goals on the board. Managerial change means there is some uncertainty moving forward regarding their corner strategy. With Benteke in the box and a game against Liverpool already gone, they need to work it out soon. Van Aanholt took all seven of his corners on Matchday 1. No team had more corners than Palace’s 13 on Sunday, Puncheon took the 9 from the left whilst Cabaye, making his first start for the season took all his 4 from the right.

Everton

Wayne Rooney started the season as Everton’s first choice corner taker but off-field issues have put doubts over when his next game will be. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leighton Baines have since taken over corner duties. Everton travel to Italy on Thursday night for a Europa League fixture and then have to front up at Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Sunday. United did concede from a corner against Stoke this week but I don’t think Everton will cause too much trouble from set pieces this week.

Huddersfield

Aaron Mooy’s the man for Huddersfield who host Leicester this weekend. After suffering their first defeat of the season on Monday night, Huddersfield will be keen to bounce back. Mooy’s set piece ability has been outstanding so far this season and against Leicester who have conceded twice from corners so far, you wouldn’t bet against him adding another assist to his tally.

Leicester

See above, replace “Mooy” with “Mahrez” and “Leicester” with “Huddersfield”. Well not exactly, but the theme is there. Leicester have a different approach to their corners though, Albrighton and Gray share the left whilst Mahrez takes the right. Mahrez is the only player in the league to record two assists from corners so far this season and 50% of goals Huddersfield have conceded have come from right-sided corners.

Liverpool

When discussing Liverpool and corners, the subject is usually on their defence, which says just as much about their attacking corners too in my opinion. Liverpool are great in open play but would not be considered set-piece specialists by any means. A real mixed bag so far although but with the return of Coutinho around the corner, things could start to become more clear. Let’s re-assess in a few weeks.

Manchester City

A general rule applies for Man City: De Bruyne from the right, David Silva from the left. Leroy Sane provides an alternative to Silva whilst there’s been the odd variation. City are a bit like Liverpool as they don’t play with any big target men up front to aim at. In summary, not a great deal to discuss yet.

Manchester United

Go back one round and their top three takers looked like this: 13 Blind, 7 Mata, 2 Rashford. Daley Blind and Juan Mata both started on the bench with Mourinho giving the responsibilities to Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Blind was left on the bench and didn’t add to his 13, all taken from the left, whilst Mata took two corners late in the match after Mkhitaryan was subbed off. All four of the corners by Rashford, Lingard and Martial were from taken from the left whilst Blind was on the pitch. As with all the teams competing in Europe, squad rotation will play a role in corner responsibilities.

Newcastle

Matt Ritchie is the number one man for Newcastle and he grabbed an assist from a corner this week to drive home the point. Although it might not have been meant to be that way. Jonjo Shelvey took three corners for Newcastle in the first half of the season before he stupidly got himself sent off. His ban is over now and we watch with intrigue to see how his re-integration to side goes given Newcastle have been in pretty good form without him.

Southampton

Southampton is another team I haven’t got a grip on yet. James Ward-Prowse leads the way despite only being in the starting line-up on the first day of the season. I’m not sure if Mauricio Pellegrino is taking a horses for courses approach or it’s just whoever gets their first gets to take it. Another team for which we need to wait a few more weeks for the picture to be clearer.

Stoke

Xherdan Shaqiri has taken all Stoke’s corners except for two. The other two were taken by Jese in the match against Arsenal, after Shaqiri was subbed off. Stoke’s consistent approach paid dividends last weekend against United with Shaqiri swinging the ball in for Choupo-Moting to head home a 63rd minute equaliser. Given their steady attitude to corner kicks, I expect Shaqiri to be one of the league leader’s in assists from corners.

Swansea

After three matches and 88 minutes played of a fourth, Tom Carroll was the only man to have taken a corner for Swansea. Carroll however had only just been substituted when responsibility fell to Sam Clucas to take three late corners as Swansea chased the match against Newcastle. For Swansea, so far the formula is simple: Carroll takes corners and when he’s off, Clucas does. Like for Stoke, the consistent approach should pay dividends soon, especially now that Wilfried Bony is back in South Wales. An away fixture at Spurs this week doesn’t sound like the time for Carroll to get his first assist for the year, but given Tottenham’s form at Wembley, there’s an outside chance.

Tottenham

Corner duties appear to be shared at Tottenham. Christian Eriksen and Ben Davies are both taking corners in almost equal measure. They both take kicks from either side however Eriksen has taken double the amount of Davies from the left. Davies and Eriksen have five assists between them yet none of these have come from the corner flag. This week Tottenham play Swansea who are tied first for goals conceded from corners whilst Tottenham are second for corners taken. Perhaps this is the week that Spurs record their first assist from a corner, however if they do, I’m not sure who will be the provider.

Watford

Jose Holebas leads the corner charts for Watford despite already missing a game through injury. Five of his eight corners have been taken from the right hand side from which he also registered an assist in just the 8th minute of the season, exploiting Liverpool’s weaknesses. Tom Cleverley is preferred for left sided corners with all his six coming from that side. Andre Carrillo’s sole corner was from the right side during the game Holebas missed. Watford have been the surprise packet so far this season but face a test when they host Manchester City on Saturday afternoon. I’m predicting it to be the match of the round.

West Brom

It’s a pretty clear picture in the Midlands. Chris Brunt has taken 14 of his 16 corners from the right hand side during the first three rounds. He was left on the bench for the loss at Brighton so Gareth Barry replaced him, taking all four corners from the right. On the other side of the pitch, Matt Phillips has taken all his attempts from the left. West Brom are widely regarded as one of the best teams from set pieces in the Premier League however they are yet to score from a corner after four games this season.

West Ham

Aaron Cresswell took over corner duties for West Ham this week and registered the highest number of corners taken by a player in a match with 10. West Ham appear to be keeping things simple for their corners. Marko Arnautovic had taken all their corners until he was sent off and suspended for three matches in the first half against Southampton. Mark Noble then took all corners until he missed the Huddersfield game through injury. Before this week, Cresswell would have been considered as third choice however he might get promoted up the order now given the quality of his delivery. West Ham scored from a corner on Monday night through Andrew Ayew however there was no assist to Cresswell’s name. West Ham have a promising run of fixtures ahead and with Andy Carroll fit again, their corner threat is increased.

That brings us to the end of this rather lenghty analysis. Future weeks are unlikely to be as long as they will be reviews of only one round of fixtures rather than four. Next week I’ll also looking back at the predictions I’ve made for the upcoming games. If you didn’t read the full article, or are simply overloaded from all the analysis, here they are summarised:

Prediction

Confidence

No assists from corners for Xkaha v Chelsea

High

At least 1 assist from corners for Brady v Liverpool

Medium

No Everton goals from corners v United

High

At least 1 assist from corners for Mooy v Leicester

Low

At least 1 assist from corners for Mahrez v Huddersfield

Medium

Shaqiri to be top 3 for assists from corners

Medium

An assist from a corner for Carroll v Tottenham

Low

Spurs to score with an assist from a corner

Low

Watford v Man City to be match of the round

Medium

One quick final word from me, this post is the result of what I estimate to be about 30 hours of work. From the initial planning of the idea to the research, the graphics, the analysis and writing the final result. If you found it interesting, useful or even can appreciate what I’ve created, I would love it if you could leave a comment or even a re-tweet or share on social media. Spreading the word will ensure that the people who really are interested can follow along.

That’s all for this week. Come back next week to read about Round 5 and what to look forward to in Round 6.

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