Should Coutinho Take Liverpool’s Corners?

I recently looked into whether Liverpool were better at defending set pieces this season (here), and the numbers suggested that they weren’t. The Reds then proceeded to let in dead ball goals against Hull, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion in three of their next four league matches. Either I might have a clue regarding what I write about on here, or I’m a jinx. You decide.

Anyway, that article was prompted by a John Aldridge column in the Liverpool Echo, and something he has said this week (here) inspired me to write another quick post. When talking about Liverpool’s performance at Crystal Palace, Aldo said:

The fact that we’ve found a corner taker is also a real positive. Our corners have been horrendous for a long time, I could never see us scoring from them. But Philippe Coutinho put in some really good deliveries and hopefully we’ll stick with him now… When we had Suarez and Steve Gerrard deliveries, you could see the percentage of goals getting knocked up.

Have Liverpool found a decent corner taker in Coutinho though? Or did the Reds benefit from some random variation at Selhurst Park?

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Liverpool’s Record at Attacking Corners

John Aldridge has been writing in the Liverpool Echo (here) about how poor the Reds are at corners.

“The situation with Liverpool corners and set-pieces in general has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous… from our own corners, we don’t look like we even know what we’re doing.”

Regular readers will know that this is exactly the sort of thing I like to look into, so here’s what I found.

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A Look At Luis Alberto

I can’t claim to have watched any of Luis Alberto’s games for Malaga this season, but it was disappointing to see the following tweet:

Not least as I was under the impression that he was actually doing pretty well, thanks to this radar tweet:

Having not seen the matches, I can’t provide a definitive answer to this difference of opinions, but I thought I’d take a closer look at the numbers in the above radar to see what they say to me about Alberto’s performance so far this season.

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Creating From Corners

In a recent piece I wrote on Liverpool’s predictable problems (see here), one of the issues I highlighted was that the Reds were highly unlikely to match last season’s record haul of twenty-six league goals from set pieces. As the following tweets illustrate, it seems that there is a widespread perception that Brendan Rodgers’ men are particularly struggling with their corners this season:

Are these opinions justified, or are things not as straightforward? I’ve taken a closer look.

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Everton 3 Liverpool 3: Stats Zone Analysis

After a frenetic, see-sawing Merseyside derby (which was Liverpool’s highest scoring league draw since the 4-4 with Arsenal at Anfield in 2009), I guess the most important facts from a Liverpool perspective are that they now have four points more than they had from the corresponding fixtures last season, seventy points from the last thirty-eight league games, and have only had more than twenty-four points from the first twelve games four times in the Premier League era.

Brendan Rodgers has now taken the same amount of league points (eighty-five) as Kenny Dalglish did in his second tenure, but in six fewer games. Overall, the Reds are doing pretty well.

However…

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The Effectiveness (Or Not) Of Corners

Whenever your team earns a corner, you probably cheer and encourage them, as you think there’s a good chance they will score from it. I know I do.

I found an interesting statistic in The Guardian’s The Joy Of Six article today.

Apparently, in the last five seasons of the Premier League, there have been 21,245 corners taken. Of these, 627 have resulted in goals being scored.

This equates to a paltry success rate of 2.95%. In other words, only one goal per 33.89 corners taken.

Apparently for last season alone the success rate was a slightly more impressive 3.6%, but that’s still only a goal from every 27.78 corners.

Let’s break the main figures down. In five seasons where 20 teams each play 38 games, there will be a total of 1900 games, which is 171,000 minutes of play.

Therefore, on average, a Premier League game in the last five years featured 11.18 corners, or effectively one every eight minutes.

A goal was scored from a corner every 272 minutes, or once every 3 games (give-or-take).

So the next time your team needs a goal and gets a corner late in a game, don’t get your hopes up too much or shout yourself hoarse, as it probably won’t happen.

I don’t have the answers as to why. Goalkeepers getting free-kicks for even the slightest contact on them probably has something to do with it. Better defensive coaching no doubt has a bearing too.

But whatever the reasons, one thing is clear: a corner is a less effective attacking tool than most people think.

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