Things to watch differently in the Premier League this season #1 – Corners

Manchester United took more corners than any other team bar Liverpool in the EPL last season. They also scored 20% of their goals from headers. On top of this only Blackburn and Manchester City scored more goals from set-pieces than United.

For these reasons Differentgame thought they’d be the team with the best corner statistics to have a look at to set some things straight. Actually, mainly just one thing: “How can a professional footballer not even beat the first man from a corner?”

Ryan Giggs corners
Courtesy of EmerandSam @

Firstly, we split the penalty area in half, drawing a line from the centre of the goal, through the penalty spot to the edge of the box. Anything met by a player in the nearest half to the corner taker was deemed ‘near post’. Anything in the other half was deemed ‘far post’. Short corners or those teed up for the man around the D were deemed, erm, ‘short corners’ (for ease).

Over the season United swung in 137 near post corners, 51 far post corners and quite surprisingly (to non-United fans like us at least) took 92 short corners.

Unless professional footballers are even more woefully inaccurate than most think, they’re hitting near post corners on purpose. They’re therefore deliberately increasing the risk of not clearing the first man. But why?

Only 2 corners out of 280 were met directly by a header that went straight in the goal. And they were both near post corners. In all, United scored 10 goals originating from corners. 4 from near post corners, 3 from far post corners and 3 from short corners. Those figures suggest that they should have taken less near post corners, surely?

It’s not until we break each one down that we see a reason why maybe they didn’t. We’ve already stated that of the 4 near post ones, 2 only needed one touch to score.The other 2 need just two touches each (a flick then the finishing touch) before ending up in the net. 4 goals, 6 touches.

The 3 far post corner goals needed 8 interventions in total to find their way into the net. The first required 3 United players to win headers after the initial corner. The second was a simple cushioned lay-off. The third was headed out of the box by a defender, the ball landing to a United player who fed it wide to then be smashed home.

The 3 short corners goals required 13 interventions. Two of these United remained in control of -intricate short passes before the ball was eventually played into the box. The first one however, involved Nani beating two men, getting tackled, the ball coming out to Michael Carrick, him firing in a shot, the shot getting blocked and Javier Hernandez firing in the rebound.

Near post corners therefore offer the shortest route to goal. Once the initial corner kick is taken it minimises the risk of multiple players having to find each other in the box when heavily marked. There’s less luck needed for a goal to happen.

Short corner routines retain possession until a better angle for a cross is reached and gives time for defenders to be pulled out of position. It shortens the odds of a goal happening.

Far post corners almost seem like a lottery in comparison given the examples. Only 1 in 50 was a simple knock back across goal before someone put it in. Nobody stuck a far post corner straight in the net.

So next time you hear someone say “just get it in the box” after a short corner, or “he can’t even beat the first man” once a near post corner is cleared, you’ll know better than to nod in agreement. Players are deliberately targeting the area, and anything over-hit is generally a waste of time.

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