Corners and their frequency over a 90-minute period can tell us so much about a football game. While they can never guarantee goals, they can rally a round of applause or an encouraging bellow from fans of the attacking team and instil concern in the mind of the defending team. Today, even corner specialists are employed, with each set-play analysed ad nauseum to try and formulate the ‘perfect’ corner-kick routine.
Here, we will assess just how often corner kicks are awarded and the rate at which goals come directly from them. We’ll also dive into historical trends, looking at how the corner kick has fluctuated in terms of regularity and importance to teams.
Corners Throughout Football History
In layman’s terms, a corner is what is awarded to an attacking team when the ball crosses the goal line, having last touched a member of the defending side. With the odd change here or there, that has remained steadfastly in place from the very inception of Association Football right through until the modern day.
Indeed, one of the only major changes is the fact that players are now permitted to score directly from a corner kick, where historically, they couldn’t. Curiously, it wasn’t until 1924 that this alteration to the law was made. In June of that year, the IFAB formally legalised scoring in this manner, with the first notable and international example being the now-infamous ‘Olympico goal’. Scored by Argentina’s Cesareo Onzari against newly-crowned Olympic champions Uruguay in October 1924, it represented the first of its kind on the global stage.
Since that landmark rule change, no major alterations have been made to the actual mechanics of a corner kick. It should be noted that the introduction of VAR, as well as greater scrutiny of defending in recent years, has led to a slight change in the way they are officiated. To this end, much of the rough and tumble tactics of holding and impeding, that historically might have been missed by officials, is now clamped down on. One might argue that such changes have led to more goals resulting from corners, as it is now harder for defenders to keep hold of the man/woman they are marking.
Corners In The Premier League Era
In the early years of the Premier League, set pieces were naturally of great importance. While data on corners taken is hard to find from these early years, we do start to get a better idea of corner regularity from 1997 onwards. The average number of corners in Premier League games between 1997-98 to 2004-05 was just over 11.
The main thing to understand is that the number of corners that will be taken in the future is only partly influenced by those that have been taken in the past. When it comes to corners, history repeats itself much less often than in many others. With that in mind, while the average may come out to 11, there is great variation depending upon the teams involved and the year the data is from.
The last thing to understand about corners is that whereas the total in a match can be any number from zero upwards, there are certain numbers that have tended to recur throughout the EPL era. For example, half of all Premier League matches (since 1997) finish with between nine and 13 corners, and two-thirds finish with between eight and 14.
Recent Premier League Trends
At the time of writing we’re currently at the halfway point of the 2022/23 Premier League season, now seems like as good a time as any to look at corner-kicks stats so far. The most recent data seems to indicate that we are seeing a slightly lower number of corners per game than we did between 1997 and 2005.
Indeed, only one club, Everton, has averaged 11 corners or over in their first 14/15 games of the season (12.27). High-flying Newcastle United are a distant second at 10.96, with the lowest number being recorded by Crystal Palace at 8.50 (including the average number of corners won by Palace and their respective opponents).
In terms of a league average for the season so far, that comes out to 10.18. The previous league campaign reveals similar numbers, as there were 10.15 corners per EPL match on average in 2021/22. That figure increased slightly in 2019/20, at 10.70, with home teams still earning corners than away teams on the whole.
Corners Won/Lost In The Premier League
It’s now time to look at which teams benefit most from those corners being awarded in the Premier League. After all, average corners in a game can only tell us the total amount, not which side is winning them or giving them away.
As you might expect, the league’s top sides generally earn the most corner kicks, as has been the case in this current Premier League season. While Liverpool might not top the actual Premier League table for points, they do lead the way in terms of average corners won per game so far this season – at 7.1. Next up are defending EPL champions Man City, who have averaged 6.7 in their favour, while Newcastle United and Spurs are on 6.3 and 6, respectively. Curiously, league leaders Arsenal are way down at 5.3 per game, maybe alluding to the fact that they rely less on crossing than some other sides.
At the very opposite end of the scale, we have Nottingham Forest, who have averaged the lowest so far this season at 2.9. Leicester City are just above with 3.3, while Bournemouth have averaged just 3.5 in their first 15 games of the season. Predictably, both these sides are high on the list for the most corners conceded – although they aren’t the biggest offenders. That would instead be Everton at 4.4 per game, with Bournemouth at 3.5 and Forest at 2.9. Contrastingly, Manchester City have averaged just 2.9 corners against them per game so far this year – the stingiest average in the whole league.
Goals From Corners In The Premier League
It’s one thing to be awarded corners, but it’s what you’re able to do with them that counts most. Some teams are far more potent from corners than others, managing to score with regularly from set pieces rather than just periodically.
Across the board, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of goals coming from corner kicks in the Premier League over the past few seasons. Indeed, 2021/22 saw a record high of 146, pointing to the new and innovative ways teams are approaching them. Naturally, this speaks to the inherent value of a true set-piece specialist on your roster, which perhaps explains why Liverpool and Manchester City were so deadly from corners in 2021/22.
Goals From Corners In The Past Six Premier League Seasons
|Season||Total number of goals from corners||Total number of goals scored|
During the season, where they battled until the very last match-day to win the EPL title, both sides scored 15 goals directly from corners, partly thanks to incredible dead-ball deliveries from the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Kevin de Bruyne. It isn’t all about the takers, though, as analysts have been brought into the fold at most elite clubs to ensure that they do all they can to perfect corner routines.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has recently praised assistant Peter Krawietz and his team of analysts for their planning of corner routines, along with German neuroscientists Neuro11 for helping set-piece takers hone their decision-making. Just behind Liverpool and Man City last season in terms of goals coming from corners were Arsenal (13 goals) and West Ham (10 goals), each highlighting the immense value the set-piece can provide.
While we now know the corner trends in the Premier League, it’s time to compare that data to other major European divisions to see what major differences – if any – there are. So far this season (2022/23), the EPL actually ranks top amongst the major five European leagues for corners averaged per game.
Indeed, the other four leagues average below 10, with the Bundesliga having 9.7, La Liga at 9.44, Ligue 1 at 9.41 and Serie A at 9.23. Across all of Europe’s top leagues, the Norwegian Eliteserien comes out on top with the highest average, at a very high 10.86. This could partly be due to the style of play of many teams in that league, as well as weather conditions.
|League||Average Corners||Home Team||Away Team|
|Eliteserien||10.86 / game||6.25||4.6|
|Scottish Premiership||10.52 / game||5.32||5.19|
|Championship||10.24 / game||5.79||4.45|
|Premier League||10.19 / game||5.82||4.37|
|UEFA Women’s Champions League||10.05 / game||6.12||3.93|
|Bundesliga||9.7 / game||5.17||4.53|
|La Liga||9.44 / game||5.46||3.97|
|Ligue 1||9.41 / game||4.79||4.61|
|Serie A||9.23 / game||4.81||4.42|
|UEFA Champions League||9.12 / game||5.13||3.99|
|J1 League||9.04 / game||4.52||4.52|
|UEFA Europa League||8.66 / game||5.21||3.45|
|Ligue 2||8.61 / game||4.55||4.07|
Corner stats for the 2022/23 season (as of 20/11/22)
In addition, in all European top-flight leagues, the home team has earned more corners than the away team, showing that home advantage is still very much real in the modern game. Only in Ligue 1 was it close, with away sides earning an average of 4.61 while home sides averaged 4.79.
Away from domestic football, the two major European club competitions also reveal some interesting corner-related trends. For one, in both the Champions League and Europa League, there have been fewer corners on average this season than in any of the big five European leagues (9.12 and 8.61, respectively).
What this may indicate is that teams who tend to keep possession for longer periods both receive and concede fewer corner-kicks than those who opt for a more direct style of play. After all, even when defending, the more direct teams won’t mind kicking the ball out of play and thus conceding a corner, while teams who are more comfortable playing out from the back would instead try to pass their way out of trouble.
Tactical trends have come and gone in football, but through it all, corner-kicks have remained vitally important – especially so in the Premier League. As we’ve shown, corners are more likely than ever before to lead to goals, partly thanks to the increasingly elaborate and creative set-piece routines formulated by dedicated analysts.
In terms of their frequency, it continues to range between 8 to 11 corners per game in most European leagues. With no major rule changes regarding corners currently in the works, this should remain the golden average moving forwards. However, the history of football shows that the beautiful game is full of surprises.