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Set-Piece Specialists – What You Need To Know

Why not all set-piece takers are equal

In this article we will look at how significant set-pieces are in fantasy football parlance. Stacking your Official Fantasy Premier League squad or daily fantasy football line-up with set-piece takers may seem like a viable tactic and is likely to reap a good few points but our intention is to prove to you that not all set-piece takers are equal.

When we look at set-pieces there are 3 key areas we need to investigate: the potential for an assist from a corner kick, the frequency of penalty goals and the probability of a goal being scored from a direct free-kick in a dangerous area. Shots on target and crosses from corners/free-kicks may also contribute to an individual player’s fantasy scoreboard, so they should be factored in as well. So where do we start?

There are numerous sites that list players that are most likely to be given these jobs for a specific team, an example of which can be found here but some may not be kept up-to-date, while others may not paint the full picture.

Free-kicks and corners

If you frequent fantasy football message boards where players are discussed, you may hear the words ‘he’s on corners’, so exactly how significant is it? Think about the following questions for a minute. Is he taking all corners from both sides of the pitch? Does he play a number of short corners? What’s the likelihood of him registering an assist from one of his corners?

During the course of the 2016/17 English Premier League season to date, Daley Blind has taken the most corners for Manchester United (43) but that is only 25% of the corner kicks his team has won. By comparison Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson has taken 128, that’s over 90% of his team’s total. Sigurdsson is also monopolising final third free-kicks for the Swans and is their first choice penalty taker.

Fantasy Football Portal - Gylfi Sigurdsson

Robert Snodgrass was very much the main man for Hull City but he may not have things all his own way following his move to West Ham United, even though the departure of  dead ball specialist Dimitri Payet, has left a sizable gap that needs filling.

Christian Eriksen also fares well, having taken over 2/3rds of Spurs’ corners this season but he still hasn’t registered a goal from a direct free-kick in the current campaign despite his pedigree.

Some teams are more adept at converting chances from set-pieces as well. Managers like Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce understand full well the value of set-pieces.

West Bromwich Albion have scored 39 goals from the 29 Premier League matches they have played and the breakdown is quite remarkable. According to WhoScored, 17 have come from open play, 1 from the penalty spot, 3 from counter-attacks and a staggering 18 from set-pieces.

The out of position Chris Brunt has taken 45 corners for the Baggies but that’s only 38% of the total they have earned. West Brom have a reputation for being the tallest team in the Premier League and it’s their central defenders that really stand out as a result of the added goal threat these statistics highlight.

Bottom club Sunderland have scored just 1 goal from a set-piece this season – no wonder the trap-door beckons!

Penalties

The Black Cats have scored 5 penalty kicks though, which perhaps highlights the variance involved in the award of a spot-kick. League leaders Chelsea have scored just 2 penalties all season, while Manchester United have only converted one.

This is not a trend that you would expect to see in La Liga for instance. Sides like Barcelona and Real Madrid tend to win a huge amount of penalties, partly due to some questionable refereeing and some penalty box shenanigans that were also in evidence during Barcelona’s epic Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain.

Premier League referees on the whole are not so easily influenced  but fantasy football managers should be aware that some of the men in the middle are far more likely to award a penalty kick than others. This is perhaps more significant for daily fantasy slates, when the appointed match officials can be factored into your reckoning.

There have been 146 penalties awarded in the last 663 Premier League games played but Mike Dean and Robert Madley have been responsible for 37 of those from the 102 games they have presided over.

Again, reference those lists to determine who is likely to be on spot-kick duty. The designated penalty kick taker may lose the responsibility if he misses one and it’s also worth watching out for teams who tend to rotate their ‘takers’. Some clubs have had strange rules in the past whereby the ‘fouled’ player would not take the resulting kick.

To summarise – we’re privileged to have ready access to some terrific Big Data and infographics nowadays. These can be a goldmine for fantasy football players, so make full use of them, especially when assessing the merits of dead ball specialists – after all, as we’ve clearly shown you, not all set-piece takers are equal!

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