In the book “Soccer Tactics and Skills”, Charles Hughes (1987) argued that the best way to score corner goal consists of 3 factors:
- Near post
- Keep it simple (Variety on a theme, not variety on sole criteria of doing something different)
By analysing 178 League 2 corner goals, it would be tested whether his argument can be applied to League 2 or not.
There is not much difference in terms of the sides of corner. 50.6% of corners were from the left side of the goal.
Type of delivery
The above chart shows that most of the corner goals were delivered by inswing (61%). 30% of them were outswing and 9% of them were ground pass which included medium or short corner. The finding fits the argument of Hughes that inswing is the best way to score corner goal.
Delivery target area
In terms of delivery target area, the result is not as dominant as the result of delivery type. Although near post was the most popular delivery target area, it was not dominant with 36%. In fact, the percentages of mid-goal area and far post were close with 32% and 26%. 5% of corners were delivered to touchline area which means they were short corners. Only 1% of corners were medium corner which were delivered to the edge of the box for long shots. By looking at this chart, Hughes’s argument about near post delivery is not very strong here because the difference between near post, mid-goal area and far post were within 10%. Near post is still a better choice but it is not a dominating factor as inswing delivery. Then the data would be compared with each other for in-depth analysis.
Which side vs. Type of delivery
The above chart shows that the preferences of delivery were different depending on which side of the corner it was. If the corner is taken at the left side of the goal, most of them were delivered by inswing. It could be explained by the fact that most of the players were right-footed. It is interesting to see which approach the team would use in the right side corner. 45 right side corner goals were delivered by inswing. That means teams chose a left-footed player to deliver the corner for the purpose of inswing delivery. However, 36 right side corner goals were delivered by outswing. This number is much more than the number of left side outswing corner (17). On the other hand, the numbers of ground pass delivery in both sides were similar. No matter which side we look at, inswing is still the most popular choice of delivery although it is more dominant in left side corner. In the right side corner, teams still prefer to do inswing delivery but there was considerable amount of outswing delivery also.
Type of delivery vs. Delivery target area
The above chart shows that inswing and near post combination scores the most corner goals (42). It fits the argument of Hughes. Another finding is that it is less likely to score corner goal at far post by outswing delivery (12 goals). The difference between inswing and outswing was less if the delivery target area is mid-goal area. The difference was 11 goals compared to the difference of near post (24 goals) and far post (23 goals). In short, for inswing delivery, it would be the best to deliver the ball to near post and far post, especially near post. For outswing delivery, it would be the best to deliver the ball to mid-goal area.
Keep it simple?
The result fits the argument of Hughes because 63% of corner goals were scored directly by the corner cross. 26% of corner goals were assisted by passing. Some teams may prefer to do flick-on headers to make assist but the data shows that it may not be a good choice because only 16% of corner goals were assisted by flick-on headers. If we consider passing assist only, flick-on header is a better choice than feet pass as shown in the chart with 6% more assists.
Reviewing the 3 factors mentioned by Hughes, I would say 2 of them were dominating factors in League 2: inswing delivery and keep it simple. They were proved by evidences. 61% of corner goals were delivered by inswing. 63% of corner goals were assisted by direct corner cross. However, the data shows that although near post is the best choice of delivery target area, it is not a dominating factor with 36% of corner goals delivered to near post. The same type of analysis could be applied to the data of different leagues and the results could be different.
HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press
Continuing the header goals analysis from part 1, the set play header goals would be focused in this post. Note that all the goals data were updated to 3/1/2013 (same as part 1). The goal scoring patterns of header goals were different between open play and set play. The following diagram shows where the header goals were scored in set play.
Figure 1: Where set play header goals were scored
If we compare this diagram with the open play version in part 1, two main differences would be found. Firstly, the prime header goals scoring area of set play was the 6-yard box. This finding was different to the open play, where 6-12 yard was the prime header goals scoring area of open play. Secondly, in set play all the header goals were scored within 12 yards from the goal line. In open play, there were still 3.3% header goals scored outside the penalty spot. It shows that scoring header goals in open play and set play needs two different tactics. In open play, the difference of percentage of goals between 6-yard box and 6-12 yard was not too big, only 5.4% difference. However, in set play the difference became 31.4%. In other words, in set play the player should focus on delivering the ball into the 6-yard box. Otherwise, the chance of scoring header goals would be greatly reduced but it was not the case in open play.
Corner Header Goals
Many people may closely link corner goals to header goals because they assume header goals should be the dominating goal types of corner goals. However, statistics shows that it was the case in League 2.
This chart shows that header goals were the main source of corner goals but it was not a dominating factor. If the coach only focuses on scoring by header in corner set play training, he is ignoring the importance of scoring by feet. It was because 52 corner goals were scored by feet. For example, scoring by rebound or picking up the second ball. In this post, we will focus on how those 59 header corner goals were scored.
This chart shows that more corner goals were come from left side (44%) than right side (34%). The reason behind it was closely related to the types of delivery which would be discussed. This chart also shows that 78% (44%+34%) of corner header goals were directly assisted from corner delivery. The remaining 22% were come from short corner, header flick on or scoring in second phase of attack in corners. This finding shows the importance of getting the first touch in scoring corner header goals. The most effective way to score was the direct delivery.
In terms of delivery, inswinging cross was the best way of delivery. 41 corner header goals were scored by inswinging cross but only 17 corner header goals were scored by outswinging cross. Moreover, it was not a good idea to use any other delivery method (e.g. short pass or pass to the edge of the box) because only 1 goal was scored by other methods. Since most of the corner header goals were delivered by inswinging cross, it explained that more corner header goals were come from left side considering most players are right-footed.
The area in front of the goal was divided into three different aim zones: near post, mid-goal area and far post. This chart shows that near post was the best place to be delivered to score corner header goals because 36% of goals were scored in near post. On the other hand, the percentages of mid-goal area and far post were similar (29% and 30%). The above two findings show that the inswinging corners delivered to the near post was the most effective way. It fits the argument of Hughes (1990) arguing that the theme that pays the highest dividend in corners is an inswinging corner to the near post in the book “The Winning Formula”.
Moreover, more than 90% of corner header goals were scored in the first phase. In other words, if the ball is cleared by defenders, the chance of scoring header goals would be greatly reduced even the ball is delivered into the penalty box again. By summing up the findings about corner goals, the best way of scoring corner header goals was to deliver inswinging corner from the left side to the near post and scored it in the first phase (first touch).
Free Kick Header Goals
Comparing with the corner goals, the header goals in free kick is less important which was shown in the following chart.
The most common goal type of free kick was to score by right foot. There were 32 header goals scored in free kick which was less than goals scored by right foot by 4.
The best delivery zone of free kick header goals was found by considering where the assists came from.
Figure 2: Where free kick header goals were assisted
Firstly, the zones just outside the penalty box were the better areas for delivery because 62.5% of free kick header goals were delivered from these three zones. Secondly, right flank was better than left flank because 50% of free kick header goals were delivered from right flank. By combining both findings, it can be concluded that the best delivery zones for free kick header goals were the zones outside the penalty box in two flanks, especially the right flank (21.9% in left and 37.5% in right).
In terms of types of delivery, inswinging delivery was still the best way, which is the same finding from corner header goals. However, it should be noted that the difference between inswinging (18 goals) and outswinging (11 goals) was much smaller in free kick than in corner. In other words, higher percentage of header goals was scored by outswinging delivery in free kick than in corner.
Mid-goal area was the dominating factor in the delivery destination of free kick header goals. This finding was different from that in corner. In corner, near post was the best area to be delivered but mid-goal area was the best area in free kick. Moreover, the difference was greater in this chart as there was 29% difference between mid-goal area (59%) and far post (30%), while the difference was only 6% in corner. That mean the advantage of delivering to mid-goal area in free kick was more obvious than delivering to near post in corner.
By summing up the findings about free kick, the best way of scoring free kick header goals was making an inswinging delivery to the mid-goal area from the zone outside the penalty area in right flank.
Scoring header goals in set play need a different tactic than in open play as the prime goal scoring area was different. Even in the set play goals, header goals had different importance to different set plays. Header goals were the most important in corner but less important in free kick. Moreover, the most effective way of scoring header goals in corner and free kick were different. Therefore, coaches should separate the training of corner and free kick since the tactical needs were different.
HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: Collins