Who stands out as the most consistent dead-ball specialist in the league? The stats suggest it is Manchester City’s Yaya Toure.
The once-seldom scoring of free-kicks has become a spectacular common-place phenomenon in the Premier League. It is still, though, a master-craft with only a limited number of players capable of finishing a dead-ball oppertunity from outside of the area.
This season witnessed 486 chances from 121 different players with, somewhat startlingly, only 39 converted. That is just an 8% conversion rate – a lot lower than you might have thought.
However, if you compare those figures to the last two seasons you will notice quite an improvement in efficiency.
In 2012/13, the 577 attempted resulted in only 32 goals (5.5% conversion rate) and 2011/12, 553 chances culminated in 29 goals (5.25%). This shows that not only have players attempted less than the last two seasons, but that they are converting a lot more.
This season featured the rise of a new free-kick expert – one Yaya Touré – who, until this season, had not successfully transformed a free-kick into a goal for City. Over the two seasons prior to the last, the mercurial Ivorian had only attempted six shots from free-kicks, missing them all.
This season, however, he is the league’s chief marksman having scored four direct free-kicks. That is higher than Norwich City’s Robert Snodgrass’ three last season and Sunderland’s Seb Larsson’s three the season before.
More astonishing than that even, Touré had just seven attempts giving him a conversion rate of 57%.
Luis Suárez is widely considered to be a dead-ball specialist, though the statistics are not so flattering. Yes, El Pistolero did closely follow Touré with three goals – a winning amount in recent seasons – but he endeavoured to try his luck on 28 separate occasions. That is a conversion rate of almost 11%.
Add to that his goals and attempts from the two prior seasons and Suárez has only scored 5 goals from 58 attempts. At 8.5% conversion rate that’s higher than the league average, but not as incredible as you might have expected.
By comparison to these hotshots, there are the players who induce concerted sighs upon their approach as the stadium knowingly anticipates another skied ball.
This season, Cardiff midfielder Peter Whittingham tried on 15 separate occasions to rifle home a set-piece, failing every time. In 2012/13, the world’s most expensive footballer, Gareth Bale only converted 2 out of 27, and the season before, Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor managed just a single goal from 21 ventures.
Overall, it appears far more difficult for professionals to convert free-kicks than perhaps we might have foreseen. This, though, keeps it interesting, as if a 20-yard free-kick meant a certain goal, we would perhaps not be as astonished, even if it ricocheted from the crossbar twice en route to glory.
Touré was perhaps a little fortunate this season, with a conversion rate of more than one in two. Either that or he really is one of the best, most consistent free-kick takers the world has ever seen. If the latter, we can expect more sensational strikes from him next season, and perhaps more regularly.
*all raw statistical data obtained from Opta.