The Corner Question

Marc Separator September 7, 2023

Was everyone right? Is Kimmich as bad as he’s made out to be? While I thought he was maybe being a little hard done by because of outsized expectations, I also couldn’t be sure of that especially given the overwhelming number of disgruntled fans.

So I decided to give it a go myself. I will start by saying this is not a perfect statistical analysis. I sourced my data from Football Reference which seemed to have reliable data going back to the 2017/18 season. I initially wanted to go back to around the turn of the millennium to get an even bigger picture, but that just wasn’t possible.

Additionally, they don’t have the exact data I was looking for. Ideally I would get just the corner kick data alone but instead I was forced to settle for data related to dead ball’s in general. All of this I think ultimately works to give a general picture but it certainly affected how I went about things and should be noted before continuing.


The first thing I needed to do was get a population. Initially as I stated above I started out trying to get data going back to 2000. However, as that was impossible I shifted my scope a bit. At first I was thinking of primarily focusing on the corner kick history at Bayern, comparing Kimmich to prior corner kick takers at the club.

With the 2017/18 time limitation, I instead decided to broaden things to include 14 of the top teams across Europe. Upon reflection, I actually think this makes more sense anyways as it gives a better overview of contemporary comparisons and is less influenced by changes in the game over time.

While this again wasn’t an exact science, I tried to pick the teams that were consistently around the top 4 in their respective leagues. This led me to picking Bayern, Borussia Dortmund (BVB) and RB Leipzig from the Bundesliga, Real Madrid (Real), Barcelona (Barca) and Atletico Madrid (Atletico) from La Liga, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) from Ligue 1, Juventus (Juve), AC Milan (Milan)and Internazionale (Inter) from Serie A and Manchester City (Man City), Manchester United (Man U), Chelsea and Liverpool from the Premier League.

I’m sure some might argue that other teams should be considered/included but even excluding a few I feel like this population should give a general overview of performance on corners and dead ball situations over the six seasons selected and in general it includes those who I feel most would consider Bayern’s “peers” in world football.

I then filtered down to every player that took a corner for each team in every season mentioned. The pertinent data compiled were: Corner Kicks (CK) and Free Kicks (FK) which combined give you Dead Ball Situations (DB), Shots Created from Dead Ball Situations (SDB) and Goals created from Dead Ball Situations (GDB). It is important to note that the last two categories, SDB and GDB only take into account passes from dead ball situations and not direct attempts on goal, which given we are trying to focus on corners and passing makes sense to me.

I then sliced the resulting data up based on certain critera as the total number of players who had taken at least one corner over those six seasons on those 14 teams was 323. As you can imagine, there were quite a few of them that had taken a very limited number of corner kicks in that time.

I also compiled data on a team level and not just individually as I think showing just what happened on a broad team by team basis made sense.


Team by Team

I also think that is the best place to start our journey. I suspect that the results of this study may surprise many of you. I admit that I was surprised as well even though I suspected that things were maybe not as bad as people were making out.

For the six years in question, Bayern scored the second most goals from dead balls coming in at 59. Liverpool was first with 65 and Inter (56), Man City (50) and PSG/Chelsea (46) filled out the top five.

The total shots created(1) was very similar except that Inter led that category with 677 followed by Liverpool (622), Bayern (612), Juventus (600) and Real (583). Manchester City took the most corners over that period, coming in at 2,096, while Liverpool (1,918), Bayern (1,823), Real (1,756) and Chelsea (1,754) came in two through five, and total dead ball situations(2) was led by Real (3,700), Bayern (3,512), Man City (3,458), Liverpool (3,394) and PSG (3,367).
1. Total Shots created only includes shots created from free kicks and corners taken by players who had taken at least one corner in the seasons covered.
2. Total dead ball situations includes only free kicks and corners taken by players who had taken at least one corner in the seasons covered.

From these I created a couple of simple calculations: Percentage of Dead Ball Passes that lead to Shots (%SDB) and Percentage of Dead Ball Passes that lead to Goals (%GDB). For %SDB, Bayern are very much middle of the pack coming in at eighth with 17.4% of their dead ball passes resulting in shots. Inter (20.8%), Leipzig (20.2%), Juventus (19.6%), Chelsea(19.1%) and Atletico (18.5%) make up the top five.

Somewhat surprisingly, only two of that top five %SDB made it into the list for %GDB. Liverpool comes in on top with 1.92%, while Inter (1.72%), Bayern (1.68%), Chelsea (1.52%) and Man City (1.45%) round out the top five.

Man City2,0961,3623,4585485015.9%1.45%
Man U1,5321,2772,8094723616.8%1.28%
Table of dead ball situations by Team covering the season 2017/18 – 2022/23, ordered by goals scored from dead ball situations.
Data Sourced from Football Reference.

As you can see, Bayern as a club has done quite well compared to the other top sides in Europe during that six year run. Finishing outside the top 5 only in %SDB.

Even a year by year breakdown is relatively flattering to Bayern. Last season was a struggle no question with only 4 goals from dead ball situations. However, while that looks bad on the surface, it is hardly out of the norm for the 14 teams sampled.

Over the periods in question and the 84 combinations of team and season, 22 of them scored five goals or less from dead balls. Moreover only Liverpool and Inter did not have at least one season that fell in this category while three teams managed that feat three times. The 2022/23 season is the only time that Bayern did.

In fact, for every other season Bayern is in the top two in GDBs with the exception of the 2017/18 season. More on this later.

Player Results

So we’ve seen that Bayern has actually been quite productive from dead ball situations compared to the rest of Europe, but the question remains how Kimmich stacks up individually.

Using the entire population of 323 players, Kimmich (2.24%) comes in at 36th for %GDB or in other words Kimmich was in the top 11% of %GDB. However, this population includes a lot of anomalies due to so many players with far too small a sample size. I therefore narrowed down the population in two different ways just to see where things landed.

First I eliminated any players who did not have at least 50 corner kicks taken in any single season which narrowed the field to 72 players. Using this method would put Kimmich at 15th in %GDB over these six seasons. While I think this data is relevant, I also wanted to compare his performance against players who had more consistently taken corners over the six seasons since the gross number of corner kicks varied drastically within this population from as few as 53 to as many as 1,076.

So I instead filtered the entire population by total number of corners taken eliminating anyone who had taken less than 250 over the six years. This narrowed down the field to 24 players which felt like a better sample of those who had really been the primary corner takers for each team over that period. As you can see in the table below, Kimmich finished 5th in %GDB and 12th in %SDB using this population.

J. Kimmich1,0767101,7863384018.9%2.24%
H. Çalhanoğlu7933741,1672572522.0%2.14%
T. Alexander-Arnold7214751,1962482220.7%1.84%
T. Kroos9328611,7933042116.9%1.17%
A. Di María5302077371512020.5%2.71%
K. De Bruyne7803631,1432221519.4%1.31%
M. Mount3681375051221424.2%2.77%
A. Robertson3953687631171415.3%1.83%
L. Messi4904939831161311.8%1.32%
M. Pjanic3485098571231114.4%1.28%
M. Brozović3365739091041111.4%1.21%
R. Mahrez358103461771116.7%2.39%
J. Milner269199468851018.2%2.14%
P. Dybala346154500106921.2%1.80%
C. Nkunku264135399103825.8%2.01%
J. Brandt2726633871821.0%2.37%
O. Dembélé3025535768719.1%1.96%
B. Fernandes343211554103518.6%0.90%
J. Sancho2646532964519.5%1.52%
İ. Gündoğan25622548167413.9%0.83%
P. Coutinho3159040549412.1%0.99%
Table of dead ball situations by Player covering the season 2017/18 – 2022/23, ordered by goals scored from dead ball situations. Table only includes players with more than 250 Corner Kicks attempted during the period.
Data Sourced from Football Reference.

I do feel it’s worth noting that in all scenario’s most of the players that had a higher number of corners taken fared worse in both %SDB and %GDB. From my perspective this makes sense as one shot or goal has a much larger effect on the numbers the fewer dead ball situations they took.

In terms of gross numbers, Kimmich has by far the most number of CKs taken over that time at 1,076. He comes in second however to Toni Kroos in terms of total dead ball situations with seven less than his fellow countryman.

While he does have by far the most CK taken in that time Kimmich also leads GDB by a significant margin with the next closest player 15 goals behind while Kroos is 21 behind. Kimmich also leads the SDB by 34 shots over Kroos with the next closest after 81 shots behind.

In fact for the top 10 players in total dead ball situations over the six year period, Kimmich is by far the most successful in terms of %GDB. Hakan Çalhanoglu (2.14%) is the only other player to reach 2% %GDB and only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are even close at 1.84% and 1.83%, respectively, with the rest well below 1.50%. That top ten list includes some big names too: Kevin De Bruyne, Lionel Messi, Koke, Miralem Pjanic…etc.


There is a lot of information/stats there and I’m sure that this will leave many people still unconvinced. Which is fine honestly. In most respects, this study proved exactly what I expected it to: Scoring goals from free kicks and corners is nowhere near as common as people seem to think it is. Of the 44,044 dead balls taken in this sample, exactly 579 of them ended up as goals or 1.31%. Only 6,994, or 15.9%, of them even ended in a shot attempt.

For the most part, the big teams in Europe are not scoring directly off of dead ball situations all that often. Moreover, people seem to forget that there is a lot more that goes into successful dead ball plays than just the player making the kick as well.

Kimmich for instance had his worst season last year by a significant margin outside of the 2017/18 season in which he was not the primary corner taker. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that he had his worst statistical year in the season which Bayern sold off Lewandowski and completely failed to replace him.

That’s a significant presence in the box and one that requires the defense to focus on. Most likely the change in central defenders had an impact as well. Despite Süle maybe not being the greatest header of the ball, he was a massive physical presence in the box that could disrupt the defense and that presence wasn’t totally replaced in de Ligt.

With the exception of the 2022/23 season, Joshua Kimmich has consistently improved his goal production over the years of his corner taking duties.
Data Sourced from Football Reference.

As you can see in the chart above, Kimmich’s %SDB for the 2022/23 season is very similar to that of 2020/21 and yet the %GDB is less than half of what it was that season. Realistically, his %SDB in the 2022/23 season is not that far off of his historical numbers which implies that finishing was the biggest problem, something I think we can all agree was a massive issue last season.

It is also interesting that the 2017/18 season is the only other in which Bayern were not in the top 2 in GDB for a season as that is the only season on the list in which Kimmich did not take the vast majority of corners. He and James Rodriguez both took 97 that season but Arjen Robben (46), Sebastian Rudy (29), Franck Ribery (24) and Thiago (14) all took a significant amount of corners themselves.

That said, Robben and Rudy were by far the most productive both contributing 3 GDB for the season while Kimmich and James were fairly unremarkable contributing just 1 GDB each.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you find any of this compelling or useful. I know a large segment of the fan base is going to continue using the “eye test” and complain about how bad Kimmich is at corners. However, maybe this will at least make you think twice before posting that next comment on the subject as it’s extremely likely that any alternative will be just as bad, or statistically speaking, worse.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Great article. I will say despite all your hard work I remained unconvinced (perhaps as it should be as I think you helping to describe and explore rather than putting forth a thesis/argument). I may have misread this, but I think you combine corners and dead balls in this exercise and that’s a sticking point for me and perhaps other such naysayers as I find his corners to be the issue, not so much his free kicks. If that could be parsed out, it would be helpful. I also think the issue his naysayers see is his high rate of poor placement. When rating corners to me, it’s as much about placement as result. Corners are pretty unpredictable but it’s generally best to get them in a position where they aren’t getting punched away by the keeper, but also close enough for a close shot and I feel he has an unpleasant amount that either go right to the keeper or aren’t in a good scoring position. I feel like his percentage of corners stopped by the keeper is higher than his peer group, but it’s also true that one can not always trust their feelings. I do like to see Sane taking some of the workload.

  2. How did you obtain all this data for your analysis? Impressive work. Kimmich’s corners definitely do not pass my eye test as his delivery does not give an impression of precise and dangerous placement, power, and curve. The stats manage to persuade me it’s not as bad as I think, at the end of the day, corners remain a low likelihood way of generating chances, and goals.

    I’m not sure if Tuchel reads this blog, and specifically this post. If so it seems he disagrees, as last night all corners were taken by Leroy Sane, and they look much better to my eyes (and a goal too).

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  4. Absolutely outstanding work.
    The one aspect most of the statistics miss is simply how many balls were placed in the target area (where most players are) as that only shows the skills of the free kick taker and not the conversion rate which is totally dependant on the rest of the team (placement, movement, quality of execution, etc).

    I absolutely loved the honest conclusion at the end: most free kicks do not result in goals, which is why smart coaches do not ask for a long ball but rather a pass up the field from where passes can be more precise and direct shots have a higher conversion rate.

    Lastly, Kimmich does a superb job at passing and long balls. Sadly he is not played in the correct positon. His best was under Heynkes where he was backed by Javi or Goretzka in defensive midfield (neither moved up when the team was defending or in teh starting stages of attacking) and Thiago on the creative side. That way both him and Thiago could help the defense while holding on to the ball or moving forward, which gave each of them a lot less pressure as there were 2 creative players. Kimmich comes under a lot of fire for his defensive work when he was never DM. He is a creative midfielder, like Kroos and he will never perform at the top in a defensive role. Tuchel’s side has Goretzka next to Muller in attack and Kimmich left alone defending. It is simply unfair to measure him based on a role that is not his primary function.

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