After a satisfactory season assessing football form (this betting school article is helpful) and taking on the bookmakers with my corner predictions I set out on what I hoped would be a similarly successful foray at the European Championship.
I accepted that there would be much less statistical data with which to work and that it would be spread over a longer period.
However, that did not really prepare me for what seemed to happen.
I did not set out to analyse the results, or indeed to see if a trend or two could be found because I already had my suspicions of what had caused a noticeable drop off in the number of corners awarded.
Even allowing for the first round of matches often being played a long way short of full tempo, something was beginning to nag at me.
Was there a major shift in the desire to gain corners?
Had the bookmakers noticed and adjusted prices?
Initially, I was taking more notice of the so-called top teams playing possession football.
Rather than cross balls into the box, or even take on a defender and hoping for, or playing for, a corner, teams would retreat with the ball, in extreme cases, this may involve going all the way back to the keeper to start again.
Style Of Play
Does your EPL team sit back and counter-attack?
So what about the weaker teams?
They usually saw less of the ball, so getting fewer corners was always likely to be the case.
However, they started to cover handicaps, not by taking more corners themselves, or denying the opponents, but seemingly because they were maintaining their corner stats, while there was a drop in the desire of their opponents to do likewise.
Of course, that would be an easy way of making money if it was as simple as that.
The problem came when there was a team that tended to play on the counter, rather than set the stall out to maximise possession.
Counter-attacks fall into three main types; a wave of players going forward together, a breakaway by a few, and a long ball passed to a player, or, players, in advanced positions.
Teams that sit deep will, in general, have fewer players in a breakaway attack, or if a long ball is played up the field.
How many times does your team play a long ball game as opposed to a short passing game?
Could this mean that corners are a more valuable commodity to such teams, allowing players to arrive from defensive duties to participate?
The only answer seemed to be wait till the Premier League season and see whether there were any similarities in my findings.
This time, there would be more data, along with more teams falling into the various categories. Recent history would also be more relevant than with international sides.
English Premier League
I have taken the 20 teams that currently make up the league, using data from the albeit limited number of matches, and comparing it with similar data for any of the previous three seasons if the team was in this division.
Teams will normally be set up differently whether at home or away.
Home and Away Tactics
How differently does your team set up when away from home?
While this can be monitored fairly reliably, any slight change in their approach made against certain rivals is not as easy, but that is no reason not to try.
I can update this later, but for now, this season's samples are based on five or six home, and five or six away, matches except in the case of Burnley (seven and four) due to switching the Liverpool game.
The figures that I am using for this exercise are a) The average possession, b)The average total match corners, and c) The number of corners per 10% of possession.
The following conclusions have been drawn up based on a very limited set of data. They will be updated once more is available.
Odds can vary between bookmakers on markets such as these, there is also the less well-known opportunity on handicaps with corners.
If you have noticed a bookie that offers generous odds on corners betting please add your thoughts on the bookmaker's review page and help other members.
Here is a study of EPL teams from 2016, their possession and style of play
Arsenal. Possession figures are down about 10% from the 3 previous seasons. Corners are also down more. It is a small sample but there is a shift in attacking style.
Bournemouth. A small increase in both possession and corners, but sample size too small to be reliable.
Burnley. Interestingly, Burnley's possession has dropped from 44 to 37 with corners falling in line. However, overall corners are much higher this season. This may be due to teams that were not expecting to chase the game, having to do so. This may be an exception, but will be monitored to find out more.
Chelsea. The next of the ‘top teams'. Possession figures are again down slightly, but corners significantly more. Their possession figures, below Arsenal's in each of the three previous campaigns, are higher this season. However, as in previous years, Chelsea's average corner count is still lower than Arsenal's. Is this due in some part to acquiring an Italian manager?
Crystal Palace. The previous three seasons have seen home possession of 39, 45, and 49%, with corner averages of 5.1, 6.2, and 6.6. Corners are roughly in the same proportion, indicating a similar style of play but with more possession. Although this season's average possession is higher, corners have remained the same as last season. I expect their possession to drop from the current mark of 56%, so it remains to be seen what effect this has on corners.
Everton. Possession is down 10% on average this season, but corners have shot up. As the number of corners conceded has also increased, leading to an average of 13.2 per game, this probably indicates a shift to a more open, counter-attacking style.
Hull. Another team with less data to work on, but this season's average possession is down 10%, not a great surprise given the size of their squad, and the injury list. Hull's corners have dropped in ratio to possession, while the visitors' totals have increased accordingly.
Leicester. On the basis that Leicester won the Premier League last season, I feel justified (at least for the purposes of this exercise) in classing them as the third of the ‘top teams'. As with Chelsea, they gained an Italian manager last season. It may be no coincidence that an average of 6.3 corners from 45% possession, became 4.8 corners from 44% last season, and now 4.8 corners from 49% possession from the current smaller sample. This is definitely a case of giving priority to possession, rather than the pure counter-attacking style seen under Nigel Pearson.
Liverpool. The next of our ‘top teams', but difficult to explain last season's figures as anything but a blip. The two previous seasons had seen 57% possession with averages of 6.2 and 5.8 corners, a slight fall. This season's very small sample has seen a drop to 5.2 corners from 66% possession. Those tie in with expectations, so 60% possession and 7.5 corners last season stands out. It may be due to the new manager trying a few things before settling on the current formula; only time will tell.
Manchester City. Average possession over the previous three years was 60%; average corners 8.5. Both figures were also fairly consistent, so this year's 69% possession for 8.3 corners is possibly the clearest indication yet that possession is the priority for a ‘top team'.
Manchester United. For two seasons, the trend had been for corners to remain at a similar level to the previous campaign, but for possession to increase. This season has seen a massive haul of home corners, but the fact that 32 came in two matches and just 16 in the other 3, could mean that the data sample is too small to have any useful value. That may be an error; 19 corners were gained against Burnley in an unsuccessful attempt to breakthrough a stubborn defence, and 13 against Stoke who were not much more ambitious. It can then be said that the 16 corners in the other three matches is possibly more indicative of what may follow, but that has now become such a small sample, and must be watched closely to see whether this does eventually follow the ‘top team' pattern.
Middlesbrough. The only current Premier League team not to have been involved in any of the previous three seasons.
Southampton. Matches at St. Mary's have had low corner tallies in each of the previous three seasons. Visiting teams don't get a lot of joy in this department, while Southampton average slightly more than 6.0 over the period. That has been achieved with 59, 53, and 49% possession, surely a sign of sitting back and wanting to get players forward for set pieces. So far this season, Southampton have averaged 60% with an average of 6.6 corners. This is another club with a new manager, making the sample size too small to be significant.
Stoke. I needed to go back a bit further to confirm a pattern here. Over 5 seasons their possession had risen steadily, but the number of corners decreased with the exception of 2014/15. In this season's smaller sample, possession has dropped slightly for the first time since 2011/12. Despite averaging only 48% possession this time, Stoke have had 6 corners in each of the last 3 matches, with 7 and 10 in the earlier heavy defeats by Man City and Tottenham. Stoke had just 41% of the ball in those 2 matches and 53% in the last three, so it is beginning to fall into the pattern seen over the previous few seasons.
Sunderland. This is case of corners reducing in line with possession, probably just the sign of a generally poor team. This had been gradual until a more significant drop from this season's data, but again it is a team under a new manager, so the approach may also be slightly different.
Swansea. Although not one of the ‘top teams', they are noted for being a possession-based side at home. The corners to possession ratio has dropped regularly, and of the current top-flight teams, they have had by far the lowest total of corners in each of the last two seasons. At the moment, they are heading for a hat-trick.
Tottenham. Possession has been consistent over the past few seasons. Corners gained have increased steadily under this manager as they remain one team with pace on the wings and trying to attack the goal.
Watford. In general, Watford adopt a more adventurous form of football away from home. They averaged 5 corners per game at home last season, but with less 10% less possession this time are vying with Swansea at the bottom of the corners gained table.
West Brom. They are a better side to watch than a few years ago and this is reflected to some degree in their corners statistics. Last season, possession dropped to 43% from 48% in the previous two, but there was a 5% increase in the number of corners. That pattern is continuing this time, but as the possession figure is only 33%, I am reluctant to take this at face value.
West Ham. For the past 3 seasons, corners have increased in number slightly faster than possession. This campaign has seen another increase in possession, but a drop in corners. However, in this case, it is likely to be due more to the team having a poor start to the season rather than any deliberate policy.