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Cross Check: Don't Under-Think Corners

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird, the 2017 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's Senior Soccer Editor and a fantasy football contributor. He is also a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Football Writer of the Year Award.

The question of who will take corners for a certain team is one I'm asked multiples times per week. Because crosses are important for fantasy players on DraftKings, and corners are easy ways to send in crosses, it's important to know which player from each team is tasked with the responsibility. More corners = more crosses, right? Easy enough.

But what if it's not as important as we thought? What if focusing so much attention on corners has actually pushed us away from the higher-crossing players?

This isn't to say that corners have no affect on crosses; of course they do. Some players get a majority of their crosses from corners, but there are a fair number who don't and are still near the top of the league in crosses. For example, two players lead the Premier League in crosses this year: Willian and Andros Townsend. Both players have sent in 56 crosses, but Townsend has done so from open play all but once (he's taken two corners but only crossed one). On the other hand, 25 of Willian's have come from corners (44.6 percent). It's worth noting that the Brazilian would lead the league by himself if he didn't miss the second game of the season due to a calf injury.

Townsend's teammate, Jason Puncheon, is third in the league with 51 crosses, but only 13 are from open play, which means he's very dependent on corners for his crosses. Scroll down to fifth on the cross list and you'll find Yannick Bolasie, who has sent in 42 crosses this season, including 34 in his last four games, but he's taken just one corner all season (and he didn't even cross it!).

Again, this isn't to say we need to forget about spending time on figuring out who is taking corners for each team. Corners are important, but they also require an attacking movement that results in a shot (usually) being touched by the opposing team and then goes beyond the goal line. A cross requires much less; just ask Jesus Navas.

Let's say you went into the last gameweek thinking that you'd score some points with Etienne Capoue because he's been taking some corners for Watford and they had a decent matchup against Bournemouth. And what did you get from him? Three crosses, one of which came from a corner (in fact, three other Watford players took a corner). And if you didn't grab a few Watford players, then you probably didn't have Nordin Amrabat, who has yet to take a corner this season but has sent in 34 crosses, including 15 in the last two games. Corners don't always equal a plethora of crosses.

Looking at team corners is also important, as it gives us a good indication for which teams have won the most opportunities to kick from the corner flag. Spurs (57) and Liverpool (49) are the top two teams in corners this season, but they are eighth and 13th in crosses, respectively. Grabbing players from those teams didn't necessarily mean you landed on guys who sent in a lot of crosses, as Christian Eriksen wasn't terribly prolific when he was taking them, though Heung-Min Son was able to produce in that same role. On the flip side, Liverpool's James Milner has been a prolific crosser since taking over at left back, sending in 25 in the last three games, but he's only taken seven corners in that span. Teammate Jordan Henderson has taken 17 in those three games and yet he only has 12 crosses over that span. Remember, not all corners are crosses.

For now, I'll leave a breakdown of team crosses and corners, updated through seven games: