Premier League's Top 5 free-kick takers in recent years

Premier League best free-kick takers
Alexis Sanchez just misses out on the Top 5 but could become no.1 if he stays at Arsenal

Nothing elicits more anticipation than a player standing over a free-kick with his eye firmly set on beating the goalkeeper with a direct shot on goal. While many players look to float the ball into the box for teammates to head home, there are a select few who have the confidence to beat the goalkeeper from any angle and find the back of the net.

It’s arguably the toughest way to score a goal; manoeuvering the ball around, over, or even under the wall before outfoxing the goalkeeper with the ball’s trajectory. Almost every member of the team can score a goal but only one or two can actually consistently score from a free-kick.

So who were the Premier League’s best free-kick takers in the past few seasons? We look at the top five ranked by goals scored and their conversion rate from set-pieces since the 2011/12 season.

Honourable Mentions

There were a few players who just missed out on the top five (some by virtue of not playing as many seasons as those in the top five). Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez scored five goals from free-kicks with a conversion rate of 17.2% while Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez has also scored five goals with a conversion rate of 16.7%.

Sebastian Larsson, who has been in the English top flight for longer, has also scored five goals from free-kicks but his conversion rate is just 12.5%.


5) Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)

Christian Eriksen free-kick Tottenham Hotspur
Eriksen has scored 6 free-kick goals with a conversion rate of 11.5%

Christian Eriksen has been at Tottenham since the 2013/14 season when he was signed from Ajax for just £11m. Arriving in England as a young 21-year-old, he was already heralded as the heir to Michael Laudrup in the Danish football setup by none other than Johan Cruyff.

“Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them,” he had said back in 2011. Eriksen has since established himself as one of the key members of the Tottenham squad that has been the best side over the past couple of seasons even though they are yet to go all the way and win the league title.

In dead ball situations, he is one player many goalkeepers have tried to study and failed to keep out. Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski once said: “Is he the best? I don't know. I will just say he is the first player to score two free kicks against me! He not only gets the ball over the wall, puts a load of pressure into the shot as well.”

So how does Eriksen do it? Well, he learned from watching the master himself – Andrea Pirlo. “I’ve watched Pirlo a few times, just because he makes it look so easy. When he’s over the ball, you know there’s a good chance of a goal.

“I’ve practised free-kicks since I was very young. I’ve always known I had a good shot, and I know what feeling I need to have to get the ball on goal.”

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4) Wayne Rooney: Manchester United

Wayne Rooney free-kick Manchester United
Rooney has scored 6 free-kick goals with a conversion rate of 17.1%

Rooney’s ability on free-kicks has been underestimated over the years. His conversion rate may not be the best in the league at the moment but that is because of two valid reasons. Firstly, he was not always the first-choice player to take free-kicks. Initially, there was Cristiano Ronaldo and later there was Robin van Persie – both dead ball specialists.

Secondly, Rooney does not always go for goal. United did have plans for free-kicks and on many occasions, he would cleverly float the ball into the box to find a teammate.

But when he does go for goal, it can be a thing of beauty. While his explosive pace and stamina may have declined in recent years, his shot-taking ability has not. And there was no better way to break the club record than to score via a crucial free-kick in the dying minutes of a game.

Tied with Sir Bobby Charlton on 249 goals for the Red Devils, Rooney stepped up against Stoke City to score the equaliser in the 94th minute to make it 1-1. What looked like a cross into the six-yard went deceptively high and into the opposite corner past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Lee Grant.

In a period of decline at the club, Rooney was still able to conjure a moment of magic before returning to his boyhood club at the end of the season.

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3) Robert Snodgrass: Norwich, Hull and West Ham

Robert Snodgrass free-kick goal
Snodgrass has scored six free-kick goals with a conversion rate of 20%

Perhaps not as illustrious a player as the other big names on this list but Robert Snodgrass has had his moments in the Premier League. The 29-year-old Scottish winger first played in the Premier League when he moved to Norwich City from Leeds United and has since played for Hull City (including a season in the Championship) and now West Ham.

In truth, he has missed out on two seasons in the Premier League after a dislocated kneecap at the start of the 2014/15 season saw him miss the entire campaign. It eventually became a period of 16 months before he was back on the pitch in the Hull kit.

His 95th-minute free-kick against Burnley last season is one of the most memorable in recent times. Having scored a hat-trick for Scotland in a World Cup qualifier just days prior to this game, he explained how he knew he would score against Burnley. “Shaun Maloney came over and asked if I fancied it, and I said 'yes'.”

But he wouldn’t stay at Hull long enough to help them avoid relegation, preferring to make a Premier League switch to West Ham in the January transfer window – a move that did not go down well with Hull fans who gave him a lot of stick when the two sides met again.

2) Juan Mata (Chelsea and Manchester United)

Juan Mata free-kick goal
Mata has scored six free-kick goals with a conversion rate of 22.2%

When Juan Mata arrived in the Premier League, little did fans know how much of an impact he would have at Chelsea. Standing barely 5’7” tall, the diminutive Spaniard ran the show for the Blues in midfield under various managers.

Mata’s dead ball delivery was ideal for sides looking to score from set-pieces. He could easily find a teammate in the box and the bigger players benefited from his set pieces. However, there were times when took matters into his own hands,

Before his famous move to Manchester United, he battled with compatriot David De Gea on a regular basis when Chelsea met Manchester United. So much so that he seemed to have met his match on free-kicks. One of De Gea’s most famous saves came against Chelsea when a Mata free-kick seemed destined for the top corner only to be palmed away as the entire crowd gasped collectively.

But Mata would soon have his revenge in the following season, curling the ball around the wall and beating an unsighted De Gea to score. Mata would later seal a £37.1m move to Old Trafford.

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1) Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City)

Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick Swansea City
Sigurdsson has scored seven goals with a conversion rate of 13.7%

No other player has scored more Premier League goals from free-kicks than Swansea City’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic midfielder has been a shining beacon for a club that has lost its way in recent years.

Also read: Charting the slow and painful decline of Swansea City

In a squad that has been bereft of world-class players, Sigurdsson stands alone and could soon be on the move to a rival Premier League club soon. The Welsh club would also make a handsome profit if they did sell him considering his contract runs out in 2020.

But when he stands over a free-kick, most goalkeepers sweat over what he could do next. Nothing underlines his ability more than his free-kick against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

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Stats courtesy of Squawka

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Edited by Staff Editor
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