Football Features

Best Premier League free-kick takers ranked, from Ward-Prowse to Cresswell

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:51, 3 April 2022

The Premier League is home to some top-class free-kick takers.

Stepping up to a dead ball and arrowing it into the back of the net is one of the coolest things a player can do in the same. The nonchalant precision of it, the thunderous power of it, everything just oozes cool.

Aaron Cresswell’s recent stunner against Everton means that, since the start of 2018/19, there have been 16 players who have scored more than one direct free-kick in the Premier League? Who are they? How many free kicks do they have?

We’ve separated players using the tie-breaker of minutes played. So if two players have scored the same number of free-kicks, whichever one is ranked higher has played fewer minutes.


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16. Lucas Digne

Club: Everton and Aston Villa

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Such has been the level of Lucas Digne’s performance for Everton (and Aston Villa) that he has almost entirely shaken off the tag of Barcelona flop and is now just regarded as a potent creative force.

15. Aaron Cresswell

Club: West Ham

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

The newest member of this list is the Quiet King of the London Stadium, Aaron Cresswell. The left-back feels like he should have many more free-kick goals but that’s mostly down to his incredible creative ability from set-pieces.

14. Luka Milovojevic

Club: Crystal Palace

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Palace’s powerhouse Milovojevic is more associated with a devastating penalty record but he is also a more than capable free-kick taker.

13. Jonjo Shelvey

Club: Newcastle

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Newcastle’s big man has a real penchant for the spectacular and strikes the ball so cleanly. His presence on this list isn’t a surprise.

12. Riyad Mahrez

Club: Manchester City

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Manchester City’s wing wizard is dangerous from the dead-ball. Just ask Nigeria how they feel about the 96th minute winner in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final that the Algerian rattled into the top corner. That he’s only scored twice for City is the surprise.

11. Willian

Club: Chelsea and Arsenal

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

There’s no doubt that Willian’s time at Chelsea ended poorly, and his time at Arsenal was middling all over. For a superb player his career in England ended in acrimony, but there were flashes of his quality for both clubs and fittingly he scored one free-kick for both teams.

10. Raphinha

Club: Leeds

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Leeds’ Brazilian is currently being tracked by Europe’s best and brightest and while he obviously has a wide-ranging skill-set, his ability to sweetly strike a set-piece has to be an attractive attribute for prospective buyers.

9. Christian Eriksen

Club: Spurs and Brentford

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Christian Eriksen’s return to the Premier League with Brentford has been one of the feelgood stories of this current season but his exellence for Spurs, including from free-kicks, cannot be forgotten.

8. Harry Wilson

Club: Bournemouth

Direct free-kicks scored: 2

Harry Wilson looked the next big thing, or at least one of the next big things, when Liverpool loaned him out to Bournemouth in 2019/20. That season he scored 7 times, including 2 strikes from free-kicks. He never kicked on to the next level, but he’s still here.

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7. Ruben Neves

Club: Wolves

Direct free-kicks scored: 3

Wolves’ defensive midfield maestro proved himself repeatedly for Wolves, and his range shooting from open or set-play has been deadly.

6. Granit Xhaka

Club: Arsenal

Direct free-kicks scored: 3

Xhaka is an oft-maligned mostly misunderstood midfield playmaker whose ability to strike the ball cleanly from range is unappreciated.

5. David Silva

Club: Manchester City

Direct free-kicks scored: 3

Everyone loves David Silva and no one will be surprised to hear that the supreme Spaniard scored two direct free kicks between 2018/19 and his Premier League exit. When it comes to manipulating the ball, there are few players in Premier League history who do it better than City’s legendary Spaniard.

4. Kieran Trippier

Club: Newcastle

Direct free-kicks scored: 3

If you want a measure of free-kick excellence, Kieran Trippier is already on this list having played just over 2,500 minutes in the Premier League across the four seasons being looked at because for most of the time he was in La Liga with Atlético Madrid. Nevertheless Trippier has 3 free-kicks scored (2 in just 317 minutes for Newcastle).

3. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Club: Liverpool

Direct free-kicks scored: 4

Liverpool’s creative genius is good at just about everything in an offensive capacity so why wouldn’t he be great at free kicks? When Trent steps over the ball you can feel the fear from opponents.

 

2. James Maddison

Club: Leicester

Direct free-kicks scored: 6

Maddison’s form and output has fluctuated wildly during his time in the Premier League as he’s gone from can’t-miss-prospect to busted flush to “actually he’s alright” but one constant that has remained is his ability to rattle the ball into the back of the net from free-kicks.

1. James Ward-Prowse

Club: Southampton

Direct free-kicks scored: 11

The Don Dada of the dead-ball, James Ward-Prowse is the best free-kick-taker in the Premier League and has been for a long time. Since the start of 2018/19 he has scored a remarkable 11 times from direct free-kicks, nearly twice as often as the second-best entrant.

Obviously no set-piece is a sure thing but the genuine sense of anticipation that builds around the stadium when Ward-Prowse steps up to strike a set-piece is palpable. Very few players in history have carried such a reputation but the Englishman is well worth it.

The Premier League’s top-scorer free kick takers since 2018/19

And here’s how the list shakes out if conversion rate was used as the tie-breaker.

Player DFK goals DFK shots (inc. blocks) CR Mins
Ward-Prowse 11 67 16% 11,279
Maddison 6 51 12% 9,394
TAA 4 45 9% 10,988
Trippier 3 6 50% 2,595
David Silva 3 9 33% 4,241
Xhaka 3 15 20% 9,072
Rúben Neves 3 34 9% 11,017
Wilson 2 12 17% 1,651
Raphinha 2 13 15% 4,704
Mahrez 2 15 13% 6,438
Eriksen 2 20 10% 4,169
Willian 2 22 9% 6,115
Shelvey 2 27 7% 7,309
Cresswell 2 28 7% 9,590
Digne 2 31 6% 10,506
Milivojevic 2 38 5% 8,952

DFK = Direct free kicks

CR = Conversion rate

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