A host of Premier League new boys are lining up to fill Ronaldo's boots in the free-kick stakes.
Study by Sky+HD and football expert reveals the Premier League's new free-kick kings
With one of the world's most accomplished free kick takers gone, a host of Premier League new boys are lining up to fill Ronaldo's boots. A study by top football expert Dr Ken Bray, using Sky+HD
technology, has pinpointed the free kick takers best placed to cause havoc to even the most sturdy of Premier League defences this season - and the results are not who you might expect!
Footage captured by Sky Sports'
high definition cameras has enabled Dr Bray, a Senior Visiting Fellow of the University of Bath's Department of Mechanical Engineering, to study high definition footage of last season's Premier League and Championship free-kick takers.
Surprisingly, the top pretenders to Ronaldo's throne come not from the division's biggest clubs, but are newly-promoted Burnley's Robbie Blake and Sunderland's Kieron Richardson.
The predicted top free kick-takers to watch out for in the 2009/10 Barclays Premier League season are:
Kieran Richardson - Sunderland
Robbie Blake - Burnley
Fabio Aurelio - Liverpool
Steven Gerrard - Liverpool
Didier Drogba - Chelsea
The high definition footage allowed Dr Bray to analyse every precise detail and movement of the players' techniques and the resulting movement of the ball.
Dr Bray's findings reveal that:
- Kieran Richardson
opts for a replication of Ronaldo's famous 'knuckleball' style, now renamed 'The Richardson Rattler'. Of his winning free kick against Newcastle United last season, Dr Bray comments: "Richardson hits the ball with speed and passes the wall about shoulder height. The ball, however, takes a fast and unexpected deviation to the goalkeeper's right.
"There is virtually no spin until the last few yards of its flight when very slight rotation is evident. If Richardson can reproduce this technique consistently, he will be a worthy successor to Ronaldo."
- Burnley striker Robbie Blake
achieves 'absolutely perfect side spin' with his kicks, given the title 'The Blake Beauty'. Of his example against Preston North End last season, Dr Bray comments: "This free kick should be in every coaching manual and is one of the best examples of a perfectly-executed side spin shot."
- Liverpool's Fabio Aurelio
is also exceptionally skilled in sidespin kicking, and the fact that he is left-footed is an added advantage when the kick is taken wide on the right hand side of the pitch and will be a great threat when he's fit again.
- Team mate Steven Gerrard
merits inclusion for his power and absolute precision in striking the ball and his ability to exploit opportunistic kicks. Dr Bray notes: "It would be impossible to exclude him from any list of elite free kickers."
- Didier Drogba
may be tussling with Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack to take Chelsea's kicks this year but is one to watch in view of his fantastic topspin technique, 'The Drogba Dropper'. His goal against Hull City and near miss against Liverpool last season confirm that he has mastered this very difficult skill.
Dr Bray comments: "Free kicks are vital components of the modern game and appeal to fans thanks to the explosive nature of the spectacle and the artistry demonstrated by the game's elite. Sky's
high definition technology is so much detailed and clearer than standard transmissions it is the ideal medium to bring out the subtleties of this important skill. By portraying ball movement and spin, much of the accessible science underpinning free kick techniques can be revealed."
Director of Product Management, Hilary Perchard, commented: "More than ever high definition is bringing new levels of insights and uncovering intriguing hidden aspects of players and the game. We're sure football fans will now be scrutinising all the players kicks this season to see if they can all live up to Dr Bray's predictions."
Sky broadcasts more football than ever in high definition, and has introduced HD cameras into the back of nets to give the complete on-the-ground viewing experience.