Arsenal’s clever corners and their importance in the Premier League title race

On 10 April 1993, Manchester United needed a win to regain top spot in the inaugural Premier League season.

A draw against Sheffield Wednesday will not be enough to return to the top with just five games left.

The final minutes of the game played a vital role in United’s first Premier League title win.

After conceding a goal in the 65th minute, two late Steve Bruce headers helped United win the game and send them back to the top of the league. Both goals came from corners — the equalizer was scored by a winger and the second goal was scored by Bruce as Bruce headed in from Gary Pallister’s cross into the bottom corner to score. sparks the jubilant on-line scenes of Alex Ferguson (six years before he was knighted) and his assistant Brian Kidd.

Goals from corners were important for the former champions. In the last 16 seasons, only five Premier League winners have scored less than 10% of their goals from corners. The highest percentage during that time was in United’s 2007-08 season, when nearly a fifth of their goals (18.8%) were scored from corners.

Fast-forward 10 years to the summer of 2018 and it is Liverpool who are looking for set pieces to give them their advantage against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. During the 2018-2019 pre-season, Jurgen Klopp sat down with his assistants Pep Lijnders and Peter Krawietz to revamp the club’s fixed routine.

Klopp’s side missed out on the title by one point but 14 goals from corners – the highest in the league that season – got them very close to City.

The following season, Liverpool played better to win their first league title in 30 years. And guess which other table they top in 2019-20? You guessed it: the goal was scored from the corner (11).

The warning signs emerged during the 2018-19 season as Liverpool’s 14 goals from corners accounted for 15.7% of their total; City’s figure that season was 6.3%. Perhaps City tried to react to that by appointing Nicolas Jover as a permanent specialist in July 2019.

Gradually, City improved their set-pieces and their share of goals from corners increased: 7.8% in the 2019-20 season and 10.8% in the 2020-21 season when Man City regains the Premier League crown.

Top scorers in the Premier League from corners

Season Team Goals from corners

2018-19

Liverpool

14

2019-20

Liverpool

11

2020-21

Liverpool

11

2021-22

Man City/Liverpool

15

Jover’s departure in July 2021 has no immediate effect on City as they promote Under-18s head coach Carlos Vicens to work on their pieces. What they may not have foreseen is that the new Jover owners will challenge them for the title within two years.

Arsenal’s acquisition of Man City’s permanent specialist last season has significantly improved their cornering performance. In the season before Jover joined Arsenal, they had the second-worst corner scoring record in the league (three). Then, when Jover arrived, they jumped to third (13 goals) just behind Man City and Liverpool. This season, Mikel Arteta’s side are fourth in goals scored from corners with seven goals.

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Arsenal also have the second highest goal-goal (xG) ratio from corners in the Premier League this season at 6.61. And on average, they are creating the most dangerous chances from corners in the league with 6.12 xG per 100 corners.

Arteta stressed the importance of set-pieces after his side beat Aston Villa in March last season when they scored from the second of a set-piece. “They (set-ups) are an important part of the game, especially in the Premier League,” he said. “You can see the top teams score a lot of goals from set pieces, but then they score one or two more (from open play) and nobody talks about it, but they did. make a difference there.

“You see in the Champions League it’s happening. You have to dominate every part of the game. Football is becoming faster and more complex. Everyone is really good and has good knowledge and we have to find an edge where we can.”

With Jover on the coaching staff, Arsenal’s cornering routine got smarter. This can be seen in Arsenal’s first match of the 2022-23 season at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace’s defensive approach to this corner was to have four men on board, Eberechi Eze (No. 10) moving to the edge of the box in case Arsenal played a short corner and four players in the area. 6 yards.

Arsenal have two wingers in Gabriel and Granit Xhaka, with Gabriel Jesus in a special position outside the touchline and three players outside the box in case they lose the ball.

This is where the trick happens.

Since Oleksandr Zinchenko was one of three players outside the box, and mostly there in case Arsenal lost the ball, he went unnoticed. As a result, he got a free run.

Gabriel pretends to move towards the near post, and Jesus’ position simply drags a Palace player into the dead zone. As for the trio of Arsenal players in the 6th round area and Xhaka, their movement complements the rest. The trio kept their positions when the corner was taken…

… and Xhaka dropped deeper, outside the box, to replace Zinchenko (yellow) and ensure Arsenal had three players (Ben White absent) outside the box in case they lost the ball.

All of this created space for Zinchenko to head the ball back into the 6m area, where Arsenal had three players ready to head. Gabriel Martinelli received Zinchenko’s header and scored Arsenal’s lead.

That habit against Palace was incorporated into William Saliba’s opener against Brentford on September 18. To defend against a late return from outside the box, Brentford’s Aaron Hickey tagged Martinelli (No. 11). one out of three players can successfully defend the counter. The rest of the Brentford defense consisted of four scorers (red), four area players within six yards and Bryan Mbeumo moving towards the edge of the box to secure the short corner.

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Arsenal’s squad here is split into three: Jesus and Xhaka (red) are the savers, Thomas Partey, White and Gabriel (white) are the runners and Saliba (yellow) is there to attack the post.

As Bukayo Saka was about to make a cross, Jesus (red) was close to David Raya to save the Brentford keeper and Saliba (yellow) started moving towards the edge of the 6m area, making a run from the touchline. by Ivan Toney. However, the key player here is Xhaka (red, number 34). The Swiss midfielder saved Ben Mee and Pontus Jansson, preventing the player from leaving his area to watch Saliba because he was blocked by Xhaka.

This allows Saliba (yellow) the freedom to attack the cross, and the supporting cast of Partey, White and Gabriel (white) will be present in case Saliba bounces off the ball for a second header.

They weren’t needed though as the Frenchman’s header went straight into the net, but having two wingers Partey and Gabriel (white) – White couldn’t escape the tutelage of Brentford – bow. grants another option to Saliba (gold) when attacking the vertical column.

This is another well-executed move and the freedom Partey gets at this corner could be due to Brentford having less than one player in the 6-yard area as Hickey has to move out in the case of Arsenal. use the late running routine they used before Palace .

In Arsenal’s recent win over Manchester United, another corner kick gave them their first goal. Twenty minutes earlier, an identical routine had led to an opportunity for Partey.

Here, United have five players marking the area along with two man-ons Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez (in white) and three players moving towards the edge of the box to defend the short corner.

Before we move on to the short corner, note that Xhaka and Saliba (red) are left out as Martinelli passes a fixed pass to Martin Odegaard.

In this case, Arsenal only have 2 players to fend off counter-attacks, Saka and Zinchenko (out of shots). That’s why Saliba dropped when the corner was taken, because the routine involved Zinchenko and Arsenal needed another player alongside Saka to protect a possible counter-attack.

Meanwhile, Xhaka moves towards the edge of the penalty area…

… because when Odegaard made a pass to Zinchenko (who took the shot on the left), it became a four-for-three, and Xhaka became a free agent.

Zinchenko then noticed Xhaka running into the gap, catching up with Scott McTominay and Wout Weghorst (white shirt, near the penalty spot), who were positioned to guard the post. From there, Xhaka passed the ball to Partey, who missed the target.

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On the second attempt, the procedure was successful. Again, United have a similar defensive layout with three players to defend against a short corner, two man-ons (white) and the rest of the area. Saliba and Xhaka (red) start to back down after taking a short corner…

… Xhaka moved into space to the edge of the box, and Saliba backed down to let Zinchenko (full shot) advance.

Xhaka made the pass, but Martinelli failed to do it correctly as McTominay was now aware of the Arsenal midfielder’s movements.

So Martinelli played the opposite of Saliba, who passed the ball to Zinchenko and it looked like Arsenal’s habit had been nullified. The reason United didn’t fully switch to the ball was four Arsenal players (yellow) on the other side. Eddie Nketiah, the final scorer, ran out of shots.

Zinchenko then passes the ball neatly into Xhaka and McTominay keeps up…

… Bruno Fernandes shifted his focus away from Martinelli and towards Xhaka, which allowed the Brazilian winger to make a breakthrough into the void with the rest of the United defenders led by Arsenal players. occupied in the penalty area.

Xhaka did not pass the ball to Martinelli but returned it to Zinchenko, who was free to advance and move away from Antony (white) because Saliba (on shot) covered him for counter-attack.

This forced Christian Eriksen to push forward towards Zinchenko and as a result, Arsenal fell into overdrive again, with Xhaka being a free agent this time. Zinchenko passes the ball into the net of Odegaard…

… who saw Xhaka out of place. On the other side, Nketiah (yellow) moves away from Aaron Wan-Bissaka to put himself out of sight of the defender…

… allows him to attack the cross and head the ball into the net.

Using corners to gain the edge over opponents will be crucial for Arsenal in this season’s title race. The improvement in this stage of the game since Jover’s arrival is remarkable.

In the five seasons before Jover joined, Arsenal hadn’t scored more than 10 goals in a single season. In his first season (2021-22), they scored 13 goals. This season, they are seventh in 19 games.

Arsenal have scored from a corner since 2016-17

Season Goals from corners % of corner goals

2016-17

9

11.7

2017-18

ten

13.5

2018-19

8

11

2019-20

9

16.1

2020-21

3

5.5

2021-22

13

21.3

2022-23

7

15.6

Corners proved crucial for title winners in their first Premier League season, and with a growing focus on set pieces in the top flight, they could do it once. as Arsenal looked to win their first league title since 2003-04.

Arteta’s team turned the tide.



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