“Arsenal are bad at defending set pieces.”

By Walter Broeckx

One of our readers wrote a comment which got me thinking. And I would like to thank him for giving me some inspiration.  And please don’t see this as some kind of attack, as this is certainly not the case. It just was the starting point of doing some research.

He said: “Set-pieces are just killing arsenal’s defence. Don’t know why it happens but every time we concede a corner or free kick, its nerve wrecking, and most of our goals are going in thru set pieces.”

And at first I was nodding my head in agreement. And then I thought… is this really so?

So I went on a little investigation and so I took all the goals we conceded so far and I just give you the list of the goals we conceded so far this season and also how they happened.  I took all the competitive goals we played so far this season and looked at all the goals we conceded.

So here comes a rather depressing list:

  • Liverpool : open play
  • Blackburn:  open play
  • Bolton : open play
  • Sunderland: open play (after a corner had been hooked away and in extra extra time)
  • Tottenham : open play
  • WBA:  open play
  • Partizan Belgrade: penalty
  • Chelsea: open play and direct free kick
  • Birmingham : open play
  • Shakhtar : open play
  • Shakhtar:  free kick headed in own goal + open play
  • Newcastle: free kick headed in
  • Everton: corner bundled in
  • Tottenham : open play, penalty, free kick headed in
  • Braga: open play, open play
  • Aston Villa : open play, corner headed in

So what we have is goals from open play, penalties and corners and free kicks leading to a goal. But how many of them? Let us count.

  • OPEN PLAY: 14 (from 22 goals in total) or 63 %
  • PENALTY:  2 (from 22 goals in total) 9%
  • DIRECT FREE KICK: 1 (from 22 goals in total) 4,5%
  • CORNER/FREE KICK turned in to a goal : 5 (from 22 goals in total)  23%

I think we can leave the penalties and the direct free kicks out of this as they are more or less not directly to blame on something or someone.

But if we look at the goals we conceded from corners and free kicks they contain only 23% of the total we let in. So the assumption that we concede most of our goals from corners and free kicks is just totally wrong. Just every 5th goal we let in comes from such a standard situation.

And if we compare this with the games we played so far in total (which is 23 games) we can see that we let in less than one goal per game. For those who like numbers we concede 0,95 goals per game to be exact. And most of them in open play.

So in fact statistically it only is every fifth game we concede a goal from a corner/free kick that is somehow headed in or forced over the line. So our dear fan who is suffering from a nervous breakdown every corner or free kick we concede should just relax a bit more. It is not the end of the world when face a free kick or a corner.

And you will not hear me say that we don’t concede any goals from those situations, but as I have just shown there is a greater chance that we concede a goal in open play.

And I must say that after my little research I must admit that these numbers are even surprising to me. Even I have been a believer of the general football chatter that we cannot defend set pieces. Maybe this is another example of how we are developing our team. I really would be grateful if there is someone out there who knows how this has been going in the last seasons. To see if we could find if we are improving or if we are going backwards?

I have the feeling after seeing these numbers that we have improved, but then again it might just be that I just have a false image on this. Just as I believed, and our reader also believed, I think many of us had the wrong feeling about  conceding goals.

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53 Replies to ““Arsenal are bad at defending set pieces.””

  1. I think even Direct free kicks needs to be added as set pieces. Plus even the sunderland goal was initiated with a corner kick, again a set piece, that really makes it very uncomfortable. Plus the penalty concede to spurs came from a handball in the wall which was tryin to protect a free kick, again a set piece. So that would bring to the goal count to 7 goals from set pieces and 13 goals from open play. Which means more than one third of our goals are bcoz of set pieces directly or indirectly. Sad but true…

  2. Ok i missed, it comes to 8 goals directly or indirectly from set pieces and 13 goals from open play. That gives it almost 40% of our goals conceded are directly or indirectly related to setpieces.

  3. Great post! I think those stats do indeed say a whole lot of truth. I don’t think there is any team in the world that can be immune to the thread of dead ball situations.
    On the contrary if Arsenal could have defended better in open play we would have been top of the table by now.

  4. Nice research as ever Walter. It doesn’t seem that we concede that many goals from set-plays, which i also thought to be our weakness. I think it would be nice to see how our percentages compare against other clubs or the premier league average.

    However, to get the full picture we would really need to see the number of goals conceded as a percentage of the total number of corners and free-kicks (within say 40 yards) the defence have had to face.

  5. Can somebody compare these numbers with those of our title rivals?
    And this may be a little off-topic, but can we see the opposite numbers? Ie: number of goalsscired from set-pieces (not penalties though) and compare them with other teams’, as my perception is that we don’t score enough from those situations, and we hardly make them count. But it’s just a perception, and I could be wrong.

    Thank you for this write-up, that’s quality.

  6. Thanks for delving deep and finding all this information us Walter. It makes more sense to argue when you do so with facts and figures.

    Also, Dark Prince does make a valid point here. 8 goals out of 21 is a lot. I’m always on the edge of my seat when Arsenal are defending set pieces. Its almost never the case when Arsenal are attacking with a corner or a free kick. When Nasri scored last weekend with that volley, this was the first time Arsenal scored from a corner(still, indirectly) in 87354123654 matches!

  7. I do think we are a little weak on set pieces, and as La Shiz pointed out, we hardly ever seem a threat from corners ourselves. It is slightly disappointing because set pieces are one of the things that you can almost guarantee an improvement in if you work on them in training. However, we have shown some improvement. Im not actually as nervous when we’re defending set pieces.

  8. im not the only one then! id like to believe this article but cant, i agree with la shiz, when we get a corner it feels pointless, to be fair tho walcott aint bad at whippin them in when he plays, but ive become frustrated at how weak are deliveries are, they seem to be lofted in with no real menace, and when a ball does get whipped into the box beit from a corner or open play we rarely seem to attack it, i may be wrong but im nervous also every time the oppo get a set piece, though when djourou is playing not so much, overall i think the defending has done well though given the circumstances.

  9. I have always thought that whenever there is any set piece situation, includin long free kicks or corners or direct free kicks, there should be 2 defenders, probably Clichy and Sagna, to guard the posts. We see this happening during corners but never when there is a free kick. If we start using 2 players at posts during free kicks as well, then we could have saved goals such as the one conceded to Newcastle or the free kick headed by Spurs.

    Also i remember clearly that when Spurs had taken that free kick, there were only 3 Spurs players to head but 7-8 Arsenal players around them. And i strongly am against this. It actually created confusion for Arsenal players as to who should be marking whom. Also no use of putting players in that area who really aren’t good as heading. But such players should be used at the posts so that the headers which are going towards the corners and hard to reach by Fabianski,could be saved atleast. Maybe Fabregas, Denilson or Nasri can do that. And Squillaci, Koscielny, Song, and Chamakh should defend for headers.

  10. Top article walter.but,i want The Arsenal not to concede any kind of goals wheather it is from open play or from set pieces.

    we have necessary personnel but i think we need to drill our defence.and unlike depending on our back5 we need to defend as an unit as in:pressing and individual defensive responsibility.hoping to see more clean sheets this season.

  11. There is always something to complain about in Arsenal blogosphere. Some of us are professional moaners. Goals will always come in some form and the best thing to do is prevent goals in all form. I think we defend corners very well, especially with 2 players standing by either sticks. This has saved us many goals but who cares about such things. Let’s find a fault and drum it up! I am personally most concerned with how we deal with free kicks whipped into our box but I am one of those rare gooners who believe that the man in charge see more than I do and must be working on correcting these anomalies.

    I agree with posters here on one thing though Walter and Tony, whenever you analyse any part of Arsenal’s attributes, always do it with our rivals and other EPL teams for perspective. To some gooners, Chelsea and ManU can do no wrong but putting their stats side by side with ours helps to calm the nerves of these folks.

  12. Hi Walter,
    am a great fan of the website – say hello to Tony for me – and love your stats. This season is a knife edge one because there is a sense of things gelling but everyone is incredibly nervous.
    That nervousness extends to the players/team too, which has seen them screw up situations they really shouldn’t have.
    Take your stats and then look at the games since and including the Shaktar away game.
    11 goals conceded: 4 open play, 2 pens (1 of which directly resulted from a poorly defended set piece) and 5 set pieces. So we are up to 50%.
    So the naysayers have something to jump on.
    This doesn’t take away from your underlying point which is things are not as bad as they seem. And I agree with that. Arsenal are at a tipping point. The pundits are as up and down as the team’s results but the trend overall is upwards – and more importantly at a time, at least domestically – when the trend of the Gunners major rivals is downward.(I’m not including Spurs in this because from those of us from outside North london, emotionally as well as physically, the time you spend doing each other down just seems energy wasted).
    Arsene will hold his nerve, if the marquee players – Cesc, Arshavin, Van Persie and Nasri – do likewise this should be Arsenal’s year.
    That will win over the Arsenal supporting naysayers, as for the professional ones – Lawrenson, Hansen and cohorts – frankly who gives a toss?

  13. To quote Fat Sam, aka “The Walrus” : ‘I hate perception. There’s far too much of it in the game, we should stick to reality.’

    Some fans just like to have a moan and a whinge about things they only perceive to be true, but there’s little or no evidence to support them. Our set-piece weakness is just one of them.

    And then there’s these obtuse comparisons between ourselves and other clubs. If our play is geared towards quick passing and movement on the ground and scoring goals in this way, then obviously we aren’t going to be as prolific from set-pieces as teams who focus on creating opportunities from set-piece situations. The question is always one of balance and effectiveness within the system a team employs.

  14. Great analysis Walter, thanks.

    As someone else mentioned above, I’d like to see similar stats from our direct rivals.
    However, what I think would be very interesting, would be to see how many set-piece goals we’ve conceded vs. how many set-pieces we’ve had to defend against. This, for me, would be much more telling – especially if we could have a season-to-season comparison.

    It’d require a lot of research though..

  15. Nice post, I don’t think are as bad as everyone makes out, from memory, ManUre and Chelski have conceded a fair few from set pieces this season. I think the reason for this is not that Arsenal or Chelski/ManUre are bad at defending set pieces, but because the lower teams that are less technical than us, work on set pieces hour upon hour as it’s their major attacking weapon. I would say we (top 3 teams) are just attacked by teams that use set pieces as their main weapon. If Wenger spent hours upon hours working on defending set pieces, we may see a slight improvement, but attackers hold the advantage on set pieces. Also, before anyone says he should spend hours on it, neglecting our strengths would probably have a downturn in our beautiful play, which fans would then moan about.

    As for the dark prince, I understand what you’re saying, but look at other top teams in the league, they concede as many from set pieces, as lower teams use it as their strength. I also have to completely dismiss your 2 men on the line for free kicks, that would be a nightmare!!! Tactically awful. Playing everyone on side and allowing teams to put everyone on the goal keeper and in his line of vision would be a nightmare. Also, Sagna should never be on the post as he’s one player that has a good leap and can head the ball!!

  16. This is very funny. As i’ve always said, there are always some group of supporters here who will always remain ignorant to any problem for Arsenal. I cant see how being ignorant can solve the problem.

    Anyways to the topic, 8 goals from set pieces out of a total of 21 goals is a huge percentage. And as you can see from some of the above comments, its not a invisible problem, everyone knows what gameplan teams like Blackburn or Bolton or Newcastle, etc will try to use. Everyone knows that the best way for a weaker team to win against us is to put the whole team to defend and whatever one or two free kicks or corners they get, they’ll try to muscle their way into the defence to score that one vital goal from that one cross.

    Atleast from the top 4 teams, Arsenal is the most vulnerable team when it comes to set pieces. And even if we clear out a corner or block, it wud always be in a very nervy and scrambling manner. I dont think anyone can disagree with this.

  17. @tom- i dont see how putting 2 players on the posts can have a conflict with the goalkeeper line of vision. Ok if not Sagna or Clichy, then how about Wilshere and Fabregas??

  18. I sort of hear what you’re saying Dark Prince, but until you can prove to me that we are the worst team at defending set pieces, I’m not going to agree with you. I do get nervous on set pieces but so does every other fan!!! Show me the stats for other teams and maybe I’ll believe the stats and not what you ‘think’ is correct.

  19. Ok, with two players on the line, it invites the opposition to all come and stand in front of him. The reason we don’t do it is to hold a line. People who play the game will understand this. By putting two players on the line, that means the opposition can stand anywhere, including right in front of the keeper. By not having anyone on the line, the opposition need to stay onside.

  20. Absolutely hilarious from Dark Prince.

    Anyone who doesn’t agree with his point of view is ignorant, but he doesn’t comprehend how having defenders on the goal line will invite pressure on the goalkeeper….

  21. @tom- what you’re sayin is about d offside rule which is a completly valid point. But anyways, none of the opponents usually are offside during such set pieces, i dont see why we shouldn’t try and protect the goal rather than expect the opponent to be offside when the cross comes in.

  22. The analysis doesn’t tell us much if its not compared to what would be the standard. From your analysis we know one out of four goals conceded by us is a set piece. Is that good or bad? Your article doesn’t tell us. For all we know it’s very bad because it’s the worst % in the league. Or perhaps it’s outstanding and the best record in the league.

  23. That does make sense, but I do think we probably would concede more goals that way, and would open up a can of worms. Just for the fact if you look at how many balls will end up bouncing in the 6 yard box, strikers will have a field day. Most times it may work, but same with corners. We don’t concede off every corner. Teams must have on average 5/6 corners per game against us and about the same number of free kicks. Just off the top of my head, I reckon we concede 1 every 3 games from a corner or set piece, and that means we have faced and defended 35 free kicks or corners successfully (6 freekicks + 6 corners x 3 games – the 1 goal). Again that’s not proof, just at estimation.

  24. As others have pointed out, this is actually pretty useless information unless we can compare the figures to the league as a whole or against our direct rivals. And it’s pretty silly to place players at the posts on all free kicks as it eliminates offsides for the opponent. By playing an offside defensive line, it allows space in front of the goalkeeper to claim the free kick.

  25. @tom- you make valid points. We can estimate any way we want but set pieces certainly does seem a problem especially if we are conceding 40% of our goals via set pieces directly or indirectly.

  26. Maybe this could help a bit. Let us take a team that is “world” famous for it’s free kicks and corners: Blackburn.
    This year when we played Blackburn we conceded 7 free kicks and 4 corners. They could not score from these 11 kicks. In fact they scored from open play.
    So in this game it was 11 set pieces and 0 goals conceded.

  27. Dark Prince if you want to put the dots on the i one could argue that the Partizan penalty should be counted as an open play goal as it was a cross in open play which was handled by Denilson.
    The Sunderland corner was well dealth with as it was kicked almost to the half way line. So to count is as bad defending on a corner is not correct in my opinion.
    Bad defending on a set piece is when it is played in and direct converted in a goal without really leaving the penalty area.

    And one could say that the direct free kick from Chelsea should also be counted as an open play goal as it was us losing the ball in open play which resulted in the foul.

    And finaly 8 goals from 22 gives 36% of goals from set pieces, not 40%.

  28. I’m sorry to say this but those stats are completely useless. If you truly want to know if we concede too many goals from set pieces what you have to do is the following:
    – total number of set pieces against AFC divided by goals conceded from said set pieces. That will give you a ratio that you can actually compare against the other teams in the league. Simple!

  29. Yorg

    No that’s quite wrong. The stat you suggest would tell you something, but would not take into account the number of times we conceded an event that led to a set piece.

    Club A concedes 10 set pieces and five goals result – 50%
    Club B concedes 20 set pieces and five goals result – 25% – but this is nonsense because club B is caught off side a lot and 15% of the free kicks awarded to the other side are from within their own half as a result of off sides. Now that is a useless figure.

    If we did it your way, the parameters would be far from the “Simple!” you express but would in fact have to involve a statement as to which set plays you would have to analyse. Even if you took out off sides, you would still have to consider how remote the set play was to count. A foul in one’s own half? A foul within 10 yards of the half way line? It is horribly complex.

    Using goals conceded and goals conceded from set play is simple and useful. Total number of goals from set pieces against set pieces is, to use your word “useless”.

  30. Yorg has a great point there. We need to see how well we defend the TOTAL number of set pieces as a percentage rather than just the number of goals conceded from set peices as a percentage of total goals conceded. Obviously that is a whole different study and I am sure OPTA or someone like that would have those stats.

    I personally prefer to go with the “eye” test. What does it look like to the naked eye. And from that angle, although I dont think we are as bad a Dark Prince sometimes makes out (sorry mate), we are not as solid as some here are trying to suggest. We seem to have problems communicating who has who and sticking with those people. The Newcastle goal is the prime example. Andy Carroll was the A1 threat, nobody else was even close. Yet nobody, NOBODY, marked him. Spurs winner as well. Kaboul is a centre-half. Someone should have gotten alongside him so they could contest the header. He was given freedom to get his head to the ball.

    For me too many times the opposition get uncontested headers against us, even if sometimes those uncontested headers do not lead to goals. It is a question of aggresiveness. Some of that is still maturity. Some of it is players still learning to play together (Djourou, Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh – our tallest players – had never once played together before this year). It is something I feel certain we will improve upon.

    But to me the problem is real and obvious. It is up to the players to sort out themselves. New players certainly are not the answer.

  31. Tony – I think you are completely wrong there, I’m afraid, and it isnt too often I say that. Of course the number of goals conceded as a percentage of set pieces defended is relevant. To think otherwise is ridiculous and I am amazed you would think so. Of course there is work to be done as far as determining what set pieces come into the equation but it is still possible. And yes, sometimes a free-kick in the other half would be included, such as Blackburn’s first last season in the 6-2 game. It would have to be “balls played into attacking areas” or something like that. But the simple fact is that if you had 5 set pieces like that over 10 games and conceded 4 goals, compared to another team that had 40 set pieces like that over 10 games and conceded 4 goals, it would tell you an awful lot about that teams defense. It would also tell you a lot about how many fouls you are conceding, where you are conceding those fouls, etc etc. Obviously opposition would also have to be taken into account, and yes it becomes difficult. But that is the problem with ANY statistics you use and you could just as easily make that complaint against Walter’s original piece, which is extremely simplistic in terms of the way it uses statistics. To properly use statistics you need ALL the information, and just saying that X number of goals have been conceded from set pieces as a defense of our ability against set pieces is just as wrong. Statistics can always be skewed and that is why if you are going to use statistics, you need to take into account as many variables as possible. Anyone who has done statistical analysis knows this.

  32. We have conceded 200 free kicks this season so far. An average of around 13 per game. 200 fouls all over the field.
    Let us take an assumption that 100 of those fouls resulted in a kick at our penalty area.
    So 100 fouls we had to deal with and from these we have conceded and I take DP his counting(which is not correct imo) : 8.
    This gives us a result of 8 % chance of conceding a goal from a free kick.
    And in those 8 we had to include the corners also (which I cannot find for the moment – if anyone has them) as from those 8 we have conceded 2 from a corner.
    Now let us take we got 50 corners against us in total (= 3 per game on average) we get in total defending 150 set pieces and from this we concede 8 (DP figure) or around 5% chance of conceding from any set piece.

    If there are people who know the numbers from other teams you can let us know but I really will not go looking for the results from other teams.

    My intention was to see if the myth of us conceding almost all our goals from set pieces was correct. It was not correct.

    And then I calculated how much chance we have of conceding from a set piece and this doesn’t look that much to me.

    But I will agree with you that any goal we concede is one to much, but as this is football is will happen that the other teams will score a goal against us every now and then.

  33. And I just found a site which is telling me that other teams get an average of 7 corners per game against us. This is the double of what I was thinking so it means around 100 corners so far we had to defend.
    Wich makes it some 200 set pieces to defend and 8 goals conceded (again DP counting) or the chance of 4% possibility that the other team scores from a set piece

  34. Walter – I completely agree with the statement that we havent conceded almost all our goals from set pieces. Obviously we dont and I dont think ANY team does. But that is different from saying that we struggle at set pieces. To know that we would indeed need to know what the average is across the board from all teams. Only then could statistics lead us to any kind of conclusion. Is our percentage high or low in comparison?

    But even after use of statistics, we still have our eye test, which to me still indicates that we have struggles at set pieces. Against Villa last weekend we lucked out just before half-time when we didnt defend a set piece very well. There are still many times that we look extremely vulnerable.

    I am not a doomsayer. I dont think things are awful. But set-pieces have been a trouble area for us for a few years now and we still have not cured that ill, although I think our defending from these areas has certainly been better this season (helped in huge part by Fabianki’s increase in confidence dealing with high balls into the area).

    I just think any use of statistics must have comparison as a major tool so that we can see what the average should be. Is 23% of total goals conceded from set pieces high or low? That is the information we need to make judgement on this.

  35. @Walter-again i can see that you’re tryin to defend something that is quite obvious. For few days, i’ve been arguing with people who think that a squillaci-djourou combo is as good as a rio and vidic combo or a terry-alex combo. Worst of all, they have even given me some irrelevant statistics so that they can prove this. But i think almost everyone, except for those few, will admit that obviously Arsenal’s defence, though good, is not as good as Chelsea’s or united’s.

    In the same way, even the point of set pieces are quite obvious. Everyone knows and its is quite obvious during the matches that the most easiest way to score against Arsenal is thru set pieces. Also everyone knows that Arsenal’s defence is not as good in air and hence to play a good cross from either flanks is probably the best way to create an opportunity against Arsenal. Just think, how many goals have gone thru situations like set pieces where our defence has to defend with their head?? Why does 8 goals out of those 22 go in directly or indirectly thru set pieces?? Also if we count the other goals which comes from crosses, which also has to be defended like set pieces then i guess the goal count will come upto maybe 20 out of those 22.
    The fact is, if you see every game of Arsenal, which i think you do as ur our ref reviewer, whenever a set piece situation comes, either we concede or either we scramble for our lives to clear it. We never do it the easy way. There have been countless number of times when the cross from a set piece comes in and no1 gets a decent header to it and the ball lands in a place surrounded by all the players are waiting for the 1st player to have a touch at it.
    It happens more than once or twice in almost every game. Half of the time we get lucky and just scramble it like crazy and clear it. But other half of the time, the opponent just slams it inside the net. I dont kno how many times our rivals might face this situation in a match, but i dont think its as frequently as us.

  36. Nerve-wreck, fear and low esteem are contagious mentally and spiritually. Whenever the audience and supporters feel this way, they immediately, if not gradually transmit this emotion towards the players. When we moan and groan every time the players concede set-pieces, the commotion will effect the team negatively. Then most of them will lose concentration or tend to try too hard to accomplish an achievable job which sometimes they fail. Due to us. None of us can deny this. Dont you think we, the supporters have an influence on how the team plays too? But no, everyone will start to moan and groan again til their tongue dries out. When you say, “I’m a loyal fan, I spend money and time to buy the tickets and watch the game. I have all the rights in the world to complain as a customer.” Then why dont we use the fans’ right to support, to encourage the team and let them know “Our Might Cannot Be Matched”? Go Gunners…

  37. Also to everyone- just addressing a problem or tryin to talk about it doesn’t make anyone a doomsdayer or a catastrophy. The mark of true champions comes when they analyse not only their loses but also their wins. Turnin a blind eye to problems will only come to haunt us later on.

  38. Walter – I ran a quick query on fouls/corners per season, the columns are thus:

    Arsenal Corners
    Opposition Corners
    Arsenal Fouls
    Opposition Fouls

    2000/2001 38 295 152 495 538
    2001/2002 38 246 158 561 576
    2002/2003 38 266 182 483 521
    2003/2004 38 202 203 499 529
    2004/2005 38 203 162 444 535
    2005/2006 38 211 181 479 586
    2006/2007 38 278 167 368 510
    2007/2008 38 237 162 392 474
    2008/2009 38 268 145 419 469
    2009/2010 38 258 132 419 518
    2010/2011 15 112 84 190 166

    It’ll probably come up all wonky but you should be able to work it out… might be of interest to you?

  39. Personally though – I feel that a lot of teams specifically play for set pieces when they go against us (and probably practice them to death in training all week) would skew the figures… so it would take a lot of analysis to make sense of all this and put it into context?!

  40. This should also be put into perspective, on the flipside (as it were), that I would imagine that we practice the set piece in training very little (too busy trying to play football) which could lead to an insecurity in defending them – I think this is what perhaps lets our goal-keepers down?

    How often do they practice defending a set piece? Great shot stoppers – yes… but in the air – sometimes we worry.

    I’m sure Blackburn’s defence are very familiar with the drill by now and could do it in their sleep – but would I say they have a better defence than ours?

    No – as they would conceed more during open play… it would be a hard act to balance in training I imagine.

    Funny old game… game of two halves – blah, etc.

  41. im more worried when we have a corner ourselves letting in a goal on the break. wonder how many are let in from that, although its probly not that many now ive gone and said it.

  42. I always remember back in the Adams/Bould/Campbell days of defending set pieces. When the opposition got a corner or set-piece around our area I would pray that the opposition would bring everyone forward because I’d be thinking “great, an opportunity to counter-attack”. Sure the opposition might score occasionally but I was absolutely confident that in general we’d defend the situation well and that it would often be an attacking opportunity for us. How many times did we see Pires, Henry etc bursting from our own area and creating superb counter-attacking goals from opposition set-pieces?

    I dont get that feeling now. I just pray we emerge unscathed from the situation.

    That to me is evidence, much more than statistics. It is the feeling we all get when a free-kick or corner is conceded. There isnt the certainty, or confidence with our defense right now. Everything seems a scramble.

    It isnt that we are BAD, just that we are not confident in that area.

  43. I think Dogface made an important point here. I’d really like to know how our defence train for set pieces. Or most importantly, does our defence even train for set pieces??

  44. Not only that DarkPrince – but our midfield and attack don’t train to take set pieces (see training to play football) so they wouldn’t be as familiar with them in the box to defend as you usually defend as a team on a corner or a free-kick hoof into the box.

    As I said – it’s a hard thing to balance… we have our style of football and we must hone that as best we can for success – both in terms (with arsenal) min the purity and beauty of the game but also in ensuring 3 points.

  45. Once the ball is on the floor thogh we distribute it very well from defence and the other team will take that as a cue to shit it and put everyone behind the ball.

  46. @Dogface- On one part its good to hear that we play practice the open play passes more than anyone else but sad to hear that we dont practice for free kicks or even defending free kicks. I remember Henry and Pires used to curl free kicks to score those times. Now its very rarely we find our playrs tryin to do that. I mean, shouldn’t there be a balance? Our invincibles’s era produced both excellent passing and excellent set piece opportunities and excellent counter attackin also. But now we are only good as passing. I kno that Arsenal are still scoring goals and defending pretty decently but its still a fact that our Counter attack seems almost non existent and our set pieces rarely get converted into goals.

  47. DP – I dont think many teams have a high ratio of converting set pieces. That is why I would like to see figures across the board. We score probably as many as any team. I mean people say things like “Wigan, Stoke, and Sunderland are good at set-pieces” but Wigan have scored 11 goals this season, Stoke and Sunderland have scored 19 goals. So how many opportunities have they had and how many have they converted. How many goals do Utd or Chelsea get from corners or free-kicks? Not many. I dont think the ratio of goals scored from set-pieces is very high across the board, it is not a great goal-scoring opportunity for most teams unless you have someone like RvP (who we have missed badly in this respect) who can score directly or whip in crosses (like the peach of a cross that Bendtner missed in the opening minutes the other night).

    I just think that for most teams in the PL with a lack of creative players, set pieces represent one of their only consistent opportunities to score, especially against the better teams. They still dont score much from them, but their chances are greater than in open play (generally).

    I dont think set pieces are good scoring chances for most teams. They should be dealt with. That is where I agree with you that we scramble too often to deal with them. We need to get better, but I dont see that practising routines will solve the problem because we dont have an Andy Carroll to train against, or someone who throws the ball in like Rory Delap. You have to deal with it on the pitch and the players just need to communicate better. Ultimately game situations depend on who the opposition throws forward and the quality of the ball into the box. That isnt something you can duplicate in training very well.

  48. Paul C- Agree with you completely. But i’d like to know how come we dont train for set pieces especially when we have the best heading striker in the world!!

  49. Paul C- to be honest. It wud be disappointing if Arsenal really dont train for set pieces. Just think, they can use Van Persie, Chamakh and Song as attackers and Squillaci, Djourou and Sagna as defenders and practice set pieces while trainin…some one like Nasri or Denilson can deliver crosses. Its actually benefits 4 ways, i.e to the strikers to practice their headers in set pieces, to the defenders to practice defending headers, to the goalkeeper (especially fabianski) to practice to catch a ball or arrange his defence and finally to the player who delivers crosses to make himself better as delivering.

  50. Some good points, although I guess the idea that we concede from set pieces is not just from this season.

    I imagine a lot of people also get set pieces confused with crosses from open play. For instance, I incorrectly remembered that Zigic header being from a set piece. Still, if it’s from a cross in open play or from a set play it’s not that different is it?

  51. Agree with Dale. To get the full picture we need to (1)look at how our percentage compares to our rivals, and (2)the percentage of set pieces that result in a goal out of the total number taken.

    I don’t think this is really a topic that merits discussion, though. I’m pretty sure that we are more or less equally good at set-pieces compared to United and Chelsea. If there is a difference it isn’t significant. Because I remember times when Chelsea and United allow set piece goals and their fans complain about the team being too weak on set pieces. Last season in particular Chelsea’s defending came under a lot of criticism for a few goals from corners.

    From what I’ve seen (haven’t looked at the numbers) I think goals from set-pieces have a random pattern. Like the roll of dice. Let’s say rolling a ‘1’ is equivalent to conceding a goal. You may get a few consecutive ‘1’s or some close together but it all evens out over the long term.

    I think this because set-pieces do involve quite a bit of luck. And with all the pushing and shoving going on, the impact of actual skill in scoring a set piece goal is highly reduced. So what you end up with is a bunch of players struggling to get to the ball and if somehow you break free of the mess you can head it in.

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