From crosses to counter attacks to set piece plays, there are countless ways for teams to score goals. But what could be a more direct and obvious way to score than from a dead ball situation? In this article, I would like to explore the significance of set piece plays from teams last season. How important were set piece plays in contributing to their goal tally and eventually, their standings in the league table?
To start off, let us have a look at the chances created from set pieces and goal assists from set pieces from all the teams in the 2011/2012 season.
(Note that goal assists from set piece plays is not included in chances created from set piece plays)
From Chart 1, we can see that Tottenham created the most chances from set pieces with 72 chances created. Stoke City, with their reputation as set-piece specialists, comes in second with 71. Newcastle, surprisingly, created the least amount of chances from set pieces (39).
Manchester City and Manchester United have amongst the lowest chances created from set pieces with 46 chances created and 45 chances created. There could be a few reasons for this. For one, it could mainly be because they like to take quick free kicks at times. Teams like these rather play the ball to feet and build up an attack and find the killer pass. Evidently, it is a more indirect and unpredictable way of playing. That being said, they both have one of the highest goal assists from set piece plays in the league, as seen from Chart 2. This shows that despite their low number of chances created from set plays, in reality, they make the most of their set piece plays. Unsurprisingly, Stoke has the most number of goal assists from set plays with 14. But as mentioned, they had to create 71 chances to get such a high number of set piece assists. So the question is, are teams that make the most of set piece situations the teams at the top of the table?
Next Page: Analysis of Chances Created per Goal Assist, Percentage of goals via Set Plays & the Conclusion
Chances Created per Goal Assist
Now, if we look at the ratio of number of chances created from set piece plays to goal assists from set piece plays, we might get a better picture of teams that make the most out of set piece situations.
Chart 3 shows the number of times it takes a team to create chances in a set piece situation before a set piece play becomes a goal assist, and Table 1 ranks the clubs according to the figures tabulated.
From the table, both the Manchester teams have the best rates of chances created per goal assists. It takes Manchester City and Manchester United 3.5 and 3.8 set piece chances to muster an assist from a set piece. This is better than any other team in the Premier League. Surprisingly, Blackburn comes in third place in the table above. Now this is where it gets interesting. Blackburn, relegated last season, created 4.1 set piece chances created per goal assist from a set piece. Stoke city, (in)famous for their direct style of play, share only 5th spot in the table, along with Chelsea and West Brom.
Looking at the table ranks, it is almost impossible to immediately notice a specific pattern to determine the significance of the ratio of chances created per goal assists with regards to set pieces. On the surface, it seems quite strange to see teams from polar ends of the league table being amongst the top in the table shown above. But analysing it further, there can be a few reasons we can point to to explain this feat. One of which is the quality of set piece deliveries. Top teams produce more quality deliveries in set piece plays; hence they take their chances more frequently than other teams. However, teams like Arsenal are an exception to this point. With 11.6 chances created per goal assist in a set piece play, Arsenal come in only 15th place in the table, one of the lesser effective teams when it comes to set piece plays.
For teams with seemingly less quality, it is only logical that they would usually rely more on set pieces as their main source of goals. Therefore, they would focus most of their attacks through set piece deliveries. Teams like Blackburn, Norwich, West Brom and Stoke prove this point. Blackburn, as mentioned, is third in the ratio of chances created to goal assists when it comes to set piece plays. Norwich is also impressively in 4th place with 4.5 chances created per goal assist in a set piece play. Stoke and West Brom, both with 5.1 chances created per goal assist in a set piece play, share 5th spot with Chelsea.
Percentage of Goals scored via Set Pieces
To further interpret the figures mentioned above, let us take a look at the percentage of goals scored by the teams from set pieces to get an even better idea of the significance of set piece plays.
With the tabulation of percentage of goals scored from set pieces, Table 1 would make much more sense now. From Table 2, the teams that have the highest percentage of goals scored from set pieces are Blackburn, Norwich, Stoke and West Brom (these are the only teams that have more than 20% of all their goals coming from set pieces). Looking back at Table 1, these 4 teams are in the top 7 in chances created per goal assists in set piece play (see table 1). This goes to show that set piece plays are a significant part of their game. Stoke, for example, honoured their reputation as set piece specialists in the Premier League by having the highest percentage of set piece goals (38.9% of the goals coming from set pieces).
Aside from Blackburn, Norwich, Stoke and West Brom, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are the other 3 teams that make up the top 7 in Table 1’s ranking. While Chelsea impressively scored 18.5% of all their goals from set pieces, the 2 Manchester clubs have one of the poorer rates of goals scored from set pieces (only 14% of Man City’s goals and 13.5% of Man United’s goals come from set pieces). While they have a rather low percentage of goals scored from set pieces, it goes to show that set piece deliveries is a less significant aspect of their play.
Set piece plays are an essential aspect of the game. Different teams have different use for set pieces. Some use it as main staple for scoring goals, others rely more on open play to get the goals. The quality present in each team dictates the frequency on relying on set pieces to score goals, as well as the proportion of goals scored from set piece plays.
Set piece plays are also a factor in dictating the style of play of the team, and eventually the kinds of players that enter and play for the club. It is the most direct form of football, and if executed well, can be a powerful strategy for any team, regardless of where they are in the league table.