Why sorry Sunderland are heading for the trap-door
The value of set-pieces cannot be over-stated. Statistics from WhoScored highlight the fact that 22% of all of the Premier League goals scored this season have come from set-pieces and this is consistent with the proportion that has been recorded in the previous two league campaigns.
Sunderland, however, who have looked Championship-bound since the first ball was kicked in anger, have only managed a return of one goal from set-pieces to date, a statistic that would surely have had former manager Sam Allardyce tearing his hair out.
The quality of their efforts on goal from free-kicks and deliveries into the box from dead-ball situations has clearly been lacking and it raises the question of what exactly David Moyes and his staff have been working on at the the training ground.
Admittedly, there has been a big overhaul of the playing staff and while it easy to point the finger at the likes of Adnan Januzaj, who has taken his fair share of the set-piece responsibility, the blame must surely lie at Moyes’ door.
The Black Cats have earned fewer corners than any other Premier League side but West Bromwich Albion have only won 4 more all season, yet they have still managed to score an impressive 15 goals from dead-ball situations, enhancing Tony Pulis’ reputation as the king of set-pieces.
The Baggies are traditionally one of the most physically-imposing sides in the division, a trait that the ‘out of position‘ Chris Brunt and a rejuvenated Matt Phillips have been quick to ‘cash-in’ on, establishing a cult Fantasy Premier League following in the process.
If Sunderland are to pull off another miraculous escape, they need to add to the 4 clean sheets that have mustered all season but equally important, they need to find a way of scoring from set-pieces as a matter of urgency, to turn the occasional one point into three.
Set pieces can be pivotal at both ends of the table
Only one side, Manchester City, have earned more corners than Spurs this season, yet the Lillywhites only have 3 set-piece goals to shout about, a big drop from last season, when they found the net 17 times, thanks mainly to some exquisite deliveries and the unerring accuracy of Christian Eriksen’s ball-striking.
If Spurs had enjoyed the same level of success from dead balls as last season, they would be breathing right down Chelsea’s neck at the top of the table. However, neither Eric Dier or Toby Alderweireld, who can really attack a corner kick, have found themselves on the score-sheet yet, despite registering 3 and 4 goals respectively last season, while Eriksen, who is widely regarded as the best free-kick taker in the Premier League, is still searching for his first direct free-kick goal of the season. In fact, such is the Danish play-maker’s reputation, that in the recent game at Anfield, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho even resorted to extraordinary measures, in an attempt to nullify the danger posed.
Perhaps it’s a combination of opposing sides being more aware of Eriksen’s ability, particularly with those wicked near-post corner deliveries that proved so successful last season and a bit of misfortune with his long range shooting but Mauricio Pochettino will have expected a much better return.
Fantasy football managers will often target set-piece specialists when selecting their teams and the success of this player group will often influence the overall standings in a contest but for Premier League clubs there is arguably much more on the line, which is why it is so important for sides to provide as much ‘menace’ as possible in these situations!