Leicester have started the season strongly from set-pieces, scoring an incredible 3 goals from just 10 corners taken so far that makes up 60% of their goals scored after their first 2 games. Below I investigate how they’ve achieved this, whether they can continue to score a high proportion of corners and how teams could potentially stop them.
Brighton – 19/8/17
An interesting set-up – Leicester only commit 5 men forward into the box for the attack – Wilfred Ndidi (#25), Jamie Vardy (#9), Wes Morgan (#5), Shinji Okazaki (#20) and Harry Maguire (#15). Facing up against 7 Brighton players plus the goalkeeper. Riyad Mahrez creates the short option which in turn drags 2 Brighton players across to cover. Okazaki sits by the goalkeeper, taking another Brighton player out of the game to mark him. This leaves Maguire, Vardy, Morgan and Ndidi against 6 Brighton players (one of which is zonally marking the near post area so isn’t too involved). Ndidi runs to the front post, taking a man with him, leaving a 3 vs 4 in Brighton’s favour in that crucial area just in front of the 6-yard box, however, the momentum of the Leicester players running in gives them a huge advantage. Luckily for Brighton, the delivery from Marc Albrighton was poor and easily cleared by the Brighton player on the near post, but it could’ve been a dangerous situation for Brighton had the ball landed in that 6-yard area.
A similar set-up to before once you simplify each player’s role. Mahrez (#26) and Albrighton (#11) swap roles, with Albrighton coming short whilst Mahrez takes the corner. Okazaki once again stands by the keeper dragging a Brighton player away from the action. The trio of Ndidi (#25), Vardy (#9) and Morgan (#5) all group together with Maguire (#15) close by. Ndidi again makes the run to the near post whilst the others make runs to attack the area directly in front of goal. The delivery was better but ended up just too close to the Brighton keeper and Maguire is unlucky not to get his head on it, already a pattern is forming.
Similar to the others. Ndidi starts closer to the near post (instead of making a run there), with the other roles remaining the same. Another poor delivery from Albrighton sees the ball go out for a goal kick.
Again, similar to the others. Albrighton short, Ndidi near post, Okazaki on the keeper with Maguire, Vardy and Morgan attacking together at the back post and it’s successful as Maguire rises up to head home.
Slight difference as Maguire goes to the back post with the rest of the players gathered towards the front post. The delivery from Albrighton is better, but an easy catch for the Brighton goalkeeper.
A corner just to waste the seconds at the end of the match. Albrighton plays it short for a 1-2 with Mahrez, Albrighton then tries to play Christian Fuchs through to deliver the cross but the ball goes out for a goal-kick.
Arsenal – 11/8/17
Interestingly a different set-up to the Brighton game. Mahrez moves into the box with Fuchs (#28) creating the short option, Fuchs plays the ball back to Albrighton who loops a cross towards the back post. Morgan (#5) makes a late run into the box. Maguire, taking advantage of the lack of zonal markers at the back post, is there to head the ball back into the danger zone, leaving Okazaki with an easy header on goal.
Similar to the first corner, but with Okazaki resuming his role of shielding the keeper. Mahrez plays it short to Albrighton who hits a ball first time to the back post, as you can see from the clip – the Arsenal back post is free and Maguire makes the same run as he did for the first goal, but can’t get to the cross in time.
Arsenal finally wise up and put a player out wide to stop the short corner so Mahrez has to hit it first time. Arsenal zonally marking the 6-yard area and loosely man marking Vardy, Morgan and Ndidi, the ball is likely aimed to the back post for the run of Maguire but falls a bit short.
Again Leicester are now forced to whip the ball in due to the cover Arsenal have moved across leaving a 4 vs 5 in Arsenal’s favour in the danger area in front of goal. As I’ve said in my previous articles on defensive shape from corners, zonal marking is weak against runners due to the advantage momentum of a forward run gives, and that shows here as Jamie Vardy is allowed to head home with relative ease.
2 games played and 2 rather different game plans from corners. It was obvious that in the Arsenal game Leicester knew how to exploit their zonal marking set-up by firstly identifying the back post as a likely weak spot, then secondly aiming to play a short corner to allow for a better-angled ball to the back- post for someone to get onto. Likewise, they knew how to manipulate Brighton into giving themselves the best possible numerical scenario for a chance on goal. It’ll be interesting to see if Leicester keep alternating routines for each opponent, and if they do, how successful it’ll be. It’s no secret that I’ve been wanting clubs to do this for a while and think clubs are missing out on a huge advantage by not studying team’s set-pieces and identifying weak spots. Could Leicester be the ones to open football’s eyes to the world of set-piece analysis? Here’s hoping!