Monaco have carried on from their fantastic title win last season with a 100% record from their first 4 games, scoring an incredible 14 goals. I watch all the goals from all the top leagues each week, and noticed that Monaco seemed to score a lot from set-pieces, so I investigated further and discovered that Monaco scored:
- 3 goals from free kicks
- 2 penalties
- 5 goals from corners
So not only had they been averaging 3.5 goals scored per game, but over 71% of their goals had come from set-pieces. A frankly ridiculous stat, so below I’m going to investigate their goals from corners and free-kicks to see if they’re doing anything special.
Toulouse – 4/8/17
Joao Moutinho (#8) stands over the corner with Thomas Lemar (#27) coming short – drawing 2 Toulouse players out to defend. 5 Monaco players gather in the box, Kamil Glik (#25), Radamel Falcao (#9), Djibril Sidibe (#19), Kylian Mbappe (#10) and Jemerson (#5). Moutinho whips in the cross – all the players make runs directly forward, except for Jemerson who runs to the near post and manages to get a glancing header on it that puts it past the Toulouse keeper. The delivery and run from Jemerson makes me think this was a pre-planned routine exploiting the way that Toulouse set-up from corners, as you can see from the still below there’s a clear space to attack. The rest of the players grouping up towards the back of the 6-yard box (and subsequently getting marked in that area) creates more space for Jemerson to run into. A well-worked corner!
A free kick this time, the Monaco players split into 2 groups, with Mbappe (#10) and Falcao (#9) splitting into one group with Glik (#25), Guido Carrillo (#11), Jemerson (#5) and Sidibe (#19) making up the other group. Toulouse set up in a largely man-marking based system with a couple of players marking zonally between the 2 groups of Monaco players. Moutinho floats in the free-kick and the players begin their runs. Interestingly most of the Monaco players don’t begin their run when you’d expect them to, all except Glik, who’s positioned the furthest away from goal out of the players committed forward for the free-kick. As Toulouse are man marking, this gives Glik a head-start over his marker, allowing him to blitz past the rest of the Toulouse players (who aren’t interested in following Gliks run), leaving him completely free to glance the header home, with the rest of the Monaco players ready for any follow-up that may happen.
Dijon – 13/8/17
The Monaco players gather in a group, as seen in the corner above against Toulouse, we see the same personnel involved. Glik (#25), Jemerson (#5), Sidibe (#19) and Adama Diakhaby (#15) are all grouped together with Falcao (#9) away from the group. Lemar (#27) takes the corner with Moutinho (#8) offering the short – again dragging 2 Dijon players away from defending the main group. With 2 Dijon players marking the near post it’s obvious where the corner is going to be directed to – that spot right in front of the goalkeeper. The Monaco players begin their runs, shifting and feinting which direction they’ll be running in. Sidibe, Diakhaby and Jemerson all run to the front post, taking their markers with them leaving a 2 vs 3 with Falcao and Glik up against their 2 markers and the goalkeeper. Both defenders challenge Glik for the header and lose out, with Falcao free to tap home the goal.
Another corner that follows the same basic principles that led to the first goal – exploiting the man-marking by making runs to the already heavily marked near-post to create space towards the back post, with an exquisite over-head kick by Jemerson to grab the goal.
Monaco differ from their approach that got 2 goals earlier on in the match. Rony Lopes (#20) stands by the edge of 6-yard box whilst Glik (#25), Diakhaby (#15), Fabinho (#2) and Falcao (#9) group together. As the corner is taken Lopes makes a run towards the outside of the area, taking his marker with him creating plenty of space at the front post for someone to run into. Instead the ball is possibly over-hit but Falcao is there to rise above the defender and head home.
Marseille – 27/8/17
A free-kick taken towards the left of the pitch, Moutinho (#8) offers the short dragging a couple of players away from the main group of Diakhaby (#15), Sidibe (#19), Falcao (#9), Glik (#25) and Jemerson (#5). Nothing too special was at play for this, some shoddy marking by Marseille allowed Glik an easy finish by failing to track the runs of the Monaco players. If Glik didn’t manage to reach it then Jemerson was behind him to have an attempt, which shows how poor the Marseille tracking was!
Another free kick, this time from the opposite side of the pitch. Moutinho is the taker this time, the ball is whipped in and Diakhaby manages to rise up and flick the ball on. Falcao somehow reacts incredibly quickly to attempt a header and the goalkeeper can’t change direction quick enough to get a solid hand to it.
Another corner, this time taken short. The short corner means the Marseille defender tasked with defending the short is out-numbered, forcing one of the Marseille players zonally marking the 6-yard box to leave his position to come across to cover. By the time he’s committed to coming across to help, Moutinho has already delivered the cross. Youri Tielemans (#17) makes a run towards the area vacated by the defender going across to cover the short corner, dragging his marker with him. The rest of the Monaco players make runs from deep, giving them an advantage over the limited number of Marseille players still in the box. Glik gets the initial header that rebounds off the post, but Sidibe is there to get the rebound.
Whilst the free kicks are pretty standard and nothing particularly special (although I am a big fan of Gliks goal against Toulouse), it’s clear that Monaco have carefully analysed and rehearsed their corner routines to exploit certain opposition weaknesses and it’s paying off massively. I doubt they can keep up their record so far (just due to the sheer number of goals scored!), but if they can continue to score regularly from set-pieces then they’ll certainly pick up plenty of points in their hunt to reclaim the Ligue 1 title and just shows the advantage clubs can gain by focusing on different routines to exploit the opponents weaknesses rather than doing the same tired corner routines week in and week out.