As a part of the game, set piece is crucial to any football team. Putting extra effort on this sometimes can make the difference between winning and losing. Arsenal is often caught napping when defending set-piece. Arsenal’s main game plan is not set-piece, so the lack of chances created or converted from attacking set-piece is natural. Surprisingly, Arsenal is also poor in term of defending set-piece. In short, set –piece is not their strong point. This does not raise an eyebrow if they are often exploited from set-piece by their opponent. So far this season, Arsenal have conceded 5 goals (3 corners and 2 free kicks) and only scored 2 goals from set-piece (1 free kick and 1 throw-in).
new menu from: @
During the pre-season, especially in Emirates Cup against Wolfsburg, I saw something different when Arsenal defended their corner. Then a question raised whether this scheme would be an answer to Arsenal’s problem, and how far this system will succeed. This Article will focus on how Arsenal’s defending corner works so far this season.
Nothing is odd from the picture above. We can see 1 Arsenal player near the corner, 1 player near the edge of the box, 2 players near penalty spot, 4 players on the edge of six-yard box, 1 player inside the six-yard box, and 1 player marking the far post.
A few seconds later, Theo Walcott who marked the far post was asked to do man-marking Nicklas Bendtner.
You can see that there is a 2vs1 situation, and Bendtner is marked by Walcott. Physically, Walcott will lose the aerial duel because he is 176 cm tall only compared to Bendtner who is 194cm tall.
It was not surprising that the ball was directed toward Bendtner who then won the aerial duel. Luckily, Arsenal did not concede a goal from this situation.
In the picture above, there is some disadvantage 2v1 situation for Arsenal. If the ball were directed to that situation, Gabriel Paulista would be in trouble to execute clearance. Moreover, the two Wolfsburg players’ body supports to do aerial duel.
Look at the 2 pictures above. For the second time, Arsenal failed to clear the crucial first ball.
For the third time, Arsenal are still unable to win the first ball. The ball was easily flicked by Wolfsburg player to the penalty spot.
Arsenal’s problem continued in the second half, and winning the first ball was still an issue for them.
The picture above shows that Arsenal faced another problem. They left space on the edge of the box and on the back post. Once again, the main issue for Arsenal was winning the first ball. However, this is something natural considering they are not familiar with this system.
There are some interesting points dealing with defending corner when Arsenal faced Chelsea in the Community Shield. Different from Wolfsburg match, in this game Arsenal looked more prepared to deal with the first ball. Besides, Arsenal also placed one player to stay on the far post. Look at the following pictures.
Based on the two pictures above there is one Arsenal player staying on the far post. The goals of staying on the far post were to prevent the ball directed to the blind spot of the GK and to watch the ball directed to the half-space.
Only once did Arsenal defend corner without anyone marked the post. In this match, Arsenal seemed slightly better in terms of defending the first ball from corner.
Premier League & Champions League
As the Premier League started, I was wondering how Wenger would instruct his player to defend the corner. In addition, one of my anxieties regarding to this match against West Ham United is that Arsenal frequently did not have marking to the opponents on the edge of the box. At least Arsenal placed one player to watch the opponents trying to exploit the area.
In this match, it looks like Arsenal had solved their problem in defending the first ball. However, the pictures above show that Arsenal faced a new problem. They kept leaving the opposition player on the edge of the box. Leaving one or more players free on the edge of the box could be disastrous. The corner taker could simply play the ball there, so the other West Ham players could receive the ball, or they might find misplaced clearance coming into their path.
Vs Dynamo Zagreb
When defending Dynamo Zagreb, Arsenal did the same habit, winning the first ball. As a result, it is obvious that Arsenal conceded two goals from the similar situation. When the Arsenal players were not aware of the situation, it obstructed Arsenal. In addition, it influenced the final result of the game. Look at the following pictures.
The first corner from Zagreb was a warning sign for Arsenal. Their inability to clear the first ball is certainly a big issue.
When defending Olympiacos, again, Arsenal failed to cover all the defend area entirely. This time, Arsenal made the same habit for not marking the opponent player exploiting the edge of the box.
The first corner was cleared away. Thanks to numeral advantages in the box.
The second corner shows that Olympiacos improvised their scheme. They put one player to offer a short option and drag the opposition player’s attention. With one player on the edge of the box, they also have another option to cross the ball. The later was an obvious option for them because the player was free on the edge of the box. No wonder if the goal came from this player.
Arsenal have problems with dead ball situation since the beginning of the season. They are the inability to clear the first ball and the tendency to leave space on the edge of the box for the opposition player. So far along this season, Arsenal tend to defend corner without anyone marking either the near or far post. The idea of this system is to put more players to challenge the first ball. You might find a simple explanation about this from Zonalmarking’s article “Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET): Real snatch late equaliser at end of cautious first 90 minutes before becoming rampant in extra-time“. The best way to defend corner is still debatable though. However, winning the first ball is certainly the most crucial part. Wenger must fix this problem as soon as possible. Otherwise, his team will concede more goals from set-piece (especially corner).