6 great improvised set-piece routines
After Harry Wilson finished a brilliantly planned Bournemouth set-piece at Newcastle on Saturday, we look back at some of our other favourite routines.
The block tactic
With defences now so meticulously organised, your best chance of catching them cold at a set-piece is simply by taking them out of the game.
Bournemouth used the blocking technique perfectly here.
As Harry Wilson runs into the space vacated by Newcastle’s back-pedalling defenders, Jetro Willems is clearly prevented from following him by Callum Wilson.
The one-two between Ryan Fraser and Josh King by the corner flag is neat, the finish is perfect, and Bournemouth make what must have taken plenty of planning look very easy.
Where did he come from?
England were actually playing well in a World Cup knock-out match, so of course something freakish had to scupper them.
The beauty of this routine is in the disguise.
Gabriel Batistuta runs at the ball with all the vigour of someone about to power it towards the net, which covers up Juan Sebastian Veron approaching it with a little more caution.
Javier Zanetti appears to be playing mischief-maker in the wall so, naturally, England take no notice of him when he peels away into space. Veron fires the ball into his feet, and Zanetti cleverly slices it into the top corner.
Pass and move
If Chris Wilder was only capable of setting teams up to succeed from set-pieces, he would still be considered one of the most innovative coaches around.
This routine first got an outing when Wilder took his Northampton team to Luton in 2015, but this effort is even sharper, with the second pass of the move – executed by Jack O’Connell – hit to perfection across his body.
Like the Argentina free-kick, it relies on the defenders forgetting to pay attention to a player who seems irrelevant to the play – in this case Chris Basham.
The faked mistake
Whether the act of appearing to mess up actually makes much difference here is debatable, but this is still brilliant, for several reasons.
Firstly, Ellen White has no sight of goal before she strikes the ball. She has to keep her bearings and be sure of where she is going to shoot purely through instinct.
Secondly, Alex Greenwood’s layoff is weighted perfectly for White to strike the ball through the space opened up by a couple of Arsenal defenders being eased out of the way.
And thirdly, there is the added bonus of lulling the crowd into thinking you’ve messed it up. A premature ‘whey!’ from a set of supporters – after a supposed error or apparently overhit cross – always deserves to be punished.
Planned quick thinking
This appears, at first, to be the only routine on this list that isn’t a result of practise, but not so.
A report came out shortly after the match revealing that Liverpool’s analysts had noticed that Barcelona tended to switch off and complain whenever a set-piece was awarded against them, and had passed that message onto Jurgen Klopp and the team.
The ball boys at Anfield were instructed to throw the ball back as quickly as possible to take advantage.
Even so, Trent Alexander-Arnold certainly wasn’t planning to swing this in early when Liverpool won the corner, and the quick thinking required to do so with his side level on aggregate at 3-3 with Barcelona in a Champions League semi-final was as impressive as Divock Origi’s finish.
‘They won’t notice’
Manchester United actually had this goal ruled out, presumably because the officials felt sorry for the Chelsea defenders who had been made to look spectacularly stupid.
That’s the beauty of this routine: not only is rolling the ball forward so that a team-mate can have a clear run at the penalty area beneficial, but it also humiliates your opposition, as New York Red Bulls proved against Chicago Fire in 2015.
Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs got very angry, but United scored from the retaken corner just seconds later, which might explain why you don’t see too many teams bother trying it in the first place anymore.
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