Mastering the Margins: How Arsenal’s set-piece brilliance can make the diferrence in title pursuit


In the fine margins of a title race, set pieces are underestimated as the route to gaining a decisive edge.

Strikers get the praise when they hit the back of the net, defenders are hailed for clean sheets and the manager gets saluted for making tactical tweaks which swings the balance in his team’s favour.

But rarely do you see the set-piece coach stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight.

Nicolas Jover is a German-born French football manager who moved to the Emirates from Manchester City in 2021 to turn Arsenal into set-piece beasts.

And the switch has paid real dividends with Arsenal top of the Premier League charts for goals scored from dead-ball situations.

The Gunners have scored 13 set-piece goals already this season and demonstrated their prowess in Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Crystal Palace.

Gabriel received the acclaim for this towering header to open the scoring and for arriving in the box with precision timing to engineer the second, which was later credited as a Dean Henderson own goal.

But it is the attention to detail of the set-piece routines that has generated national headlines.

In the build-up to the Palace game, it was identified that Palace centre half Joachim Anderson is their ball winner when defending set-pieces and can be relied upon to shut out opposition strikers.

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But Arsenal came up with a clever plan to dilute his defensive powers with Leandro Trossard charged with the responsibility of blocking off the Dane. It worked a treat.

Arsenal have not lost a Premier League game when they have scored directly from a set-piece, winning nine and drawing one.

This season set-piece goals make up 31 per cent of Arsenal’s total number of league strikes (42) – almost double what it was last year (17 per cent)

And while the set-piece tactics are paying off, so are the covert signs deployed to convey information to the players.

Martin Ødegaard seemed to be making secret signals on his socks to indicate the nature of the set-piece routine to the corner taker.

Mikel Arteta said after the win over Palace: “We work on everything and we want to dominate every phase of play. We want to be the best team in the world so you have to be the best in everything.

“Having the ability to score from many different ways, especially when you are attacking low blocks, to score in this certain way, everything has to be nailed absolutely perfectly.”

And perfect it was as Arsenal cement their reputation as the set-piece kings of the Premier League.