Is Conceding A Goal From A Set-Piece Worse Than From Open Play?

We hear it time and time again – ‘so-and-so will be very frustrated to concede a goal from a set piece.’ But why is shipping a goal in this manner seemingly frowned upon so much?

This is a line of thought so often tabled at sides considered underdogs in contests – who concede from either corners or free kicks. The perception is that you can organise yourself and set yourself up sufficiently to nullify the threat of these types of these passages of play, a belief that is true up to a point.

Of course it is slightly easier to prepare for more routine passages of play such as set pieces, rather than other more unpredictable moments of the game. Nevertheless, there are occasions when simply the delivery is to good, or the movement of attacking players in the box is too much for defences to handle.

Wednesday presented a perfect example of this in the England against Scotland contest. Here, England scored twice from a set piece – on numerous occasions pundits informed us how frustrated Scotland should be to concede goals that were not from open play. What is overlooked though is that England are one of the most threatening sides from set pieces in the international game and the Scots are not the first to have fallen foul of their set piece prowess.

In the first instance it was Steven Gerrard who produced the wicked delivery that allowed Danny Welbeck the opportunity to level the game at 2-2 – not the first time in recent years that the Liverpool man’s free kick taking ability has wreaked havoc.  It was then Leighton Baines’ turn to provide the superb cross, as his corner was brilliantly met by debutant Rickie Lambert – the Southampton man highlighting the impact of strong movement in the box.

After the game though all we were told was how Scotland should not be conceding from set pieces – with little being made of the quality of the two deliveries that led to goals. For all the preparation and training drills you can do to nullify a set piece threat, it is an entirely case different when the ball is being delivered at such high quality as it was on Wednesday. Further to that, whilst many would argue conceding from set pieces against superior sides is shooting yourselves in the foot – it should not be forgotten that these sides should in theory possess the strongest free kick takers, therefore increasing their threat.

The view that conceding from set pieces is sloppy does of course have merit, but on many occasions sides can let in a goal from such a situation without doing too much wrong – in many cases making less significant errors than a large proportion of goals from open play.

So whilst several set pieces can be avoided, the lazy assumption that all set pieces goals are defensive catastrophe is being more than over used in the modern game.