Tottenham Hotspur and set pieces go together like orange juice and toothpaste. In other words, they’re a marriage made in hell.
I, like so many other Spurs fans, don’t feel any remote sense of hope whenever one of our players goes out to take a corner or stands over a free-kick.
So what has generated this culture of low expectation from set-pieces, and how do we fix it?
Well, let’s start with corners. Swung in with pace and direction, and attacked with venom in the six-yard box, a corner can work wonders for certain teams, and have the ability to add numerous goals per season.
One only needs to think of Burnley down the years, who have been so dangerous aerially. Or Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse, who appears to put the ball on a six-pence with every kick. But Spurs seem to lack all of these attributes.
The first time I recalled being appalled at the way corners were being taken at Spurs, was when Christian Eriksen couldn’t stop repeatedly hitting the first man for about five years straight.
I was bemused as to why no one ever displaced him. What was more shocking though, was how effective the Dane’s balls were from indirect free kicks, but how, when the ball was placed in a quadrant to one side, he was utterly hopeless.
My only guess is that under Mauricio Pochettino, we simply didn’t practice them.
When thinking back to the famous Stoke City team, who seemed to score from every one of Rory Delap’s long throw-ins, this was their culture and their best way of finding the back of the net.
But under Poch, the Argentine implemented high fitness levels, high-pressing tactics, and quick breakaways against opponents. So perhaps he just didn’t think corners were a worthy enough aspect of the game to spend time focussing on.
It feels at this point that the nearest person to the ball takes each corner, such is the lack of hope that it might produce something. So if Spurs were to assign a corner taker, and work repeatedly on outmuscling defenders in the box, we may see our fortunes change.
Onto direct free-kicks. Again, Eriksen is a key component. In his first few years at the club, Eriksen’s free-kicks were so good that for the remainder of his Premier League career, commentators would, without any doubt, comment on his free-kick prowess, every time before he struck one.
Unfortunately, though, Eriksen was living off the legacy of his early years, as I barely recall him scoring one since we left White Hart Lane.
And the same can be said of Harry Kane. If I recall correctly, of all of Kane’s 219 Spurs goals, only one has been a direct free-kick, and that one was a deflected effort against Aston Villa in 2014.
And yet he continues to stand over them like prime Cristiano Ronaldo. At least you can’t knock his confidence.
But what stands out to me, is that defenders are rarely considered to take free-kicks. Surely, at this point, it’s worth letting Eric Dier smash one from 25 yards, in the same vein as David Luiz used to for Chelsea.
Or perhaps, given his ability to whip a cross in from the left hand side, it’s time for Sergio Reguilon to try his hand from the dead ball situation, just as Lucas Digne does for Everton so effectively, and before him, Leighton Baines.
Or, come to think of it, maybe even free-kick specialist… Gareth Bale?
Spurs just don’t appear to take these situations seriously. Other fans may get excited if their team was to be awarded either of these. But such is the lack of success through these avenues in recent years, there is little-to-no expectation, and this needs to change.
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