Do Arsenal need to improve their set pieces?

Arsenal currently sit top of the pile in the Premier League after 24 games played so far.

The Gunners remain top of the table following their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend and Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad on Monday.

The North Londoners have taken 55 points from a possible 72, long just three games, drawing four and winning 17. They have scored a total of 47 goals and conceded 27, keeping 11 clean sheets, scoring in all but two of their games played.

However, of those 47 goals scored only five have come via set pieces – just 10.6% of their total. You might say that’s due to their style of play – Arsene Wenger sets his side out to create and score goals predominantly from expansive attacking open play but Liverpool lead the league in terms of set pieces (15 so far) with Manchester City just behind them (14), Everton (11) and Chelsea (10).

Should Arsenal be scoring more goals from set pieces?

I would say so – the days of yesteryear when the Gunners were a team typically small in physical stature are well and truly bygone. Olivier Giroud is a strong and aerially combative centre forward and the likes of Mathieu Flamini, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and captain Thomas Vermaelen are all strong in the air. Nicklas Bendtner is a good header of the ball and the line-up routinely consists of at least three or four of the club’s best finishers.

Arsenal also defend exceptionally well in their own box these days – they should quite easily be able to translate that to goals up the other end of the pitch, one would think.

We have seen the return of the near-post flick on routine from corners this term, quite clearly harking back to the days of the George Graham back four with Steve Bould imparting his wisdom and experience onto the current setup, using Mertesacker towards the back-post runners but, whilst it has worked here and there, Arsenal should be converting these chances into goals on a more regular and consistent basis.

There should also be more than just that in their locker, in my estimation – Wenger possesses some of the best finishers in the league within his ranks, the likes of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, and Aaron Ramsey.

This as well as players improving their finishing like Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Serge Gnabry – any one of those players can strike a ball from range and hit the back of the net on their day if the ball should bobble out to them.

Giroud has scored 10 goals in the league this term but only two of them have been from headers. Mertesacker has scored two goals and both of those were headers, Sagna has one which was a header but Koscielny has yet to open his account in the league so far this term.

The game last week at Southampton springs to mind as a game when the Gunners weren't shining quite as brightly as they have for much of this season.

Their passing was off, they couldn't get their game flowing and in the end it was a decent point away from home but those two points dropped might be points they'll need down the line. A simple set-piece should be an area where they can improve so that they can grab those scruffy scrappy goals when their Plan A isn't quite working out.

Arsenal have been outstanding this season at defending with their backs to the wall when they've needed to, holding on to a one-goal lead and seeing games out.

They've rarely failed to score but as we head into the business end of a season which has so far provided the Gunners the best chance in a decade of winning the title, those scrappy goals from corners and indirect free-kicks could make all the difference come May.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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