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The importance of Set Pieces in the modern game

Football matches are becoming more and more evenly poised. Gone are the days when matches were won by two or more goals.

This reason is related to the evolution that football has undergone in recent times, where tactics play a vital role in the day-to-day running of teams. More training and better organisational skills have resulted in matches being closer and decided by very specific situations.

For this reason, set pieces are taking on a fundamental role in today’s game. Through them, teams have found a way to score goals that allows them to navigate the tactical complexity.

At the MBP School of Coaches, we classify set pieces into:

  1. Goal Kicks

  2. Kick Offs

  3. Throw Ins

  4. Corner Kicks

  5. Free Kicks (near, wide, far and indirect)

  6. Penalties


Each of the above set pieces have a different objective and purpose. Moreover, all of them appear in both attack and defence.

Likewise, within each of them there are a multitude of concepts to analyse and train that can make the difference in any match such as: the location or area of the set piece within the pitch in wide free kicks, the type of taker in a penalty kick, the number of players looking to finish and their positioning on a corner kick, the way to defend in a high block against an opponent’s goal kick, etc.

Looking at the near wide free kicks, during the last Spanish Super Cup, we were able to observe how this type of situation had a great impact on the final result.

One of the teams that best executed this type of set piece was FC Barcelona during the semi-final against Real Betis Balompié.

As we can see in the following images, the Blaugranas have a number of well-defined concepts that we will detail below, and which allow them to be dangerous in these actions.

The first aspect to bear in mind is the type of taker. In this case, the free kick taker is Marcos Alonso (left-footed). This tells us that the cross will be an inswinger, meaning that it will go in the direction to the goal.

The second concept to identify is the structure of the players who will participate in the action. Looking at the image, we can see how they are positioned with a front line of three players, another three behind, and two more occupying the rebound zone at the top of the area.

set pieces-football 1

Thirdly, we can observe the players’ movements. Each of the players have to know which zone to attack, where the ball is going to be targeted to, and which is the reference to look for (objective).

With regard to which spaces each of them must attack, in the image we can see how the first player is in charge of attacking zone 0 for a possible under hit cross. The two players in the first line will look to direct their run between intervals, i.e. in between two opponents.

set pieces-football 2

With regard to the two second line players, we can see how Lewandowski is the reference. In this case, the Culé No9 starts from a position further back to attack the zone with a momentum advantage against the opposing defender to where the ball will go. On the other side, Ansu Fati (2nd player) will drop back in search of a second ball, while the third player will look to attack the back of the last defender.

set pieces-football 3

Finally, those in the rebound zone maintain their initial position at all times. They will always guarantee the balance of the team against a possible attacking transition from the opponent.

set pieces-football 4

In conclusion, set pieces are becoming increasingly important. All of them have different aspects to consider that can make the difference as happened in the Spanish Super Cup.

Therefore, at the MBP School of Coaches, we have created a Set Pieces course where we will help you to improve your knowledge regarding this phase of the game. During the course, we will teach you all the aspects that a head coach has to consider, and how they can be practiced on the training pitch, in order to achieve the best possible results.

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