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Talking Tactics

Liverpool must be wary of AFC Bournemouth's set-piece tricks

8 Feb 2019
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Adrian Clarke shows how Eddie Howe's team may threaten title contenders from corners and free-kicks at Anfield

Adrian Clarke looks at a key tactical battle in Matchweek 26. 

When Liverpool host AFC Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday they should expect the unexpected at set-pieces.

Pulling off a surprise free-kick or corner routine is not easy, but Eddie Howe’s team have made a habit of it in the Premier League this season.

They have displayed a variety of training-ground routines, testing their opponents’ concentration from dead balls on a regular basis.

Playing it short

Short corners are one of AFC Bournemouth’s fortes.

They will happily set up 2v2s by the corner flag, just as they did when a Simon Francis dribble and cutback set up Callum Wilson for his first goal of the season against Cardiff City in August.

Or as they showed at Old Trafford, Howe’s men will regularly send out a runner from the near post to link play with the corner-taker.

Against Manchester United, David Brooks peeled towards the edge of the box from inside to change the angle of attack, before crossing for Nathan Ake to score.

It was one of many intricate moves that Howe’s men have attempted across 2018/19.

Unai Emery’s Arsenal are the only Premier League club to attempt a greater percentage of improvised short corners.

Most short corners in 2018/19
Team Corners into box Short corners % short
ARS 81 48 37.2%
BOU 95 42 30.7%
MCI 133 56 29.6%
TOT 98 33 25.2%
FUL 84 23 21.5%

Last season the Cherries also mixed up their corners more than most rivals. 

Most short corners in 2017/18
2017/18 Corners into box Short corners % Short
MCI 166 118 41.5%
CHE 139 91 39.6%
BOU 171 47 21.6%
TOT 193 53 21.5%
MUN 179 41 18.6%
Disrupting the line

A lot of thought goes into the wide free-kicks that AFC Bournemouth send into the box.

Howe likes two of his players to stand over the ball, and between them they do their best to create confusion within the opposition ranks.

On occasion they will play a tap pass to change the angle; a plan that helped Charlie Daniels enjoy the space to score a header against Chelsea last month.

Fake deliveries

They also frequently set up fake deliveries, pretending to step up to the ball before starting their run-ups again.

This plan has wreaked havoc several times and paid dividends when Wilson scored a header from a Ryan Fraser cross at home to Watford in January.

The strategy is designed to force defensive lines to shift a touch deeper, and it frequently disrupts the structure of the line they hold for offside.

Creating gaps between attackers and their markers, who are marking tight, and enough hesitation for an opponent to play the rest onside, the Cherries are becoming masters at this crafty set-piece skill. 

Most goals from set-pieces
2017/18 Goals 2018/19 Goals
ARS 16 LIV 15
BOU 16 BHA 11
MCI 15 MUN 11
MUN 15 SOU 11
WBA 14 ARS 10
    BOU 10
Deadly from dead-balls

They have scored 10 goals from dead-ball situations this term, following up a 2017/18 campaign where they plundered an impressive 16, the joint-most in the division.

Liverpool, who are also impressive from set-pieces this season, must be wary of AFC Bournemouth’s threat at the other end.

The Cherries are undoubtedly the most inventive team in the league when it comes to set-pieces, and are bound to have some tricks up their sleeve for the visit to Anfield.

Tomorrow: Higuain and Hazard can upset City's title quest

Also in this series

Part 1: Chambers flourishing in new midfield role

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