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Talking Tactics

West Ham's set-piece threat will test Chelsea

Matt Furniss 3 Dec 2021
West Ham

Matt Furniss looks at how the Hammers get on top of their opponents in the box

Matt Furniss looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 15.

West Ham United

After starting the season with a flurry of points and goals West Ham's top-four push has slowed and they are winless in their last three matches, scoring only twice.

W WHU 3-2 CHE
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It is not the ideal time to face leaders Chelsea, whose six goals conceded is the lowest total in the Premier League this season.

But given their set-piece threat, David Moyes' side will ask awkward questions of the Blues, testing their organisation and physicality.

The Hammers' goal in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion came from a corner, with Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Tomas Soucek all filling the six-yard box around the goalkeeper.

This has been a common theme for them in the Premier League this season. When they have a corner, West Ham fill that zone with 2.1 players on average, behind only Burnley (2.7) and Aston Villa (2.5).

Soucek's goal against Brighton

Moyes' side have preferred to use inswinging corners to test their opponents.

Their total of 54 inswinging corners this season is only exceeded by Burnley's 55, while their proportion of inswingers is the third-highest in the league at 68 per cent.

We only have to look back to the start of November to analyse how effective these can be against top-quality opposition.

In the 3-2 win over Liverpool last month, two of their goals came from inswinging corners, while only the crossbar stopped Rice from adding a third.

Set-piece goals since Moyes' return
Team Set-piece goals* % of all goals
WHU 33 28.7
LIV 29 19.3
CHE 27 21.3
MCI 25 15.4
EVE 24 28.2
AVL 24 26.7

*excluding penalties

West Ham's set-piece threat is not a new phenomenon. It has been a common weapon since Moyes returned to the club in December 2019.

In those two years, no side have scored as many goals from non-penalty set-piece situations as West Ham's 33, and their 24 headed goals are the second-most, behind Liverpool's 25.

One of the main threats from these situations is Soucek, as we saw in midweek.

Since making his Premier League debut in February 2020, the Czech midfielder has scored seven goals from corners and indirect free-kick situations.

He is a big target for set-piece deliveries, and the presence of Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson only amplifies the danger.

The pair have scored six and five set-piece goals respectively over the same period.

Set-piece goals since Soucek's debut*
Player Goals Player Goals
Dominic Calvert-Lewin 8 Ben Mee 5
Tomas Soucek 7 Mohamed Salah 5
Lewis Dunk 6 Richarlison 5
Kurt Zouma 6 Antonio Rudiger 5
Craig Dawson 5 Chris Wood 5
Michael Keane 5    

*Goals from corners and indirect free-kicks

Ahead of Saturday's derby, West Ham can take further encouragement from Chelsea's underwhelming midweek performance at Watford.

While the Blues ultimately grabbed a 2-1 away win, they completed just 71 per cent of their passes, their lowest total in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel.

The German stated after the match that his side "were not ready", adding, "I have to get the team ready and prepare them for what's coming."

Tuchel will know what is coming at the London Stadium. The question is whether he can get his players to do anything about it.

Matt Furniss is Senior Editor at TheAnalyst.com

Tomorrow: Patient approach is giving Gerrard a fast start at Villa

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