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Talking Tactics

Hard work can fix Brighton's set-piece woes

Adrian Clarke 29 Jun 2018
Brighton v Newcastle United set-piece

Seagulls let in the most goals and scored least from dead balls in 2017/18. Adrian Clarke analyses how they can improve

Adrian Clarke looks at where clubs can improve for the 2018/19 season.

Brighton & Hove Albion

One area where Chris Hughton will doubtless be working hard with his Brighton team in pre-season will be set-pieces.

Brighton did fantastically well in their debut Premier League campaign but at corners and free-kicks they struggled more than any other team.

Considering how disciplined and well organised Hughton had got his side in open play, he will have been frustrated that they conceded the most set-piece goals.

Most set-piece goals conceded 
2017/18 Corner Direct shot Free-kick Total
BHA 16 1 5 22
LEI 11 3 3 17
WAT 9 1 7 17
WHU 10 1 5 16
CRY 12 1 2 15
Marking improvements

Two changes should be considered to improve this area.

Firstly, Hughton should contemplate whether to continue with man-to-man marking.

Last season he asked his players to take personal responsibility for designated attackers, demanding they got touch-tight and were aggressive. 

In theory this system is widely used across the Premier League and works. But too often were Brighton’s players outdone by runs and blocks, allowing opponents to escape their markers to score, or flick the ball on for a team-mate to finish.

As a consequence they conceded a league-high 16 goals from corners.

Second-ball syndrome

Secondly, it is essential the Brighton players react quicker to second-ball knockdowns and recycled set-pieces.

Ten of the 22 goals they conceded from set-pieces came after the Seagulls had cleared the initial deliveries.

Different players may address this, but time and hard work on the training ground are the best remedies for this issue.

A switch to zonal marking from corners, or a combination of man-to-man and zonal, may be the best solution. 

Exploiting Gross

At the other end of the pitch, Hughton will want more goals from free-kicks and corners.

In Pascal Gross they have the league’s best chance creator from set-pieces, yet they scored the fewest goals from them.

Best set-piece creators 2017/18
Accurate corners Set-piece chances created
Gross 46 Gross 36
Cabaye 40 Gudmundsson 36
De Bruyne 40 Fabregas 35
Fewest set-piece goals 2017/18
2017/18 Corner Direct shot Free-kick Total
BHA 3 0 2 5
HUD 5 0 1 6
EVE 3 0 3 6
BUR 4 1 4 9
Target men

Brighton have two excellent targets in central defenders Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy

Duffy won the third-most aerial duels in the league last season, but too often Brighton’s finishing from set-pieces was poor.

Duffy and midfielder Davy Propper had the club’s most efforts on goal from set-plays but their totals of six each were a low return.

Working on plans to create space for Dunk, Duffy and Glenn Murray to attack the ball will be high on the manager’s list of summer priorities.

Also in this series

Part 1: Finishing touch can lift Crystal Palace
Part 3: New approach can revive Burnley's home form
Part 4: Pogba and Sanchez key to United hitting top gear
Part 5: Huddersfield must aim high to progress
Part 6: Injection of pace could boost Watford's away form
Part 7: Ki to get Newcastle back in control
Part 8: Improving wing play the priority for Spurs
Part 9: Midfield pair can boost Hughes' resurgence
Part 10: Improvement in the air can lift Liverpool

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