Arsenal’s attacking corner evolution: 2018/2019 – 2021/2022

Huh? Me writing about a club that’s in a top 5 European league? Yes, that’s right. In this article I will dive into Arsenal’s attacking corners from the 2018/2019, 2019/2020, 2020/2021 and the current 2021/2022 season. The objective of this article is to look at how the attacking corners have evolved in routines, and what the effective routines have been during those seasons.

I will be using video and data provided by Wyscout/Instat, which have been retrieved and updated until November 19th. Any attacking corners scored after this data will not be incorporated by me and I will focus on everything that happened before that data.

Season 2018/2019

In the image above you see all the successful corners by Arsenal in the 2018/2019 season. There have been scored 11 goals from 368 attacking corners, which is a success rate of 2,99% during this particular season. 6 goals came from the left, while 5 goals came from the right. 9 goals were scored as a result of direct contact, while 2 goals were the result of a second contact with one 1 goal being the result without a cross happening.

3 goals were scored in the goalkeeper zone, 1 goal was scored in the near post zone, 5 goals were scored from the 11-meter zone and 2 goals were scored from outside the zones mentioned above.

In the videos below you can see different corners of the same routine which has been successful in this particular season.

Arsenal’s set up:

  • Game vs Chelsea (H)
  • Inswinger
  • vs 4 player zonal structure
  • One player for short option
  • Second player deeper for outswinging cross
  • Two players guarding cleared balls and first line of rest-defence
  • One player in six-yard box
  • Four runners into six-yard box

As soon as the ball is kicked, it goes short and into the second player who is situated deeper in the opposition’s half. At the same time, we see the player in the six-yard box (Lacazette) dropping outside the box and together with the four runners, form a unit of five. Bellerin whips the ball towards the 11-meter zone, where Lacazette controls it and finishes quite brilliantly.

The key to some of these routines is that the 3rd player who isn’t involved, does drag defensive players to him – and therefore space opens up elsewhere.

  • Game vs Manchester United
  • Inswinger
  • vs 2 player zonal structure
  • One player outside six-yard box
  • 3v3 in the 11 meter zone
  • One player short option
  • Two players cleared balls and first line of rest defence

The ball is kicked and swings towards the goalkeeper zone which means that the player for the short option, isn’t used. In the middle we see a 3v3 situation with the nearest player moving towards the near post, dragging his defender with him – creating a 2v2 situation in the middle. Mustafi does well to lose his marker and gets time and space to convert the cross into a goal (although with a stroke of luck).

Season 2019/2020

In the image above you see all the successful corners by Arsenal in the 2019/2020 season. There have been scored 10 goals from 364 attacking corners, which is a success rate of 2,75% during this particular season. 2 goals came from the left, while 8 goals came from the right. 2 goals were scored as a result of direct contact, while 2 goals were the result of a second contact cross.

2 goals were scored in the goalkeeper zone, 4 goals were scored in the near post zone, 4 goals were scored from the 11-meter zone and 0 goals were scored from outside the zones mentioned above.

In the videos below you can see different corners of the same routine which has been successful in this particular season.

  • Game vs Chelsea (H)
  • vs 3 player zonal structure
  • Outswinger
  • One player in six-yard box
  • One player just outisde six-yard box
  • 3v3 in deep central zone
  • Three players outside penalty area for cleared balls and first line of rest-defence

Arsenal has been making use of the second ball in corners and in this particular season, they really did that well. The corner is an outswinger that turns away from the keeper and comes towards the central zones, where the 3v3 is instrumental. Chamber is in that group of 3 runners and moves forward and connects with the ball and sends it to the goalkeeper zone. In that zone is Aubameyang who was the player just outside the six-yard box and who anticipates this header from Chambers, loses his marker, and scores a good headed goal.

  • vs Bourenmouth
  • Inswinger
  • vs two player zonal structure
  • One player in six-yard box
  • One player just outside six-yard box
  • Three late runners into six-yard box

In this corner routine, Arsenal knows to connect directly with the cross and do so as follows. The two players in and around the six-yard box, both move to the near post and open space at the goalkeeper zone for the incoming runners. The unit of three splits, one player goes towards the far post, one player remains his deep position and one player makes a run towards the near post (Luiz) and the latter connects with the ball. Luiz’s header is guided to the far post and converts the cross into a goal for Arsenal.

Season 2020/2021

In the image above you see all the successful corners by Arsenal in the 2020/2021 season. There have been scored 5 goals from 362 attacking corners, which is a success rate of 1,38% during this particular season. 2 goals came from the left, while 3 goals came from the right. 3 goals were scored as a result of direct contact, while 1 goal was the result of a second contact and 1 goal from a second chance cross.

2 goals were scored in the goalkeeper zone, 0 goals were scored in the near post zone, 2 goals were scored from the 11-meter zone and 1 goal was scored from the far post zone.

In this particular season, Arsenal had a different approach to corners and scored significantly less goals from corners. What I will illustrate is that they se deep and late runners, but also make use of packing the six-yard box. In the videos below you can see different corners of the same routine which has been successful in this particular season.

  • Game vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • vs 4 player zonal structure
  • One player short option
  • One player deeper for outswinging cross
  • One player against six-yard box
  • Four deep, late runners – 4v4 situation

The ball is kicked and goes to the player deeper who is waiting to give an outswinging cross, while the player for the shorter option goes back into the penalty area. The cross is aimed at the area between the goalkeeper zone and the penalty spot, which makes it ideal for the runners to connect with it. The movement of those four runners and the fact that they are playing against a zonal structure in the central areas, makes it easier for Arsenal to score a goal and Gabriel does exactly that.

  • vs Fulham
  • vs 2 player zonal structure
  • 5 player in six-yard box: 1-2-2 formation
  • Man-marked those 5 players
  • 2 players outside penalty area for cleared balls and first line of rest defence
  • Outswinger

In this situation we see an outswinging corner delivered to the area between the goalkeeper zone and the far post zone, into a packed six-yard box. There are 8 defenders in that six-yard box vs 6 attacking players, and in the end it’s the aerial superiority of Gabriel that makes sure Arsenal wins this corner and scores a goal. Arsenal set up this way that they overload the central zones, and not the posts – hence winning the ball in the goalkeeper zone and converting it.

Season 2021/2022*

In the image above you see all the successful corners by Arsenal in the 2021/2022 season. There’s some discussion whether there have been scored 3 (Instat) or 4 (Wyscout), but it all depends on what you think is the aftermath of a corner or not. For this article we will stick with 3.

There have been scored 3 goals from 93 attacking corners, which is a success rate of 3,23% during this ongoing season season. 2 goals came from the left, while 1 goal came from the right. 3 goals were scored as a result of direct contact, while 0 goals were the result of a second contact or from a second chance cross.

1 goal was scored in the goalkeeper zone, 2 goals were scored in the near post zone, 0 goals were scored from the 11-meter zone and 0 goal was scored from the far post zone.

In this season, Arsenal have equiped themselves with a dedicated set piece coach, and that can be seen in the way they set themselves up in attacking corner, as I will try to illustrate in the videos below.

  • vs Leicester City (A)
  • Inswinger
  • vs 5 player zonal structure + man-markers
  • 4 players in the six-yard box
  • 2 runners (2v2)
  • 2 players outside penalty area for cleared balls and first line of defence.

The ball is kicked and the ball swings into the near post zone, which is zonally marked. To not create too much crowd, the four players in the six-yard box remain their position. This means that the near post is zonally marked and the best way to exploit that is to have runners into that specific area. This is exactly what Arsenal does with White and Gabriel, with the latter connecting good with the ball and guiding it to the far corner, scoring a goal for Arsenal.

  • vs Aston Villa (H)
  • Inswinger
  • vs 3 player zonal structure
  • 4 players in the six-yard box
  • 2v2 – late runners
  • 1 player tasked with cleared balls and first line of rest defence

As soon as the ball is kicked there’s movement in the penalty area. First of all the four players in the six-yard box split into 2 units of 2 players, with Lacazette-Aubameyang going to the far post and Partey-White going to the front post. The two runners (Gabriel-Tomiyasu) move into the central zones/goalkeeper zone. In the end it’s the ball that goes to the near post, where Partey connects with it and scores the goal for Arsenal.

Evolution

*2021/2022 is ongoing

When we look at the bar graph above, we see how many corners have been taken of the last few seasons. The number of corners taken has declined a bit, but overall they remain consistent. What we can say about this is that the given chances of making something of a corner, haven’t dropped and therefore we could give meaning to any changes made in routines.

*2021/2022 is ongoing

In the bar graph above you see two metrics combined: goals scored and success %. It tells us how many goals have been scored per season and what the success rate is if we look at the number of attacking corners taken. What’s interesting to see is that in 2020/2021 season, there were only 5 goals scored and the success rate was 1,38%. We can classify as a bad season, because the number of attacking corners taken remained almost the same.

Having made use of a set piece coach so far, we can see improvement in the numbers. 3 goals were scored (or 4 when you look at Wyscout) in 93 corners so far, which is a success rate of 3,23%. Now the season is long from over and the data will change, but in absolute data – this season is on its way to be a better season from the bad 2020/2021 season for Arsenal.

Final thoughts

It’s premature to jump to conclusions about the ongoing season, as it’s far from over – but giving the trend of the last seasons, it was needed to make a change. The 2020/2021 season was something the club wouldn’t want to emulate, and improvement was needed. Perhaps Arsenal is going back to the old performances in terms of goals, liked they did in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, but how they do it – has definitely changed.

Arsenal makes use of 3 or more players in the six-yard box and occupy the opposition there, while making use of less runners. These runners do have a bigger chance of success, as the attention goes to the players in the six-yard box and zonal marking will be exploited and utilised by the two runners. If Arsenal keeps going on this trajectory, they could double figures in goals scored from corners – which eventually could lead to deciding games through set pieces.

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