Football Features

Tottenham’s set-piece defending a big cause for concern for Ange Postecoglou

By Harry Edwards

Published: 9:00, 3 May 2024

Tottenham were once again left ruing their defensive struggles from set pieces as they were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea.

Ange Postecoglou’s side travelled to Stamford Bridge hoping to get their top four hopes back on track. They trailed Aston Villa by seven points going into the game with two matches in hand, but they were in terrible form.

Tottenham have now lost three games in a row, meaning they’ll need a lot of help from Aston Villa’s opponents if they are to harbour any hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

The damage at Stamford Bridge was done by two set-pieces which, unfortunately has been the story of the season for Tottenham.

Chelsea’s first goal was as basic as it came from a set piece, with a free-kick set towards the far post for Trevoh Chalobah to beat Guglielmo Vicario with a great header. There was a check for offside and then a foul by Marc Cucurella but the goal was given — much to Postecoglou’s annoyance.

Then, in the second half, Cole Palmer rattled the bar with a free-kick but Nicolas Jackson reacted quickest to head in the rebound. Still technically a goal from a set-piece situation, Tottenham have now conceded 22 such strikes in the Premier League this season, including penalties.

Only Sheffield United (23) and Nottingham Forest (26) have conceded more goals from set-piece situations than Tottenham in the Premier League this season. That’s already-relegated Sheffield United and 17th-placed Nottingham Forest. Not the company Tottenham want to be keeping.

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Tottenham last conceded more goals from set-piece situations in a single Premier League season in 2007/08 when they let in 27. Then, Tottenham finished 11th, 10 points above the relegation zone with more defeats than victories in the league. Although, it’s worth noting, that was also the season they won their most recent trophy, beating Chelsea in the EFL Cup final thanks to a set-piece goal.

It’s not just the goals being conceded, it’s chances. Tottenham have conceded an xG of 15.66 from set pieces in the Premier League this season, with only Manchester United (16.41) conceding more.

When you expand that search to across Europe’s top five leagues, Tottenham remain in the top three.

Breaking it down a bit more, Tottenham remain in the worst three for xG from corner kicks conceded at 11.64. They’re one of four teams with an xG from corner kicks conceded over 10, with only Man Utd (12.19) and Sheffield United (12.37) faring worse.

However, it’s worth nothing that Tottenham have conceded 219 corners in the Premier League this season, while Man Utd have conceded 250 and Sheffield United 260. In that regard, only Aston Villa have a worse average of xG from corner kicks conceded per corners conceded in the Premier League this season.

But it will be worrying for Tottenham that they are still high up for corners conceded, with only three teams averaging more per game than their 6.44 in the Premier League this season.

Before the Chelsea game, Postecoglou admitted he wasn’t interested in Tottenham’s set piece struggles.

“I’m not interesting. Never have been. Not in the slightest,” he told reporters.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been questioned about set-pieces in my coaching career. There is an underlying reason for that which I’m very, very comfortable with.

“To quote Billy Joel, you may be right, I may be crazy, but it’s maybe a lunatic you’re looking for.”

He then added, “Eventually I will create a team that has success and it won’t be because of working on set-pieces.”

And he wasn’t up for discussing it after the defeat to Chelsea.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t interested I said it’s not my priority but that’s okay, if people think that what we’re missing is set pieces that’s fine. I’ll do my job,” he told Sky Sports.