Football News

Son shines for Tottenham but set-piece coach Gionni Vio built foundations of Leicester victory

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:42, 17 September 2022

Son Heung-min made a statement after being dropped from Tottenham Hotspur’s starting XI, scoring a hat-trick in their 6-2 win over Leicester City, but it was a silent worker who proved the real difference.

It was a thrilling game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with Leicester taking the lead early on from the penalty spot before Harry Kane’s equaliser, his 20th goal in 19 games against the Foxes across all competitions.

Not too long after Tottenham were ahead thanks to Eric Dier’s header and goals from Rodrigo Bentancur and Son Heung-min won the match after James Maddison had pulled Leicester level just before half-time. The win moves Tottenham into second, level on points with Manchester City, while Leicester remain bottom of the league on one point and six-straight defeats.

While goalscorers Kane, Dier, Bentancur and especially Son will get the praise, and Brendan Rodgers will also be criticised, there is another man who should receive a lot of credit. You see, for those of who may not have watched the game, Tottenham’s first two goals came from corners.

The first was a short corner played back to Dejan Kulusevski who whipped a beautiful ball towards the far post for Kane to nod in, which managed to catch Leicester out. Tottenham’s second was slightly different as Ivan Perisic went direct with his ball into the box and Dier sent a deft header past Danny Ward.

Antonio Conte’s side have now scored five goals from set pieces this season, more than any other team in the league, and Gianni Vio is the man to thank for it.

Tottenham went big in the summer transfer window, signing Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Djed Spence, Clement Lenglet, Fraser Forster and Ivan Perisic for the first-team, but their biggest acquisition was clearly Vio.

The set-piece specialist coach has worked for the likes of the Italian national team, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Leeds among others and was previously dubbed ‘the little wizard’ for his role in helping Catania avoid relegation in 2008/09 with 17 of their 44 goals coming from set-pieces.

He was a key member of Roberto Mancini’s Italy side as they won Euro 2020 last summer, with the nation famously scoring from a corner to equalise against England in the final — before winning on penalties — where he was credited with devising 4,830 different set-piece scenarios for the Azzurri to work on.

In 2021/22, Tottenham ranked 15th for set-pieces goals in the Premier League (eight) and joint-second-last for accurate corners into the box (38). It’s obvious why Conte has got on the phone to Vio this summer, with the Italian hoping to emulate north London rivals Arsenal.

Last summer Arsenal hired Nicolas Jover from Man City and their improvement in set pieces was clear to see. The Gunners went from having the third-worst record for goals scored from set pieces in 2020/21 to the third-best in 2021/22 (six to 16), and from second-last for set-play expected goals to fifth (7.08 to 15.06).

This season for Tottenham they are currently fifth for accurate corners into the penalty area (11) and set-play expected goals (3.03), Vio’s impact at Tottenham has already been noted by the likes of Kane and Dejan Kulusevski and even when Conte’s side don’t score from set-pieces, the improvements are there for everyone to see.

“I tell you what, that set-piece coach is working some magic. It’s a great little run from Harry Kane, went all the way across the width of the box,” Owen Hargreaves remarked on Tuesday night in the defeat to Sporting CP.

“I think he said he had 3000 different variations. Not sure he’s got that many, but we’ve seen a few tonight.”