In an era dominated by possession-based football, it is somewhat a rarity to see teams rely on set-pieces as their primary attacking avenue. For some teams, a set-piece opportunity does not represent a high percentage option to score. This could be down to the physical attributes of the players or just the fact that the manager doesn’t believe that crosses are likely to lead to goal scoring opportunities. At the other end of the spectrum lies Tony Pulis and his West Brom team.
The current West Brom side is one that typifies their manager. Defensively strong, physically powerful throughout the team, and deadly in set-piece situations makes them a side difficult to beat. The threat from set-pieces in particular makes for fascinating viewing. This is because Pulis’ men do not simply rely on their physical supremacy to overcome the opposition. Yes, it does play a part in the side being one of the most proficient teams from dead-ball situations but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Dig a bit deeper and you find carefully constructed tactics as can be seen by this excellent video by uMAXit below.
The initial statistics of how West Brom maximise their set-piece opportunities will come as no surprise to regular viewers of the Premier League. However, the level of tactical nuance in how Pulis sets up his side in such situations is fascinating. As broken down in the above video, the routines require clockwork precision from all parties involved including decoy runners and the nefarious off-the-ball ‘blockers’. A quick look at the penalty area during the game and the uninitiated will simply see a mass of bodies intent on jostling with each other until one finally leaps high to meet the ball. Look closer and break it down and one can actually see how the players involved all have specific roles and why there will always be room for set-pieces in football.