CECH: SET QUESTIONS

Posted on: Fri 09 Nov 2012

There has been plenty of cause to be grateful for the team's set-piece prowess in recent weeks.

Freshest in the memory is Victor Moses's header from Juan Mata's corner that beat Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday and prior to that, the same player scored at Swansea after Gary Cahill had headed on Oscar's corner.

Our Capital One Cup campaign was kept on track with the help of Cahill heading one directly in, plus a couple of penalties scored against Manchester United, and when it comes to direct free-kicks, successful strikes by Juan Mata and David Luiz come readily to mind.

In total there have been 14 Chelsea goals from set plays, including penalties, this season which represents just over a third of all our goals.

Across European football at large, technical reports for last season released by UEFA indicate that set-piece goals are in decline compared with recent years, with the conversion rate from corners described as 'unimpressive'.

Thankfully that has not been an accusation that could be levelled at Chelsea this season so far, and as we aim to do damage to Liverpool this weekend while keeping them out at the other end, the official Chelsea website spoke to Petr Cech, the man at the sharp end of dealing with opposition set-play attempts on our goal.

Has he noticed teams being less successful with this aspect of the game? Our highly-experience keeper believes there are too many variables involved to make statistical analysis easy.

'There could be a lot of coincidence involved,' he says. 'Sometimes you defend the set plays well and no matter what you do you concede, because it hits players, there is a rebound and suddenly the ball rolls in front of the goal where you can't control anything.

'It is not only about defending, it is a bit of luck as well. And if it is the case that teams are getting smaller then that would affect the attacking at corners as much as the defending.

'Sometimes you have a free-kick taker and he is on fire. Out of 10 he kicks 10 to the top corner. Maybe next season he takes 33 free-kicks and he hits the wall 28 times.

'We had huge success with the Czech national team having eight different corner routines,' Cech recounts.

'Every corner was different but everyone knew what was going to happen and we created so many opportunities and kept scoring goals. At the other end, between 2002 and 2006 we conceded just one goal from set plays, defending with zonal marking. Everybody was hammering zonal marking as a method and we had all those years not conceding from set plays.

'Then we came to the World Cup in 2006 and we conceded against Italy from a corner and the next 10 games we conceded eight goals from set plays. We defended exactly the same way and we had the same team and suddenly we had a run of conceding, and this shows how complex it is.'

Time will tell whether the Blues can continue to cause our opponents problems with free-kicks and corners for the rest of this season, but the past few games have clearly illustrated the benefits.

'It is too early to judge but I hope we continue like this because it is a massive help if you can score goals from set plays,' says Cech.

'I say all the time that a corner is always a chance to score a goal, if you put in a good delivery.

'There were statistics that showed a big per cent of games were decided by set plays, so it is a big part of the game.'