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Why Liverpool want to hire a set-piece coach – to join Arsenal and Man City

It might not be the aspect of Liverpool’s new era that gets fans most excited, but the club’s search for a set-piece coach could well prove to be the shrewdest move made in this period of upheaval.

As revealed by This Is Anfield earlier this week, the Reds are looking to add a specialist in that area to Arne Slot’s staff before he takes charge of his first pre-season.

Under Jurgen Klopp, set-pieces had largely been the responsibility of assistant coach Peter Krawietz, but this task will be expanded to a full-time role under the new regime.

The new addition will be asked to analyse opposition routines, create their own for Liverpool, and work with players on all aspects of set-pieces, including heading and delivery.

Clearly, the club’s hierarchy have realised that they are a step behind in recognising this aspect of the game as almost a separate sport in itself, one which it would be utterly foolish to overlook.

 

Learning from rivals

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 2, 2020: Arsenal's manager Mikel Arteta pictured before the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Arsenal FC at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is no better example of their importance than the Reds’ title rivals Arsenal, who benefited hugely from the work of dedicated coach Nicolas Jover last season.

The Gunners scored more set-piece goals (20) than any other Premier League team and conceded the second fewest (seven), records that were crucial in ensuring they pushed Man City to the final day.

This was perfectly underlined by a 3-2 victory at Tottenham in late April that had previously been viewed as a potential banana skin, but ended up providing a vital confidence boost during the run-in.

Intriguingly, the post-match consensus seemed to be that Arsenal had blown Tottenham away and were only required to see off a late flurry in order to claim the three points.

But the reality is that Mikel Arteta’s men were outshot (15-9) and thrashed on xG (2.42-1.03), while the hosts saw a goal ruled out for a marginal offside.

Yet for all that this is true, the game never felt one-sided in Tottenham’s favour or even close at all, and that is largely because Arsenal scored twice from corners early doors to give themselves a valuable cushion.

Unfortunately for the Gunners, that victory and their many set-piece goals across the campaign did not end up being quite as valuable as they might have been, because the side they were in a title race with were also quietly focused on excellence in that area.

 

Liverpool aren’t too far away

Arne Slot, Feyenoord (Getty Images, Via UEFA Handout)

For all their fancy football, Man City were the third-highest scorers (16) from such situations and were far and away the most solid in defending them, conceding just three last season.

Assistant coach Carlos Vicens is largely credited for that, and Liverpool fans will be somewhat familiar with his work given the nature of John Stones’ opening goal at Anfield back in March.

So, if it’s good enough for Man City and Arsenal, then why not Liverpool?

In fairness, it is only fair to mention that Jurgen Klopp’s side were by no means slouches in this aspect across 2023-24, ranking joint-fourth for most set-piece goals scored and joint-fifth in terms of goals conceded (10).

But comparing those figures to their title rivals shows clear room for improvement, and it is perhaps surprising that this hadn’t been sought earlier given the club’s reputation for thinking outside the box under FSG.

Still, whether it is overdue or not, the appointment of a set-piece coach represents a positive step, and offers Slot a chance to make early gains without even lifting a finger.