By Jason McKenna
A discussion point that will be opened out more and discussed in our podcasts plus our articles coming out in July is Manchester City’s set pieces. We believe that the club are making back room changes to ensure that they make marginal gains in an area where the club slightly under-performed last season. It’s hard to believe that a club who scored 198 points over 2 seasons has anywhere to improve, but they have found what could propel them even further. This means that assets like Laporte, even though more premium this season, could retain their value as they are more likely to score and to keep clean sheets.
Last season many people discussed Liverpool’s acquisition of a “throw in coach” last season. Some laughed, others were intrigued but the end result was a large improvement in Liverpool’s attacking output in these situations. The Reds went from being described as “poor” at set pieces and Klopp faced much criticism. But in 2018/19 they became one of the best teams for set pieces. On the other scale Manchester City unperformed in this area of the game. Although they had 147 shots from free kicks and corners in 2018/19 they only scored 12 goals from these. This meant that Man City scored only 16% of their goals for the season from set pieces, the lowest in the Premier League, and they had a poor conversion rate of just 8.2%. Also Manchester City managed no attempts from throw in situations and Liverpool only managed 3 so that is something they both need to work on. Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth all had large amounts of attempts from throw ins, maybe too reliant on these, but this could be something that the Reds and Sky Blues may improve upon next season.
When you compare the set piece stats of Manchester City with their close title rivals Liverpool you can see why they want to change things. Liverpool had a similar number of shots from set piece situations with 142, however Klopp’s team managed to score 22 times from these. That means the Reds had a much better conversion rate of 15.5%.
It comes as no surprise then that Man City, and Guardiola, want to try to perfect the team even more so. This week the team has advertised for a set piece specialist intern to help the team work on these situations. (LINK) It comes as big teams like Liverpool and City use more data to drive their decisions. What is also indicative of a change in approach was Marti Perarnau giving an interview recently on the Manchester City 93:20 podcast. The Spanish journalist who authored “Pep: Confidential” and “Pep: The Evolution” explained that set plays was where Manchester City felt assistant Mikel Arteta had to improve most. So the Manchester City team seem to be building a set piece department for the season ahead.
As mentioned this could benefit Laporte as one of the main physical threats in dead ball situations. Indeed Laporte scored all his 3 Premier League goals last season as a result of set pieces. But it could also see the resurgence in the appeal of Kevin De Bruyne who is likely to see a price fall this season. De Bruyne is the first choice taker of corners and free kicks for Manchester City when he is fit. Manchester City and Liverpool both conceded the least amount of attempts from set piece situations, Man City with 70 and Liverpool 76, but the hiring of a set piece specialist means that Man City could be even better at defending these situations. The debate at the start of this season is which 3 assets from Liverpool and Man City to get, it seems the money is still safe with Laporte as one of these nailed options.
If you enjoyed this insight make sure to like our twitter page and stay tuned to our podcast. We will be launching our new website soon with FPL articles and also through the summer we have many great guests on talking all things FPL including Statsbomb’s Ted Knuston and Tifo Football.