One of the prevalent developments in football over the past few years is a growing emphasis on the importance of set pieces. When you cannot break down a defence during the phases of open play, a strong set-piece routine offers you the opportunity to score a goal. After all, the premeditated nature of set pieces offers managers a level of relative consistency in preparation and planning. You can work out multiple routines and prepare your players for these routines during training sessions. In this blog post, I want to focus on the process of setting up a good corner routine, the variables that determine whether or not a routine is successful and my own routine.

The TL;DR version

Just in case you have no interest what-so-ever in learning about how I think and set up my corners, this is the download link for the corners from the right and left side. I have also created a little graphic that shows you, step by step, how I operate. In the rest of the article, I want to zoom in on each and every step of this process.

Step 1: Identify the defensive setup

Here you see the defensive corner organisation for a default AI defensive corner setup. Their structure is centred around defending the six-yard box. The AI defenders are primarly protecting the six-yard box, with one of them hovering near the edge of the penalty area. This appeared to be the default AI defensive organisation, that I encountered in most friendlies, before I started tinkering with my own organisation.

Step 2: Identify your own strengths

Looking at the defensive scheme we have established for the AI during the pre-season friendlies, I tried to come up with a setup on how we might cause the AI defences some problems. There are a number of different things you could do, for instance, creating short versions of corners, or pumping the ball into the box or even trying to isolate someone on the edge of the area to take a crack on goal. Before settling on our own approach, I have to look at the players at my disposal and their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the most important aspects of playing this game is making sure your players are capable of performing in the capacity you imagine them to. That means that lumping the ball towards the far post is only an effective strategy if you have some sort of aerial presence there, capable to actually powering home those swung-in crosses. Similarly, if you have a few towering defenders, capable of dominating in the air, why not put them to good use?

In order to assess the possibilities your squad offers for devising a corner routine, there are a few rudimentary questions you need to ask yourself.

  1. Do I have one or more players who can accurately deliver the corners?
  2. Do I have players who can pose an aerial threat?
  3. Do I have players who can shoot well from distance?
  4. Do I have fast players to snuff out counter-attacks?

Do I have one or more players who can accurately deliver the corners?

The positioning of the players at corners is just one element of the total sum that makes up a successful corner-routine. Besides placing your players in the central positions within the opposition’s penalty area, you are also going to need some sort of delivery system, basically, a player who can actually kick the ball quite accurately towards one your own men in the penalty area. For me, a good corner taker should possess the following attributes:

  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
  • Corners; (how accurately can said player deliver the ball to its intended destination);
  • Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
  • Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
  • Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).

When I am looking for someone to take the corners, these are the attributes I look for.

My current corner taker will most likely be Darío Conca, when he is match fit. Besides being good at taking corners, he possesses the necessary mental attributes to be an effective distributor of corners. Gai Assulin and Omer Atzili are secondary corner takers, since I anticipate Conca will be tired a lot.

Do I have players who can pose an aerial threat?

A perfectly timed header is right at the top of the list of beautiful things in football. Fans always assume that every footballer should be great at heading the ball and scoring goals, but sometimes it is not that simple. For a headed goal, a lot of things have to happen perfectly – a great delivery, a timely jump and perfect contact with the head. We covered the delivery in the previous paragraph, this paragraph is about the men who are supposed to get on the business end of the delivery. We’re looking for the guys who are usually in the right place at the right time. They have great jumping abilities as well as power and timing to get things right in the air. For me, an aerial threat should possess the following attributes:

  • Aggression; (how combative a player is, as I want him to fight for his spot in the penalty area); 
  • Agility; (how easily can said player move, is he lightfooted enough to get away from his marker); 
  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
  • Balance; (how long can said player keep on his feet under pressure; can he shrug off challenges while getting into position);
  • Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
  • Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
  • Heading; (how accurately can said player head the ball);
  • Jumping; (what is the maximum height said player can reach);
  • Off The Ball; (how well the player utilises space when not in possession of the ball, will he find space in the penalty area);
  • Strength; (how sturdy is said player, will he be able to keep opponents off his back);
  • Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).

When I am looking for someone to be an aerial threat during corners, these are the attributes I look for. I also realise that I listed a lot of attributes and that it is nigh impossible to find someone who is good at all of these aspects of the game. Ideally, you will be able to find someone who excels at four or five of these aspects. This will often be enough to count as a force to be reckoned with during set pieces.

In this case, my three centrum defenders are probably the best headers I have. I initially wanted to include Essien in the list but he went and ruptured a ligament in a friendly. Since he’s out for nine months, I didn’t include him in the list. All my central defenders have the necessary skills to pose an aerial threat, especially in the domestic league.

Do I have players who can volley the ball towards goal when it’s cleared?

One of the most glamorous parts of football is the long shot. Alongside skills, it is the thing that children around the world practice more than anything else. Everybody wants to be able to curl the ball into the top corner or hit a dead-straight rocket that doesn’t give the goalkeeper a chance. In almost every corner routine available throughout the last few versions of the Football Manager series, people have used players with good shooting skills to lurk on the edge of the area, volleying home deflected or poorly cleared corner deliveries. For me, a dangerous lurker/shooter should possess the following attributes:

  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
  • Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
  • Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
  • Finishing; (will said player be able to hit an accurate shot at goal);
  • First Touch; (how well can said player control the ball upon receiving it, creating time and space for himself to hit the ball);
  • Flair; (will said player have a tendency to do the unexpected, like blast the ball in instead of passing it);
  • Off The Ball; (how well the player utilises space when not in possession of the ball, will he find space to unleash his shooting);
  • Technique; (will said player be able to perform a certain move);
  • Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).

When I am looking for someone to be an effective lurker during corners, these are the attributes I look for. I also realise that I listed a lot of attributes and that it is nigh impossible to find someone who is good at all of these aspects of the game. Ideally, you will be able to find someone who excels at four or five of these aspects. This will often be enough to count as a force to be reckoned with during set pieces.

Dan Glazer, Eyal Golasa and Manor Solomon are all players who are dangerous when it comes to picking up loose balls and volleying them home. My secondary corner takers Assulin and Atzili as well. Neither of them are especially proficient in hitting the ball from long range but they are all quite adept at choosing the right position, which is probably far more important.

Do I have fast players to snuff out counter-attacks?

Most corner routines rely on overloading a specific area of the penalty area, either to exploit the numerical superiority in that area or in an effort to isolate one of their own elsewhere and have the play go through that isolated player. Either way, this generally means that a lot of bodies are committed to the fray, which makes your team highly susceptible to a fast counter-attack from a deflected or cleared corner. In order to prevent such calamities, I always leave two players back but they will need to possess a fair amount of pace in order to snuff out these counter-attacks rather quickly.

There is nothing fancy about the requirements for these players. Pure, raw pace will suffice. Naturally, assessing the situation will come in handy but most of the time the ball is simply booted forward into space and the fastest player left will get on the end of it. Ergo, pure and raw pace is more than sufficient for these players.

Step 3: Figure out how to use your strengths to exploit their weaknesses

As I have shown in the image above, the opposing defence generally leaves two areas of the penalty area under-manned. There are two pockets of space, one near the far post and one near the edge of the area. I intend to make use of these pockets.

The idea is that my players leave the first post free. The opposition will sacrifice players to cover that post anyway, leaving my players free to overload a different area. My own players will generally stay on the edge of the area, except for a strong header. He will attack the far post. When you do not set players to lurk outside the area, the AI will generally not commit men to the players you have set on “Go Forward”, while in reality one or two will always hold back and be open for a rebound.

As you can see, my setup has no actual lurkers. Instead, I speculate on the fact that one or two of the four players set to “Go Forward” will hold back, leaving them open to get on the receiving end of a poor clearance or a ball headed back by our aerial threat coming in at the far post. That is the general idea of the setup anyway.

You will also notice that there is no set corner taker. This is because I believe in the theory that a measure of unpredictability, a measure of random distribution, will exponentially increase the number of goals scored. Any of the three AMC’s can take a proper corner but each variation will leave the AI guessing where a man will disappear from my offensive organisation.

I will save you the hassle of steps 4 and 5 since that is generally just me messing around with instructions and coming up with ideas like the “don’t use a lurker and see if that tricks the AI into leaving your guys unmarked”-idea. What you want to see if the end result. Well, it works. Feast your eyes on this.

So far, I have played three official games. I have scored nineteen goals in these games, nine of which can be attributed directly to corners. Let me just show you a few brief clips as well.

No download!

Sorry guys, I will not be offering a download as such because this setup is completely geared for the players I have at my disposal at my club. You can read about what makes the setup tick and recreate it but I will not be offering a download link. I have done so in the past and received grief because a setup was not working for whoever downloaded it. Most of the time, this was down to people expecting their midget forward to score a tonne of goals, while not being able to win headers or people using a clumsy defender to volley cleared balls home. I will offer these setups on my Patreon but not as a general download.


Guido

Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.

6 Comments

Mark Rennolds · November 5, 2018 at 11:47 pm

Great analysis of the corner routines Guido. How about free kicks & throw ins possibly as an add on feature?

    Guido · November 6, 2018 at 11:14 am

    I intend to do those as well, Mark.

comeontheoviedo · November 6, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Cracking piece, makes a lot of sense

    Guido · November 6, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Thank you. 🙂

Alexsandro de Carvalho · November 7, 2018 at 12:39 am

I’m interested in the configuration for long releases, can you send me a download or images with the positions of the players

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