Short corners remain a neglected aspect of the game despite a slew of improvements and innovations appearing to enhance the beautiful game. While they frequently frustrate stadium supporters when they fail to produce results, the perfect short corner kick routine can benefit any team by creating an overload before blasting the ball into the box.
In any short-corner scenario, you have the potential to create an overload in the wide area, exploit the opposition, draw them out, and then deliver a pass into the penalty area from a better angle. That “better angle” allows you to cross the ball further away from the keeper’s goal, potentially with fewer defenders in the box to defend the situation. But it can also allow the team to cross the ball closer to the opposition’s goal as defenders rush out to stop the cross. It even offers possibilities to dribble into the penalty area when defenders protect their zone rather than challenge the ball carrier.
To summarise the previous paragraphs, short corners are catalysts for chaos. They create confusion and unpredictability in the opposition’s defence. This confusion often leads to defensive mistakes and openings for attacking players. What’s not to love? Just look at a prime example of beautiful, glorious chaos ensuing from a short corner.
This particular example comes from a game my Fortuna side played against Heerenveen. We can clearly see the incisive and sly Sebastiano Esposito combining with playmaker Conor Coventry. Instead of playing in that third member of the team at the top of the box, Esposito returned the pass to Coventry instead, with the Heerenveen defender caught flat-footed and utterly unaware of what to do.
As the ball then came across to Coventry at the edge of the eighteen, another Heerenveen defender was lured out of position by the player on the edge of the box, enabling Coventry to drive into the penalty area and look for a pass. Two passes are sufficient to find Huseinbasic in space, and the German Bosnian midfield dynamo slots the ball past the helplessly grasping gloves of the goalie.
A short-corner routine can allow a possession-based side like mine to continue to see out their principles without lumping a long pass into the box where they don’t have many physically imposing players to contest the situation. That does not mean we never score any headed goals from corners.
Because the entire setup of the short corner routine is aimed at creating opportunities, there is no surefire way the routine will end, unlike, for example, a near-post delivery. The outcome of the short corner routine depends on various factors and can be unpredictable, which is in itself both its principal strength and primary weakness.
The opposition usually reacts by positioning at least one player in front of the short-corner option. However, the team in possession can still assess the distance of that player from the situation and work to exploit the situation by locating unmarked players or players who can run into unoccupied space. What usually happens is that the short option is not properly closed down in FM. If you field a creative and skilled player in this position, he will create mayhem for your opponents.
The example above shows a variation without a proper short option. As the ball is delivered, the defenders fail to close down either the ball carrier or the corner taker. The ball is passed back, and for once, off-side is evaded. The original corner-taker dribbles into the area. A dummy run draws away one defender attempting to close down while the second defender maintains some distance. This allows Huseinbasic just enough time and space to drive the ball into the far corner of the goal.
The key is to create options, forcing the opposition to make choices while utterly relying on the creativity of your own players. Improvisation can inspire new crossing angles, where a third player can enter the mix from afar and deliver the ball into the box. As the opposition rushes out to keep players offside, disorganisation at the back is bound to occur, and space will open up, thus a talented side can exploit this space.
In the example above, I have opted for a routine that offers multiple players surrounding the penalty area, encircling the opposition within their own penalty area, while simultaneously generating several passing outlets for a shorter delivery and a follow-up pass. After several short passes, one of the encircling players drifts wide while the opposition maintains a cohesive defence in the central area. A pass out wide allows this player to cut back inside and slot the ball past the goalie.
So far, I have been using three variations on this short corner theme. One of these was created by DorkSirjur; the others are my work. All three are based on the same principle: short corners and creating chaos, allowing the more creative players on the side to make up their plays as they go along.
All three variations offer a short option of sorts. Two provide a traditional short option and several players surrounding the penalty area. In contrast, one offers a player lurking on the edge of the penalty area, who is often played in so he can have a crack at goal. The latter setup is DorkSirjur’s setup.
What each routine has in common is maximising the element of surprise and the ability to exploit the disarray caused by the chaos. By using different angles, timing, and movements, we aim to keep the opposition guessing and unable to defend against our attacks effectively. The fluidity and improvisation of these plays allow our creative players to showcase their skills and create scoring opportunities that might not have been possible with a more structured approach.
All three routines provide options for the initial recipient of the short corner. Granted, DorkSirjur wants him to have a crack at goal most of all but if that fails, he has plenty of options available to him. The same goes for both of the other routines. All three routines have a ring of players encircling the opposing penalty area, with several strong headers in the penalty area.
What makes the routines as effective as they are is not the distribution of players in such a way but getting the right players in the right positions. FM24 offers a change from what we have all been used to. Instead of selecting positions in the formation to execute a certain order, regardless of which player is in the position, you can determine a hierarchy for each role during set pieces and order these players accordingly. Naturally, players are part of multiple hierarchies, so you can also change the priority for these hierarchies.
This is where things get interesting. Changing the priorities of the hierarchies changes the actual setup of the routine a bit. For the sake of the short corners you have seen here, I highly recommend bumping the hierarchy of creators up to second place. It means the short option and other players surrounding the penalty area are generally your most creative players, which tends to lead to the best results.
Before we wrap up, let me say that, when used properly, short corners are not only excellent for opening doors but also perfect for finishing a game, running out the clock, and sealing a win. So, while they may irritate fans all across the world. Short corners generate avenues for crosses from various angles, overloads out wide, and confuse the opponent into making critical errors. They also give a team another way to close out a game late in the game, which is possibly the only unanimously agreed-upon application of the art. As innovative managers attempt to construct innovative routines around their set pieces and use the art to score amazing goals, short corners may start to earn the respect they deserve. The possibilities are limitless, and there is no one correct or incorrect method to play the game. So you might want to quit complaining about tight turns.
For those interested, you can download my set piece routines here. I did not include the setup that wasn’t mine. Place the downloaded files in the My Documents/Sports Interactive/FM24/Set pieces folder and you can import them in-game. Remember that you can only import them when looking at attacking corners.