Arsenal have become a continual threat from set pieces under specialist coach Nico Jover.
Crystal Palace conceded twice from corners in the first half on Saturday as Mikel Arteta’s side took their total to 13 set-piece goals for the season — the most of any team in the Premier League.
They have scored 44 set-piece goals in the top flight since the 2021-22 season. Of all the teams to have played a complete season in that time, Arsenal have the best goals per 100 corners rate (6.1) and the best goals per 100 set pieces rate (5.5).
To demonstrate Arsenal’s variety and efficiency from dead balls, The Athletic watched back every set-piece goal since the summer of 2021 — and Jover’s arrival — and animated the top 10 best routines.
(Some of the goal videos are unavailable due to broadcaster rights)
1. Rob Holding vs West Ham, May 2022
It may look like an average ball towards the penalty spot that is headed home by a big centre-back but Holding’s goal had many more layers to it.
He did not end up with a free header by chance, it was down to a well-designed plan that involved Granit Xhaka and Eddie Nketiah blocking West Ham’s two dominant headers in Declan Rice and Kurt Zouma.
It was a similar ploy that saw William Saliba score against Brentford in September of that year.
2. Eddie Nketiah vs Everton, May 2022
Ben White has become the go-to man to mark the opposition goalkeeper. He is there to be a nuisance and get in the way of the goalkeeper coming off his line easily — without giving a foul away.
Against Everton, Arsenal identified an unusual set-up where the player next to the goalkeeper would not be picked up. Gabriel Martinelli (red) used that to his advantage as he made a late run to the front post, creating the perfect flick-on opportunity.
3. Gabriel Martinelli vs Crystal Palace, September 2022
Not all of Arsenal’s corner goals are neat and tidy. Often they score from rebounds at the edge of the box by having two or three players surrounding the ‘D’, which ensures they are first to any clearances and can sustain the attack.
There are times, however, that they use the man advantage in a way that not many envisage. Against Palace, it was Zinchenko’s (red) run to the back post from Bukayo Saka’s lofted delivery that created a great angle to play back into the box.
4. Eddie Nketiah vs Manchester United, January 2023
Trailing 1-0, this was a routine that took patience and precision. Usually when picking apart the weaknesses of zonal marking systems the analysis focuses on the ability of attacking players to get a run on static defenders but Jover unearthed a different way to manipulate it.
The routine consisted of eight passes but it was no fluke as they almost pulled off the same move earlier in the game when Thomas Partey squandered the chance.
5. Oleksandr Zinchenko vs Aston Villa, February 2023
Arsenal do not always take the direct route. They often have bespoke short corner routines to create overloads, then position the other players as obstacles to stop the defending side from pressing the ball at the edge of the box.
Against Villa they took the corner quickly and created a 3v2, which required clever blocking and movements from those inside the penalty to open up a shooting angle.
6. Declan Rice vs Manchester United, September 2023
The magnitude of this goal would make it special on its own, never mind the thought Arsenal put into the routine at a moment when adrenaline and foggy minds usually take over.
It was the 96th minute and Arsenal, having varied their corner strategy throughout the game, decided that rather than throw a Hail Mary into the box and hope for the best, they would delve into the Jover catalogue.
It brought about Declan Rice’s first big moment since making his £100 million move from West Ham.
7. Leandro Trossard vs Everton, September 2023
This was an afternoon in which Arsenal opted for almost only short corners. They had come close to unlocking the door with several variations but the winning goal from Leandro Trossard came after a 37-second delay in taking the corner kick.
The crowd had begun to get restless, as did goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who moved out from his goal to complain, alongside the main zonal marker in James Tarkwoski.
Within six passes, Arsenal had calmly unpicked Everton’s defence.
8. Gabriel Jesus vs Brighton – December 2023
This was a goal that had been coming all game. Arsenal continually targeted the front post against Brighton who employed a mainly zonal marking set-up.
In the first half, they caused chaos by using a flat trajectory delivery and crowding the front post area late on with some of their biggest players like Gabriel, William Saliba and Declan Rice.
They never quite got the clean flick on or a lucky ricochet on any of the corners though. It is not as precise a routine as others but the primary aim was to cause disruption at the front post and ensure they were ready to take advantage of Brighton’s lop-sided set-up should the ball come to the back post.
It worked twice in the second half when Lewis Dunk cleared Ben White’s header off the line, then provided the opening goal when Gabriel Jesus was all alone at the back post to head home a deflected header.
9. Gabriel Magalhaes vs Liverpool, December 2023
Free kicks in a central area that are too far out to shoot but too close to get the elevation to target a scoring zone can often feel like no man’s land.
A hopeful clip to the back post is what most teams try but it was clear Arsenal had something up their sleeve when four players were standing five yards offside as the taker took his run-up.
An almost identical goal was scored by White in the 4-0 win over Bournemouth this season.
10. Gabriel Magalhaes vs Crystal Palace, January 2024
Arsenal’s 12th and 13th set-piece goals of the season came before half-time against Roy Hodgson’s side.
Crystal Palace are a big team and Leandro Trossard is not one of the main threats from corners, but the Belgian’s role in both goals was pivotal.
Gabriel bullish in the air yesterday 😤 pic.twitter.com/qYEmehcc9c
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 21, 2024
It was the sort of sneaky, NFL-type block or NBA-like pick-and-roll move that makes Arsenal so hard to stop. So much so that even when they have successfully used a routine, the opposition finds it so hard to decipher they concede an identical goal 30 minutes later.
(Top photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)