Stoke manager Michael O’Neill has made an odd claim that might surprise Leeds United fans. He’s claimed that the Whites are “very good” at set-pieces.
As quoted in the Stoke Sentinel, O’Neill said: “Set pieces are such an important part of the game. I’ve watched so much football in my time as an international manager and it was a huge part of how we were able to get results or get ahead in games with Northern Ireland. I was focused on that.
“When you look at the really good teams in the Premier League, they’re very good in these areas. Leeds are very good in these areas.”
Leeds have been very good at a lot of things over the past season – dominating games, possession, creating chances, not conceding – but set-pieces? Not so much.
In fact, in May, Leeds were noted for being joint second-lowest scorers from set-pieces in the Championship.
Struggles at set-pieces were talked about a lot during the season, with Leeds’ opponents seemingly likelier to score from their corners than the Whites were.
And an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post focused on how bad Leeds were at converting corners into goals.
It even led to Bielsa focusing largely on this during lockdown, with The Athletic saying, “Marcelo Bielsa, for example, has tasked his backroom staff with studying every goal scored from a set-piece situation in Europe’s top five leagues (plus the Championship) this season and identifying the most efficient zones for set-piece takers to target.”
To be fair, Leeds did pick up a bit towards the end of the season, trying different things from corners aside from aimlessly punting the ball in the box.
And Kalvin Phillips scored a brilliant free-kick against Blackburn.
But, of all the things you could praise Leeds United for last season, set pieces would be near the bottom of the list.
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