Out of many issues that Tottenham were facing under Nuno, failure to utilize set-pieces to their advantage was one of them. Out of 62 corners, Spurs have not registered a single goal. This is a massive decline from previous seasons, where they were among the top seven teams in terms of goals from set-pieces.
Tottenham’s failure to deliver goals from corners and free-kicks can be attributed to their transfer activity during the summer, as players who were most threatening either in crossing or attacking the ball, left the club. Last season the set-pieces duties were shared by Son Heung-min, Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela, and Gareth Bale. The latter two departed from the club over the summer, a scenario that has left Son and Lo Celso to take on the duties of corners. Lo Celso has not started many games for Tottenham, and his accuracy with crosses hasn’t been the best. This has led Son to take the majority of the corners for his side and the opponents have been able to read Spurs’ next move quite often. In addition, Tottenham have missed the presence of Toby Alderweireld, a physical centre-back capable of attacking corners.
Among Tottenham’s multiple defensive and attacking issues, improving set-piece play should also be of priority for the recently appointed Antonio Conte. In his previous stint at Inter, he was known for their output from corners. Winning second and loose balls is extremely important in set-piece play, as keeping the ball in play for a longer duration near the box can provide teams with more opportunities to attack. Conte needs to find a way to instill the drive to win loose balls in his team.
In terms of corners with shots, Tottenham are placed at joint-tenth in the Premier League while they have averaged just above one corner with shots per match. Often this season, the opponents have been able to read Tottenham’s corners and nullify their threat.
In terms of successful crosses, Tottenham are ranked near the bottom, just above Leicester. Spurs have averaged just above three successful crosses per match. They have a cross accuracy of just 19% in the current season which further highlights their inefficiencies with the crosses. Conte would need to rectify his side’s poor accuracy with crosses.
While it will take some time before Conte can improve Tottenham’s corner play, we can see the improvement in bits and pieces. In the recent match against Leeds, Tottenham were not too far off in terms of loose ball duel wins. They won 35.9% of loose balls compared to their opponent’s 48.7%, although they were better in terms of aerial duel wins with 55.2% to Leeds’ 37.9%.
From the above visual as well, we can see that Tottenham were able to win a decent number of loose balls in the opponent’s half which further indicates that Conte’s work behind the scenes to improve Tottenham’s corner play has started.
Tottenham require another option, an addition, to take corner kicks regularly. The likes of Hojbjerg, Regulion, and Winks can be another option for corner kick duty. Tottenham could benefit vastly if Conte can instill the style of corner and set-piece play he did in Inter Milan.