Infamously, Newcastle United once went 78 matches and 375 corners without finding the net.
That awful period was under former manager, Alan Pardew. In recent seasons, Newcastle haven’t been particularly prolific when it comes to converting from set pieces. That, though, seems to be changing lately upon Tyne.
Enter Newcastle assistant manager, Jason Tindall, and first-team coaches Stephen Purches and Graeme Jones.
Eddie Howe’s side have scored 9 goals from set pieces in all competitions so far this season. There is a huge emphasis on set plays, and Newcastle are rapidly becoming one of the most lethal teams when it comes to converting from them.
This is not something new for Howe. In fact, around half of the goals scored during his last season in charge at Bournemouth were from set pieces. Callum Wilson’s second of the game against Aston Villa came from a quickly taken corner, a routine that was created on the South Coast. Coincidentally, Wilson’s headed goal was a familiar one to Aston Villa—a similar routine saw Steve Cook score for Bournemouth against them.
Newcastle’s effectiveness from set plays hasn’t just happened, it comes from meticulous work done on the training ground. Every aspect of the opposition is studied relentlessly in order to gain any kind of advantage.
In a world where a “set piece specialist” is a job title in football, Newcastle make it a process, and everyone is in on it. It is not just down to one individual to come up with different routines, it is a collective, and this approach is legitimately making Newcastle stand out from the crowd.
In times gone by, Newcastle would rely on a bit of individual brilliance. Now, though, every player has a part to play in getting results for the club.
In Kieran Trippier, Newcastle have one of the best dead ball specialists around—although hard to grasp and appreciate as it happens, it’s not just the quality of the delivery, but the intricate movement to make the set piece a success.
Bruno Guimarães’ first goal against Brentford showed just how much work goes into these routines. Bruno had learned exactly where he needed to stand, and when to make the run in order for the goal to get up on the scoreboard.
As detail-oriented as Rafael Benitez was, Newcastle have never had a manager as studious as Howe. Every single aspect of the game is researched and studied in order to gain any kind of advantage over the opposition. Small margins, huge victories.
It’s not just offensively where Newcastle excel in their set plays.
Once a time of dread, the opposition getting corners or free-kicks in dangerous areas doesn’t bring that scary feeling of a threat anymore. There’s no heart-in-the-mouth moment when watching Newcastle defensively. All players know their jobs, where they need to be positioned, and how to execute the plan in place to a high standard.
A lot has been made about Newcastle’s defense so far this season and with good reason. The Magpies lead all Premier League teams in goals against, having conceded just 10 through the first 14 match days and 13 games played. Of those 10, only three have come from set-piece plays. A stark contrast to life under Steve Bruce, where Newcastle looked all over the place and incredibly disorganized in all sorts of defensive plays.
Newcastle’s offensive set pieces are so inventive that the opposition often finds it hard to defend against them. There is not just one routine that can catch them out, but rather an ample number of plays that are worked on throughout the week, in the lead-up to the game.
It’s not a case of a defender being able to know and properly perform on a basic, studied role. Newcastle will go beyond that, identify a weakness in the opposition’s defending of set pieces, and exploit it with a variety of training ground routines.
For a long time, Newcastle struggled to take advantage of set pieces but. Since the arrival of Howe and his staff, they have become the most feared in the Premier League at that. It is an area Howe wanted to improve immediately and something that aided his side's revival last season.
Newcastle’s rise will only continue with Howe in charge. There is no letup in his work ethic and not many can match him when it comes to his meticulous thinking, whether that is with the ball stopped or in play.