Imagine your team has a striker that averages 14 goals a season, and has done so for his whole career. Imagine on the opening weekend of the new season, that striker suffers a serious injury, and will now miss the entire campaign. How upset are you?
14 is the average number of set-piece goals scored per season by Championship teams over the past three seasons. To go through a season without any set-piece goals is like losing the hypothetical striker from the opening paragraph — it is throwing away 14 goals a season.
Swansea are the only Championship side this season still yet to score from a set-piece situation (penalties don’t count).
I’m not saying this team will actually go the entire season without scoring from a set-piece, but to not have done so over the first 16 games is unusual. So far, Graham Potter has gone about his Swansea City Revival Project department-to-department: he’s used heavy rotation to get a look at his squad in action, tightened the defence, re-established the Swans possession game through midfield, and lately turned his attention to the attack, with shots-on-goal doubling in recent weeks.
It is surely only a matter of time before set-pieces are on the agenda. Despite being unfairly derided by aesthetes as the preserve of hoofball sides and therefore somehow undesirable, they remain an incredibly important part of the game.
Over the past three seasons, the teams which have led the Championship in goals from set-pieces finished in first place and were promoted: Burnley, Newcastle, and Wolves. Last season, Cardiff City tied with Wolves for most set-piece goals scored, and were promoted as runners up.
All five Swansea defeats this season have been decided by single goal margins. One clever corner routine or accurate free-kick might have turned any of those losses into draws, or any of the Swans’ five actual draws into wins. But for a single set-piece goal here or there, Swansea could be anywhere between 1 and 15 points better off right now.
With technicians like Bersant Celina and Matt Grimes in the side, and aerial threats like Oli McBurnie, Leroy Fer, and Mike van der Hoorn to aim for, Swansea have the tools to exploit dead-ball situations, and should be profiting from the game’s most easily practiced source of goals.
Potter has so far successfully revamped most of the other aspects of Swansea’s football. When he decides to turn his attention to set pieces — flair football’s ugly sisters — Swansea’s attacking threat and promotion prospects will escalate dramatically.
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