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Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest

AS Monaco currently sit fourth in Ligue 1 and four points from leaders Lille, with Niko Kovač’s first season seemingly showing some progress after Monaco finished only 9th last season following a disappointing campaign. One of the leading successes behind AS Monaco’s performances this season have been their set-pieces, with WhoScored registering Monaco as scoring 18 goals from set-pieces this season. Kovač attributed much of this success to his brother and assistant coach Robert Kovač, who had been tasked on working on this part of Monaco’s game on the training ground.

This set-piece analysis will analyse the key trends and concepts behind Monaco’s success from corners this season, with The Monegasques displaying clear ideas which have allowed them to become one of the deadliest set-piece teams in Europe.

General structure

Monaco are not a team that surprise the opposition with innovative routines involving intricate movements. Instead, like most teams. they hold a general structure when attacking corners and have principles and variations within this structure. The structure they hold is a 3-2 shape, with three deeper runners and two higher players in the six-yard box- the roles of these players will be explained and broken down within the analysis.

We can see this shape below, with usually two players on the edge of the box, three players acting as deeper runners, and two players higher in the six-yard box. The higher players in the six yard box are smaller attackers, and so are usually former Bundesliga ever present Kevin Volland and ex Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder, but thanks to their movement and positioning, they are still very useful in these parts of the game. The three deeper players are most commonly variations of Axel Disasi (1.93m), Guillermo Màripan (1.93m), Benoît Badiashile (1.94m) and Aurélien Tchouameni (1.87m), and so we can see Monaco clearly have height available in the team.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

The key variable in their corners is the staggering and spacing of those three deeper runners, and we can see below it becomes almost a 1-2 triangular shape, with one player staying deeper. This allows the deepest runner to create more separation from their marker, and also gives the angles and opportunity for the other two players to block or create traffic. In this example above we can also see that because the runners are so deep, while the two higher players are pinning the defence in the six yard box, space between these lines opens, and so if a deeper runner can dismark they have space to arrive into and head.

We can see the structure again here, with the spacing slightly different but the structure the same 3-2 again. The higher players can be more involved in the corners at times, sometimes acting as the target player by making movements from in to out, and so we see a striker starts behind the goalkeeper initially here. The deeper three space differently here, with every spacing having an advantage or aim to it, as I’ll discuss in detail later in the analysis

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

Another key structural detail is the movement of these higher players when the ball is being delivered. Monaco seem to aim for maximum coverage of the box once the ball has been delivered, and so while the ball is being delivered you will always see one higher player move to the near post, while the other moves to the back post. We can see the structure this creates here, with the centre of the goal having a cage of Monaco players around it.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

This structure benefits Monaco’s chances of winning a second contact, as they have more coverage of the box generally. We can see here, when a deeper runner wins their header but places it wide, a striker is close by to try and direct it goalwards. They are unable to do so on this occasion, but Monaco did score a second phase goal thanks to their near post player picking up a failed clearance and scoring.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

The near post runner also play an important role in the first contact as mentioned, and we can see here they make a decoy run towards the near post in order to draw markers out towards this zone, with the delivery aimed over their heads towards the central area. Deeper runners then have to rely on dismarking their opponent in order to win the header, and if they do they gain a good chance of scoring, which is exactly what they do here.

These decoy movements are mixed with real intentional movements, and we see a nice example here of a blindside movement by Kevin Volland to get a shot on target. Volland starts behind the two near post zonal markers, and times his movement so that when the ball is delivered, he is positioned between both of these players. The players cannot see him, and so often cannot react in time to push out to close his header down. If they pre-prepare for this blindside movement and try to anticipate the movement, it can be used as a decoy run again to create space elsewhere.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

PSG cannot react in time at the near post, and Volland gets a free header thanks to an excellent delivery between the two near post players. Again we see in the image above they hold that structure talked about, and in the image below they have a nice shape around the goal again.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

Movements of the deeper three players

The deeper three players are often the target of deliveries, and so their movement to create separation or dismark opponents is the most vital concept behind Monaco’s set-pieces. As I said, Monaco aren’t a team who’s set-pieces you watch and have your mind blown, but they use several basic concepts extremely well and have had massive success from it.

The spacing of the three deeper players determines the movements of these players and where the space opens for a delivery to be put into. This one example showcases their movements and use of crossing routes to dismark opponents and create separation. We see the usual 2-3-2 structure, with two players spaced more towards the near post side and one player isolated wider towards the far post. This spacing is deliberate and creates a lane to run through. The aim now is to create a free player who can run through this lane and head the ball relatively unchallenged.

The subtle positioning of the two deeper players close together is what makes the play here, as you can see the most central of the three is slightly deeper than his teammate next to him.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

The deeper more central player can make a movement towards the near post, while the target player then makes an opposite movement towards the centre. The principle of having the furthest player run into space, while the closest player to the space blocks creates a few advantages. One is that if the target player starts further away and moves towards the space, a teammate is already in that direction, and therefore you move your marker into traffic. You’ll notice that for the scissor movement here (crossing route) that the middle player now moves higher and in the opposite direction. By this player moving higher, they ensure they block the target players defender, but they do not block the target player, and so this again creates a chance for separation. The second advantage is that players further from space can gain a dynamic advantage because they effectively get a run up to attack the space, and so have a greater chance of dismarking.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

They are called crossing routes or scissor movements because players make opposite movements to each other and will often cross lanes momentarily. We see the same concepts in action again, with the middle player again acting as the blocker, while the near post player aims to create separation. Again this relies on the concept of the player furthest from the target space (space far player) acting as the target player. If Monaco wanted to go the near post, you would see the opposite movement or the far back post player involved.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

We see the timing of the movement is good, in that as the ball is just about to be kicked we see the separation is already created. The opposite movements mean the target players runner moves into traffic, and so they get caught in the said traffic and blocked from marking the target player. The other two markers are most commonly concentrated on their original markers, and so often can’t adjust, meaning you get this free player.

Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

The movements of the players is unpredictable, as in theory anyone of the three could make this scissor movement, and so it is very difficult to defend against (especially if you do not prepare properly). Monaco player Aurélien Tchouameni, who acts as one of these three deeper players at times, said this on Monaco’s variability on set-pieces:

We have several tactics to counter the opponent. Otherwise it would be too easy to predict what we want to do. Sometimes we shoot at the near post where Kevin likes to cut inside. We can perform different moves to create confusion among opposing defenders. This allows us to have a larger range of options.
Monaco’s best corner goal came against Marseille, with all of the concepts mentioned so far executed to absolute perfection. We see the deep three players stagger as a 1-2, with target player Aurélien Tchouameni here starting as the deepest of the three again. Not only is he the deepest, but his marker is the furthest player in that area towards the back post. When Tchouameni moves towards the centre then, we see there is traffic already ahead of him. Tchouameni is deciding his own movements and is further away from the group, whereas his marker is deeper and more towards the far post. As a result, his marker has to try and move through this traffic, while Tchouameni can just run round it. 
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
The staggering of the blockers is excellent, as we see they don’t just run forward as quickly as possible, instead halting their run to ensure the block is successful. Tchouameni’s marker is running into the dense traffic, and so gets stuck, leaving the target player free. Ben Yedder has started in the central area pinning a player, but makes a movement towards the back post as always.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
Ben Yedder’s marker follows him, and so Tchouameni gets a free run at a wide open space and gets an easy goal. You can see Tchouameni’s marker on the floor having been crashed into the traffic ahead of him. Running in the direction of traffic is a simple concept but is rarely used to such a good effect as it is here.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
We can see another example here, where the furthest player again moves from far to near, with this run forcing the target player’s marker into traffic and therefore creating separation. They use an outswinger here to access deeper areas, and Monaco often mix between inswinger and outswingers in game.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
It doesn’t always have to be the very furthest player though, but it just can’t be the nearest player to the space. Here the middle player of the three makes the movement that looks to guide his marker into traffic. The movement isn’t quite successful here as you see the traffic is too high, and so it can be avoided by the target player’s marker. However, the very presence of the traffic means the marker cannot stay tight, and so you still create separation.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
This nice example takes us back to scissor movements, which involve players moving against traffic. We see the central player acts as the blocker here, while the far player moves from out to in, meaning momentarily the two running routes cross. This creates traffic but also can just confuse markers, as you are almost forcing them to swap who they are marking (transfer marking) very quickly- something which teams in Ligue 1 seem to be preparing for and getting better at when defending against Monaco. If we focus on the marker (circled in yellow), we see he looks at the player, and so is aware of the movement. But in the split second he has, he has to decide whether to look back at the ball and follow it, or look at the player and follow it, as the scissor run means the player would have to actually turn their back and run towards goal. The Marseille player looks back at the ball and follows it, and so he doesn’t really know where his marker is anymore. This is another advantage of moving from ball near spaces to ball far and a general advantage of being an attacker, as you do not have to track the flight of the ball as you are facing towards the goal.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics
The movement creates separation and confuses the target player’s marker, and so they get a wide open header in the centre of the six yard box which they are not able to convert. Again, the spread of the two initially higher players helps to open up this space.
Set pieces: Analysis of the tactics which make Monaco one of Europe’s deadliest tactical analysis tactics

Conclusion

Monaco can rightfully be called one of Europe’s deadliest set-piece teams this season, as their record is backed up by clear, well-proven concepts which are effective, as shown in this tactical analysis. The key question is now how they develop, as teams recently have defended them more effectively using good transfer marking. This isn’t to say teams have figured them out, as transfer marking doesn’t work if you get blocked off well, but certainly going into next season Monaco are likely to have to add a few strings to their bow in order to maintain such an impressive record. It will certainly be interesting to see how they develop and how teams react in the last few months of the season.