Why Can’t Celtic Capitalise On, Or Defend, Dead Ball Situations?

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Yesterday, we saw two familiar things happen at Celtic Park, and it cost us two points and the chance to extend our lead over the club from Ibrox. We failed to make the best of a plethora of set-piece opportunities and, as has become depressingly familiar, we conceded from an easily defensible one. When it comes to this stuff, across three different managers in the last eight years, we are hopeless. Dead ball situations seem to frazzle our brains.

In an effort to add something new to the game, Football Manager this year, in its annual effort to justify itself as more than just a data upgrade, added a brand new set-piece system, including the introduction of set-piece coaches. It has changed the way I play the game … sort of anyway. I do score more goals from corners than ever before.

I don’t know if set-piece coaches actually exist, or if this is some interesting new affectation the game has run with, but I know that if they do, we don’t have one and that we badly need to get one in. Because this long since became ridiculous, this long since revealed itself a problem and it is one that, glaring though it is, we have yet to fix.

In this, we might be victims of our own success. We regularly blaze past opponents without difficulty, and when you are doing that and scoring so many goals from open play you don’t need to focus as much attention as you might on those dead ball situations. And when your opponents are content to play for a point with less than 20% of the ball it seems to matter even less.

But that’s the sort of complacency which leads to moments like that one yesterday, when Motherwell, with virtually their only meaningful chance, converted from a corner. For all the corners we had and which we did nothing with, they capitalised on theirs, as many of us feared they would when they got it so quickly after our goal.

If dead ball situations – including penalties; don’t even get me started on that – can get you a dozen goals over the course of a season, that’s surely worth working on? If it can prevent you conceding even half of that, in a close title race, that could be what gets you over the line. So really, whether or not people at Celtic think we “need” this … do you not want that insurance policy? Is it not something you should have in the back pocket, just in case?

The thing, when we get to Europe this stuff is punished even more readily than in Scotland. How many dead-ball goals have we lost on our continental travels? You would think for those games we would want every advantage we could get … but I see no evidence at all that we work on this stuff with any regularity, or to any net effect.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Celtic stats guys will crunch some numbers for us and show me the error of my ways. But a lot of people I’ve spoken to have highlighted this same issue, and so I’m not the only one who thinks so. As a percentage of chances we get, our results seem piss-poor to say the least. Of the number of chances our opponents get, I would bet the percentage that end in a goal is much, much higher. With the number of chances we create, and thus corners and free kicks around the box, we should be scoring these in a recognisable pattern.

We aren’t. And we continue to concede them. Regularly.

So there’s a clear need for something in this area. Soon.

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  • Jim says:

    We should practice them more, but we also need a commanding centre half who wins almost everything in the air that comes into our box. For all his excellence, CCV does not win a lot of balls in our penalty box. He is not a Van Dijk or a Boyata or even a Julien. So far Scales, while an improvement on Starfelt, doesn’t look like he can massively improve things in that area. Perhaps Nawvroski will.

  • Frank says:

    Ave complained about this repeatedly. Not enough height at the back. Thats why CCV is worth £6mill and not even more. Hes just not tall enough. That goal was a disgrace. The corner should never have been conceded. Callum goes with his left foot leads to the corner when if he takes it with his right its out for a shy. Greg Taylor having a close up check on the state of the grass whilst the guy has a free header. We have lacked a real physical presence for ages and that why we carry no threat with our corners and cant defend at the other end. Its doing my head in. its been obvious for years now. Mid to defence not enough physicality and height

  • Darragh ó Conchobhair says:

    I remember when Chris Sutton headed the ball.

  • Mottman67 says:

    Austin McPhee is the Aston Villa and Scotland set piece coach.
    I think you are right we badly need to get our act together at both attacking and defending set-pieces and corners. Teams like Motherwell are happy to defend and wait for the chance to get corners or free kicks as they know it is their best chance to score. Similarly with Sevco, who use Tavernier and Barasic to great effect against us.

  • Jack says:

    We are criminal when it comes to set pieces, corners, long throws, penalties etc. We hardly ever use them to our advantage and our opponents only need a sniff of one of these and we more often than not concede a goal. Motherwell just brought on some big guys, won a quick corner and boom, it’s a goal. We have too many little guys and a goalie who should be doing better at corners. We are too pre occupied with practicing and playing silky football. This is not enough, we need to improve our return from set pieces. I can’t remember us ever being this bad.

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