George Maluleka joined Mamelodi Sundowns this week having signed a pre-contract with the ‘Brazilians’ earlier in the year.
We’ll have to wait and see whether the move will have a significant impact on the title race. Although he didn’t score any goals this season, he was still an influential part of the Chiefs machine.
The 31-year old midfielder played 1410 minutes for Chiefs this season, the 5th most for all outfield players. In addition, he racked up four assists as well, and only Manyama (11) assisted more. What stands out is that all four of his assists came from corners (two for Castro & two for Mathoho). Playing for Chiefs, that is hardly surprising, as they have been getting a lot of goals from set-piece situations this season.
The importance of set-pieces
According to Opta, a set piece goal is one where “the ball starts from a dead ball situation such as a corner, a free kick, a penalty or a Throw-in and results in a shot before the phase of play has broken down into open play.”
Football clubs are increasingly being made aware of the importance of set-pieces. In 2018, Liverpool hired a throw-in coach, who has helped improve their throw-in retention rate and their throw-in distances, among other things. Set-piece courses are available to professional clubs from analytics companies, who have identified their importance and attend these courses at a considerable cost. The recently returned English League has also exposed corners as Chelsea’s weak point. Fans may antagonise their rivals for relying on set-pieces, but the fact remains set-pieces are an increasingly important part of the game.
Back home, Chiefs seem to have found a way to weaponize set-pieces against their opponents. Almost half of Kaizer Chiefs’ league goals this season have come from set-piece situations (19/40), more than any other team. Not only are they effective going forward, but they also defend set-pieces quite well.
4 – Chiefs have conceded 4 goals from set-piece situations in the league this season (one penalty, one free-kick, one corner and one direct free-kick). Of all PSL teams, only Maritzburg United (3) have conceded less goals from set-pieces.
Kaizer Chiefs and set-pieces
40 – Chiefs’s 40 goals this season have come from headers (16), rightfoot (16), left foot (5) and other (3, e.g own-goals). 12 of the headers have been from set-pieces.
Chiefs have scored more goals from set-piece situations alone than Chippa United (15), Baroka (15) and AmaZulu (14) have managed to score in total. They haven’t gone two successive matches without a set-piece goal once all season.
Of the 14 different clubs they’ve faced, only three have avoided conceding a set-piece goal to Chiefs. Polokwane City, who kept a clean sheet in their 1-0 victory, Baroka & Sundowns*.
*Even the first goal against Sundowns could be classified a set-piece goal as it came after a poor clearance following a Chiefs throw-in.
Not only that, in the three month period from the start of November to the end of January, Chiefs played 10 league games, and scored a goal from a set-piece in all but two of those games (v Maritzburg & v Golden Arrows).
The table below shows where other teams rank for set-piece goals.
It doesn’t make one team better than the next in any way as set-pieces may not be a major part of their tactical strategy. We followed Opta’s definition, but had to make judgement calls on one or two goals.
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By Opta Jabu