Rafa Benitez has completely transformed one aspect of Newcastle United.
With only two days until pre-season training begins and no new faces as yet, positive news has come from an unlikely source.
The official Premier League website has produced a really interesting study showing what Rafa Benitez has brought to NUFC when it comes to set-pieces.
Newcastle United scored more goals from set-pieces than any other Championship club last season AND conceded less than any other second tier club at the other end from free-kicks and corners.
These statistics testament to the work put in by Rafa Benitez and his coaches, Rafa’s expertise leading to clear improvement on the pitch.
Newcastle scored an impressive 29% of their goals from set-pieces, 25 of the 85 they scored in the Championship.
Under Alan Pardew the attacking and defending at set-pieces became a joke at NUFC and last season the 25 goals scored was more than three times as many as Pardew’s best ever total of eight in one Newcastle United season.
When looking at where Newcastle can/will get goals from in the Premier League, it gives real hope with these stats, as the basics of defending and attacking set-pieces differs little at any level. Yes you will have better creative players and defenders up against you but that shouldn’t stop Newcastle getting a decent number of goals from this route, as well as defending set-pieces far better than under Pardew and McClaren.
Another impressive factor last season was that the set-piece goals came from any number of players
Corners 12 goals and 9 different goalscorers
Free-kicks 9 goals and 8 goalscorers
Direct shots 4 goals and 4 goalscorers
The Premier League Official website:
When they put bodies into the box there is never purely one obvious threat.
While Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey play a prominent role in terms of consistent high-quality deliveries, a wide range of players chip in with goals and assists.
Towering central defenders Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark, plus forward Yoan Gouffran, chipped in with three goals apiece from corners and wide free-kicks. But overall 12 individuals got their names on the scoresheet from such situations.
This diversity was also echoed in their direct free-kicks.
Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu both scored with excellent strikes from outside the box, along with the aforementioned Ritchie and Shelvey.
When goalkeepers line up their walls next season, they will not be certain of who the chief threat will be. The Magpies have plenty of options up their sleeve.
Devil in the detail
Newcastle’s useful blend of height and technical ability has of course played its part in their set-piece revolution, but credit must also go to the coaching staff for their diligence.
Having identified the importance of dead balls, Benitez put coaches Mikel Antia and Antonio Gomez Perez in charge of that area in 2016/17.
Together they worked tirelessly on and off the training ground to plot routines and devise ways of exposing opposition weaknesses.
This renowned attention to detail from the Spaniard and his backroom staff has also aided Newcastle’s cause at the other end of the pitch.
Conceding only 10 goals from set-pieces in 46 league matches, they were the third most successful Championship team in terms of defending dead balls.
Whether in attack or defence Benitez’s men will be extremely well drilled during the upcoming campaign.