Set Piece

In soccer, a set piece, also known as set play, refers to a dead ball situation when the ball is returned to open play. A set piece can occur after a stoppage. The usual location of a set piece is set in the forward area of the pitch since the majority of fouls occur here.

In short, the term usually refers to free kicks and corners, but some would argue that even penalties and throw-ins are set pieces.

What types of set pieces are there in soccer?

As briefly mentioned, there are several different types of set pieces. The list contains the following types of set pieces:

  • Corner kicks – a corner kick occurs after a defending player makes the final contact with the ball before it leaves the pitch through the byline. The attacking team now has the option to return the ball to open play. The player taking the set piece can either pass the ball to the closest teammate or cross it into the penalty area. Corner kicks are an effective method of scoring goals for teams who have tall players that can dominate in aerial duels.
  • Free kicks – free kicks, as mentioned, usually occur in the final third area of the pitch. The final third refers to the area closest to the opposition’s goal. The defending team usually makes a huge number of fouls which leads to the attacking team gaining a set piece. Just like with corner kicks, players can have several options, with a direct free kick being one of the most popular ones – especially if the ball is in the vicinity of the goal.
  • Penalty kick – a penalty kick occurs when an attacking player gets fouled inside the penalty area or when there is a handball situation inside the box. The penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot.
  • Throw-ins – a throw-in is another type of set piece that can also be used as a goal-scoring strategy. The ball is returned to open play from the touch-line. Players can use this set piece to their advantage by throwing the ball deep into the penalty area and potentially scoring a header. Throw-ins are usually taken by wide players.
  • Indirect free-kick – since indirect free kicks occur inside the penalty area, they can also be used as a viable strategy in which players can score a goal from several set piece tactics.

How vital are set pieces?

Since some teams and players specialize in set pieces, it’s noticeable how vital they are to the game. Some more traditional English clubs like Burnley during the second half of the 2010s or Stoke City during the early 2010s tend to direct their focus to tall players who score headers from either free kicks or corners.

These teams are usually good at defending set pieces, and they often try their best to keep a clean sheet rather than scoring.

Who are some of the best set piece takers in the world?

  • James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
  • Dani Parejo – Villareal
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
  • Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United
  • Lionel Messi – Paris Saint-Germain
  • Toni Kroos – Real Madrid
  • Hakan Calhanoglu – Inter Milan
  • Kevin de Bruyne – Manchester City
  • David Alaba – Real Madrid
  • Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich