Here we have a graph. Sick right? Right. The X axis is the percentage of a team goals that are set pieces, the Y axis is the team goal differential. As you can see, Aston Villa had the smallest percentage of goals from set pieces, and Stoke City has the largest.
But wow dude, as shown by the black trend line, the weaker the team the more they rely on set pieces to score their goals, with the notable exception of Aston Villa. But I wonder if what we’re seeing here is that teams that are able to score goals from open play are better or that what we’re seeing is not weaker teams but poorer teams are relying on set pieces.
But wait, is that true? Or maybe set piece goals are going in at a constant rate, and the better teams are just scoring more goals from open play which leads to a smaller percentage of set piece goals.
Well, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, with the gap between the worst team from set pieces and the best a whopping 16 goals (difference of 0.4 goals a game), saying that set piece scoring proficiency is not a repeatable skill would be being a little too sympathetic to Aston Villa. Also, most team’s are able to replicate their success year to year.
So, Set Pieces: The New Market Inefficiency? It’s tempting to say so. The fact is that looking at set pieces as a % of total goals, smaller clubs certainly seem to rely more heavily on set pieces then richer teams do, and seemingly for good reason. If team’s like Blackburn, Norwich and Stoke can be leaders the league it’s clear that it can be done on a low payroll. And goals = good!