Huesca have recently been relegated from La Liga after finishing 20th. Considering this was their first season in the first division, their best case scenario would’ve been avoiding relegation. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to do that but quite clearly they did their best. They not only played attacking football but also went for the win rather than sitting back hoping for a draw.
Clearly, they weren’t able to do this but one of the most impressive things about their season was the emphasis on set-pieces. In this tactical analysis, we shall do a comprehensive tactical overview of their set-piece techniques.
Huesca have scored a total of 40 goals. Out of that, 13 have come from set pieces, corners and direct freekicks, five have been penalties and the remaining 22 from open play which adds to 55% in the latter aspect. Additionally to that, around 20% of their positional attacks lead to a shot. 32% and 26% of corners and freekicks respectively lead to a shot. These statistics show their proficiency in set pieces.
It’s quite clear Huesca’s manager Francisco has done an excellent job in preparing his team in the aspect of set pieces. But Huesca haven’t only made use of set pieces to attack but they have also made sure they are well-versed in defending against them. They’ve conceded a stunning zero goals from corners and set pieces. Two goals have been from freekicks and nine from penalties with a huge 51 from open play. It’s quite clear that Huesca weren’t up to the level required in La Liga but this one aspect of their play has been incredibly impressive.
Huesca have a general formula for long-range set-pieces. They will have deployed at least four players on the edge of the box. Now, in the example below we see six players in pairs of two and four. Before we take a look at the following example, we have to consider that Huesca implement the very common practice of knocking the ball into the path of teammates during set pieces.
Here, that’s what they were expected to do. Instead, the ball wasn’t headed by the three in the middle. The two to the near side would usually stay back but they pushed forward and the ball was met by a direct header.
Another thing we observe is that during long-range set pieces, when this tactic is used, Huesa will not deploy players too close to each other. The distinct pairs will make the opposition stretch their players in order to contain them. This avoids crowding and the Spaniards have taken advantage of this in their corner kicks. They have placed a player on the edge of the box which would allow for the ball to be delivered directly to him. That player would then take a shot and score or his teammates would strike any loose balls.
Crowding and numerical superiority
Another tactic Huesca use is crowding one side. Here, we see the far side is much more crowded than the near side where there are only two players. Two players stand over the ball and one’s fake run-up is followed by him drifting towards the edge of the box. From here, the ball can be knocked back towards him. In the example shown, we see this where the number six on the edge of the box along with the number 17. If the ball is knocked back to one of the players on the edge of the box, the opposition lose their shape due to the unpredictable movement in and around the box.
This leads to Huesca having possession on the edge of the box from where they have many passing options. But having the ball on the edge of the box along with the numbers is a great advantage. This is one of the reasons why Huesca’s set pieces end with a shot on goal a lot of times.
Corners and short freekicks
For short free kicks, Huesca look to make the most of blind spots. In the example shown, we have Huesca being numerically dominated in the box. However, we can observe the number of players on the edge of the box ready to make runs late into the box, again emphasizing their strength when making use of balls knocked back by the players in the box. Here, two players are at the far post marked by two players. Considering the numerical inferiority in the box, playing a ball to them would eliminate that as the players on the edge of the box would make late runs.
This was what was anticipated. Instead, one player would make a run away from goal drawing a marker towards him and the second player would take advantage of this. The Huesca player would go directly for goal and the headed shot sailed into the net. This made a clear case for Huesca’s unpredictability and their ability to be flexible enough regarding their set pieces to make the most of the current situation.
From this tactical analysis, we can see that Huesca had clearly put a lot of thought into set-pieces. This was a good idea considering their inferiority to most teams in open play. These set pieces were converted quite well, too. But had the Spanish team gotten better at open play against the sides they weren’t as inferior to as they were to others, this season could have been a different story for them and they might have avoided relegation.
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