Editor's note: Great stuff, fronted.
It is no secret that this team has had issues dealing with set pieces this season. Between a general lack of preparedness, lazy marking, and a goalkeeper with questionable mobility, Tottenham Hotspur have allowed an alarmingly high number of goals via corner kicks, free kicks, and Stoke City throw-ins.
For the most part, the defense has done a solid job that, given the incendiary goal scoring form from the first half to the season, seemed fit to comfortably qualify for the Champions League and challenge for the Premier League title. Unfortunately, the dip in goalscoring form, the wear and tear of the grueling season, and the lack of focus on the defending (and executing) set pieces have led us to the point where Spurs now sit 7 points off third with two games in hand on Arsenal and 3 points off fourth with a game (and a comfortable goal differential) in hand on Newcastle.
By my rough calculation, I have found nine goals in the Premier League that Spurs have given up either directly off a set piece or in the pinballing around of the ball immediately after (I didn't count the first Stoke goal in the fall fixture). I did not include the Rubin Kazan free kick goal in the Europa League game or the two Chelsea goals in the FA Cup Semi (yes, I know Mata's "goal" didn't cross the line, but it illustrated the same issues that were present on the goals examined). Some of the goals earlier in the season (@Blackburn, vs. QPR, @Fulham) did not affect the outcome, but did act as a bad omen for later in the season. The rest of the goals will be looked at after the jump.STOKE CITY 2-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
The Goal: Ryan Shotton's 43rd minute throw is flicked on by Jonathan Walters in the middle of the box to a cutting Matthew Etherington, who slipped by Scott Parker and drove the ball on a bounce over Brad Friedel and Younes Kaboul. The goal put Stoke ahead 2-0. Kyle Walker, Emmanuel Adebayor, and William Gallas are all caught out of position and ball watching as Stoke move around them as if they're purple traffic cones.
The Result: We will remember this game more for being Foy'd than the goals themselves in my opinion as match referee Chris Foy and his crew made three noticeable dubious calls on an uncalled goal line handball, Kaboul being taken down in the box without call, and Adebayor being ruled offside when replays showed him a good yard onside. This game did lead to one of the greatest Harry Redknapp quotes of the season, however:
"He'll look at it tonight, on TV, when his wife is making him a bacon sandwich and think, 'Oh fuck me, what have I done there?'"
Unfortunately, hilarious quotes about bacon only lead to a few chuckles, not goals. Stoke parked the bus to earn a 2-1 victory, and Kaboul was red carded for a clumsy challenge late on.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: One. The game should have ended 1-1 (or 4-1 to Spurs in a just universe).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-1 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
The Goal: After Kyle Walker ushered out what, in his opinion, should have been a goal kick. Matt Jarvis' ensuing corner was headed on goal by Roger Johnson. Friedel did well to save it, but Steven Fletcher had little to do to put the ball into the back of the net to give Wolves a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. The goal came against the run of play, and several Spurs are standing around in the box while Fletcher appears in the 6-yard box with no defender for an arms reach around him.
The Result: Luka Modric scores in the second half to draw Spurs level, but Wayne Hennessey plays great to keep the score that way. This was the first game after the stories about Spurs being a title contender surfaced, and the pressure seemed to weigh on them.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: Two. This game was similar to many games recently for Spurs in which they dominated the run of play but had issues finishing and gave up a soft goal.
MANCHESTER CITY 3-2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
The Goal: Shortly after Samir Nasri scored to give City the lead, his corner kick swung into the box and hit a Joleon Lescott scything run. Lescott fell upon landing inside the 6-yard box and trundled the ball over the line under his thigh. The corner itself was softly conceded, and Parker does not do well to mark out Lescott on his run. Friedel also does poorly to intervene on the corner.
The Result: Shortly after this corner, Spurs drew level on a Jermain Defoe strike and a Gareth Bale curler. Mario Balotelli, who should have been sent off for a stamp on Parker's head earlier, was brought down by Ledley King in the box shortly after Defoe could not get on the end of a Bale cross. His 94th minute penalty won the game for City and quelled any Spurs title talk.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: One. A 2-2 draw would have been the fairest result. This could have been a Spurs victory given the fact that Balotelli should not have been on the pitch when he got tackled, but I feel like a draw was the most likely result.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-3 MANCHESTER UNITED
The Goal: Near the end of the first half, Friedel tapped a ball in the air over the bar instead of catching it, conceding a corner. Ashley Young's corner was nodded home by Wayne Rooney after he moved quickly to get off Walker and into acres of space.
The Result: Ashley Young had a tremendous game, scoring two great goals, and even though Spurs controlled much of the earlier play, United finished when it counted.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: None. This goal just continued to illustrate Spurs' lack of preparedness for set pieces.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-1 STOKE CITY
The Goal: Jermaine Pennant took a free kick 40 yards from goal that Robert Huth flicked into Cameron Jerome who quickly was in behind the defense and poked home. Even though the ball was flicked almost 20 yards from goal, the defense still gave up a cutting run and seemed oblivious to the other non-Spurs player on the field.
The Result: A late Rafael Van der Vaart goal rescued a point for Spurs, preventing three dropped points on a day when Chelsea dropped points late to Manchester City. While the draw was not ideal, it was not the end of the world, and it still kept Spurs within shouting distance of Arsenal.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: Two. This game was similar to the Wolves game in that a team with the lion's share of possession and chances had an inability to find the back of the net.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
The Goal: After a questionable call of a Sandro handball, Adel Tarrabt stepped up and curled a free kick over the wall and by Friedel. Unlike the rest of these goals, this was a direct strike, but the main deficiency on this goal was Friedel's poor positioning and lack of awareness to the kick. He doesn't get set and dives slowly to try to stop the kick.
The Result: Spurs could not unlock a 10-man QPR in the end and, once again, failed to take advantage of a favor done for them in the standings by the other Premier League sides.
Points dropped due to set piece deficiencies: One. Spurs would have done well to score, but a draw would have been a good escape from Loftus Road.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
With four games left, Spurs still have a great chance at fourth and an outside chance at third thanks to dropped points by both Arsenal and Newcastle earlier today. However, they need to continue to play the full 90 minutes and convert the scoring chances given to them as well as working hard on defense and stopping being lazy on set pieces, both for and against them. Poor positioning, lazy attempts at marking, and bad communication are the biggest trends evident on these set pieces that have just given goals away. Seven points dropped based solely on the inability to defend the opposing team on set pieces is a problem that is keeping them out of third, but winning the last four games will put them into the Champions League and make this season a success.