May 12, 2013

Horse 1480 - The Importance Of Corners - 2013 FA Cup Final

Manchester City 0 - Wigan Athletic 1
Ben Watson 91'

Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic won a memorable FA Cup Final over a Roberto Mancini coached Manchester City side which sits 18 places above them in the league. Wigan who currently sit in the relegation zone avoided a double dose of misery which could have seen them both lose the FA Cup Final and be relegated within a few weeks; the latter still could happen.

Wigan playing with a 4-3-3 formation were able to maintain their shape at the back and contain Manchester City who by playing 4-4-2 had an extra man in midfield for most of the match; consequently the majority of the match was played from about 35 yards away from Wigan's goal line.
Whilst Man City looked composed on the ball, Wigan tended to look frantic and more purposeful; although this led to more desperate football, it was that sense of purpose which eventually led to them winning a corner and Ben Watson's now famous 91st minute header which gave Wigan the Cup.

During the match I tweeted the following:
15' - #FACup Protip: Short corners are almost always rubbish. Don't do it, it's pointless, stay safe.
50' - #FACup Didn't you learn earlier? Short corners are rubbish. The second failure to make an impact, merely proves this.
60' - #FACup Third short corner of the match also fails to penetrate the 18 yard box. What is the point, people?!

I think I've made my point here. Personally I think that tactically, playing a short corner is stupid because it's a waste of a dead ball opportunity. Partly the reason for this comes from the operation of the laws themselves.

Law 11 - offside
No offence
There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
- a goal kick
- a throw-in
- a corner kick

Basically when the play is restarted after the ball having left the field of play, that next touch by a player is free and may be played with absolute impunity  From a corner, a player can stand right on the goal line, receive the ball and still not be offside. I see that as utterly crucial in a game which can swing on a single goal.

I like the term "One Percenter" derived from Australian Rules Football. Something which is small but if added together can make a significant difference. Also, after watching years of motor racing, a difference of just 1% can be critical.
When applied to football, the coach Bill Shankly once said that "any player not gaining an advantage, should immediately seek to do so". With a corner kick, the rules specifically allow for an advantage to be gained; so in principle, any play where this is not done is in my opinion a waste.
Short Corners do have their uses, such as if a side is ahead and very late into the match, when a short corner might be as useful as driving the ball towards the corners to soak up time but other than that, I fail too see why you'd deliberately choose to waste a goal scoring opportunity.

As it was,  Ben Watson was left almost entirely unmarked off a corner. Even if he had been marked, a corner where a lot of players are crowded in the 6 yard box is still worth a try because like any lottery, you can't expect to win anything unless you buy a ticket. A floated corner is the equivalent of having tickets on yourself. If you don't back yourself, you can certainly bet that the opposition will not.

To reiterate:
- Short corners are rubbish.
- Long corners might result in a goal.
- One goal can win a Cup Final.

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