West Ham should prepare to be set piece bullies against Leeds

Jarrod Bowen, West Ham. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Jarrod Bowen, West Ham. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images) /

West Ham have performed well all season to leave themselves with European aspirations. Next up it’s Leeds and the beautiful chaos that is Bielsa-ball. But the Hammers have an ace up their sleeves.

Over the course of the season, both West Ham and Leeds have played some great football. David Moyes has got his system working with great pragmatism and playing to people’s strengths. Bielsa demands so much from all his players, but there are some glaring weaknesses in his squad.

And before I get lambasted by Leeds fans, I don’t think this is particularly his fault. Leeds have a budget and rather than spread it evenly and getting a spectrum of players he has got players in that can play the football he wants. He doesn’t care what the other team will do, and there’s something to be admired about that brand of manager and football style.

But Moyes will know that even if he does trust his players to beat Leeds in a match on the floor, it’s in the air that he will be able to generate a solid number of chances. West Ham would usually be pretty confident of this, but against Leeds, it’s even more prominent.

West Ham are league leaders in indirect set-piece goals, and Leeds are league leaders from conceding from indirect set-pieces

Issa Diop, West Ham.
Issa Diop, West Ham. (Photo by JOHN SIBLEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

In terms of goals created from indirect set pieces, no-one in the league has more than West Ham’s 9. Only Chelsea have created more chances from indirect set pieces (58 to Irons 56) and two of West Ham’s set-piece takers (Aaron Cresswell and Jarrod Bowen) are in the top 5 for goals created from set-pieces. Cresswell actually ranks joint second for chances created from set-pieces.

On the other side of it, Leeds have conceded a league-high 8 goals from set plays (including 2 against West Ham at Elland Road in December) and conceded more chances from set plays than any other side in the league (67). All in all, it’s a winning area for the Hammers to focus on in this clash.

Even with Angelo Ogbonna likely out for the match, Tomas Soucek, Fabian Balbuena, Issa Diop, Craig Dawson and Michail Antonio are all threats in the air. Diop, Ogbonna and Dawson actually all rank in the league’s top 20 for smallest distance to goal per shot, showing they’re not just getting headers, but headers in good positions as well. The Hammers rank 1st in this stat in the league, taking their shots from an average of 14.9m away.

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So don’t despair if the Hammers do look on the back foot, as most teams do against Leeds from time to time, because we can capitalise on our squads attributes when we get those set pieces. Whoever plays out of Pablo Fornals or Said Benhrama alongside Jesse Lingard will be looking to take contact and win the free kicks, because it should be a treasure chest of chances.