15 Greatest Set Pieces of the Premier League Season
Is there anything more beautiful in soccer than watching a well-worked set piece lead to a goal?
I’m not just talking about free kicks, though. A corner or impeccably placed penalty can provoke yelps of appreciation too. So can a thro- actually, no a throw in can’t. Sorry Stoke fans.
The current Premier League season has featured a dazzling array of finely struck and intrinsically planned set pieces that have ended up with the ball firmly placed in the back of the net.
Here is a look at the 15 greatest set pieces of this Premier League season.
15. Robin Van Persie vs. Manchester City
It might not have been pretty, but Robin Van Persie’s stoppage time free kick on his Manchester derby debut allowed Manchester United to gain an advantage over their cross-city rivals that they have never come close to relinquishing.
Samri Nasri’s feeble attempt to block Van Persie’s effort, he actually hides behind Eden Dzeko in the wall, is deemed by many to have been the pivotal moment in the title race.
14. Aleksandar Kolarov vs. Sunderland
The Serbian full-back has turned into one of the deadliest free-kick takers in the Premier League thanks to his hammer of a left foot.
Having fallen slightly out of favour with Roberto Mancini, and having watched Gael Clichy turn the left-back spot into his own, Kolarov hasn’t had as many opportunities to show off his free-kick specialities.
But all it took was one swing of his left foot against Sunderland in October, from an impossible angle, to remind the Citizens of what he is capable of.
13. Rickie Lambert vs. Chelsea
Rickie Lambert’s debut season in the Premier League has seen him notch 14 goals in an impressive campaign.
Lambert has shaken off any prior association with Norwich City’s Grant Holt to prove he is his own impressive breed of striker.
12. Yohan Cabaye vs. Stoke City
Newcastle United wouldn’t currently be embroiled in a relegation scrap if Yohan Cabaye had been fit all season.
The classy and elegant French midfield almost propelled the Toon Army into the Champions League last season, but without him, Newcastle have plummeted down the table.
This free kick against Stoke City in March shows just how important he is. Plus, it goes in off the bar, which is always special.
11. Charles N’Zogbia vs. West Ham United
Aston Villa fans haven’t seen the best of Charles N’Zogbia since his arrival from Wigan at the start of last season.
But they’ll be hoping that this beautiful curling strike against West Ham is just the start.
N’Zogbia’s free kick was so sensational that even Jussi Jääskeläinen in the Hammers’ goal fell down to his knees in appreciation over its wonder.
10. Shaun Maloney vs. Queens Park Rangers
Shaun Maloney has silently turned himself into a Premier League stalwart since he arrived at Wigan in 2011.
The diminutive Scot’s 94th minute free-kick equaliser, seconds from the end against QPR at Loftus Road last week, confirmed his importance to the Latics, and if they do stay up, he’ll be the key reason for their success.
9. Gareth Bale vs. Liverpool
The Welsh wizard is, at the moment, regarded as the best player in the Premier League.
Alongside the elevation of various other aspects of his game, his deadliness from free kicks has drastically improved to loft him to this position.
Bale’s swerving and dipping effort against Liverpool earlier this season is clear evidence of this, and it helped to give Spurs a vital victory in their Top Four pursuit.
8. Robert Snodgrass vs. West Bromwich Albion
Robert Snodgrass has firmly established himself as a Premier League player just over a year after Norwich City took a gamble on the Scot by bringing him to East Anglia from Leeds.
Snodgrass’ deadly left foot is the reason for his success, and he has steadily notched an impressive number of goals from free-kick positions during his tenure as a Canary.
His strong and precise effort against West Bromwich Albion in December wasn’t enough to see Norwich claim all three points, though. However, it certainly was a peach.
7. Yohan Cabaye vs. Reading
Cabaye’s second appearance on this list is very similar to his aforementioned strike against Stoke City.
But I’ve decided to place it higher because there is a silent beauty about the way it hangs in the air before it careens into the top corner of the net.
6. Gareth Bale vs. Newcastle United
The Welshman’s dipping and pacey set piece drive was the highlight of a virtuoso display against Newcastle and set Tottenham on their way to a deserved victory.
Yes, the wall could have done better, but Bale takes advantage of the gap presented to him and places it so far to his right that the keeper never had a chance of saving it.
5. Juan Mata vs. Manchester United
Juan Mata has been Chelsea’s best player this season, and his swerving free kick against Manchester United set the Blues up to claim at least a point at Stamford Bridge in October.
That was until Mark Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players to hand the initiative back to United.
The Spaniard generated a sensational amount of pace to the ball and curled it precisely around the wall and into the corner, leaving his national teammate, David De Gea, with no chance.
4. David Luiz vs. Aston Villa
David Luiz isn’t your normal kind of defender. He proved this against Aston Villa during Chelsea’s 8-0 thrashing of Paul Lambert’s men with a mesmerising set piece goal.
Luis’s stunning free kick, with the side of his foot no less, was the second goal of the evening, but clearly the most memorable, and left Brad Guzan with no chance.
3. Luis Suarez vs. Manchester City
Love him or hate him, Luis Suarez has been one of the standout players of this season’s Premier League.
Without him, Liverpool would be languishing a lot further down the table.
The first signs that he truly meant business this campaign came at home to the Champions, Manchester City, when his low and curling free kick nestled into the bottom corner, just beyond the grasp of Joe Hart’s glove.
An incredible effort.
2. Jonathan Walters vs. West Ham United
Finally a goal from a corner rather than a free kick, and it’s no less than Stoke City who provide it too.
Jonathan Walters' cleverly worked goal at Upton Park saw the Irishman run from the back post to the penalty spot in accordance with instructions from the corner taker Glenn Whealen as well as Peter Crouch, Charlie Adam, and Robert Huth, whose runs created the space for the strike to come in.
It was done with split-second accuracy too.
The smart sods.
1. Leighton Baines vs. Newcastle United
One of the goals of the season, Leighton Baines didn’t really have the right to take a shot from around 40 yards out against Newcastle in January.
But let’s thank the heavens he did, as it produced an effort of such swerve and speed that Tim Krul ended up flapping at thin air rather than getting anywhere near the effort.