Nicolas Jover: Arsenal’s set-piece ‘genius’ is transforming their threat from dead-ball situations

When referee Andre Marriner lastly blew his whistle and signalled in the direction of the centre spot, confirming Calum Chambers’ close-range effort in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup win over Leeds final month had crossed the road, the defender made a beeline for the dugout.

He was mobbed by team-mates when he acquired there. Substitutes Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsdale had been first to achieve him. Mikel Arteta joined the celebrations too. But the person Chambers was in search of was Arsenal’s set-piece coach Nicolas Jover.

Moments earlier on the Emirates Stadium, when Chambers was getting ready to switch Ben White, Jover had advised him he was going to attain along with his first contact. “That’s why I went running over to him,” mentioned a grinning Chambers afterwards. “It was a nice moment.”

His aim, nodded over the road following an Emile Smith Rowe nook simply 23 seconds after his introduction, was considered one of seven Arsenal have scored from set-pieces to this point this season.

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Their complete of six within the Premier League is the joint-highest within the division together with Saturday’s opponents Liverpool. They have already equalled their complete for the entire of final season, when solely Fulham and Sheffield United scored fewer objectives from set-pieces.

An space of weak point has grow to be considered one of power, with 46 per cent of Arsenal’s Premier League objectives coming from set-pieces this season in comparison with simply 11 per cent final time period, and it owes rather a lot to a summer time signing whose arrival went largely unnoticed.

Jover is an unfamiliar title to many, however he was recognized to Arteta, having spent the earlier two seasons working beneath Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. He joined Arsenal in July to switch outgoing set-piece coach Andreas Georgson, who had accepted a proposal to return to his former membership Malmo after a single season in north London.

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Arteta described Jover as “someone whose expertise can be incredibly useful and valuable for us” quickly after his appointment. “It’s a crucial part of the game nowadays,” he added. “It’s something you have to dominate and master and we are in that process.”

The Arsenal supervisor had seen first-hand how Jover improved Manchester City from dead-ball situations each offensively and defensively throughout his time as Guardiola’s assistant.

In Jover’s first season on the Etihad Stadium, they scored extra set-piece objectives than every other Premier League aspect and conceded the second-fewest. In his second, the numbers had been equally spectacular as he helped them reclaim the Premier League title.

At Arsenal, in the meantime, Georgson’s impression had been blended.

The Swede helped them defensively – in reality no Premier League aspect conceded fewer set-piece objectives than the Gunners final season – however he left appreciable room for enchancment offensively.

His alternative has introduced a contemporary perspective and he has a wealth of expertise behind him too.

Jover, 40, began out as an analyst at Montpellier, the place he helped the French outfit declare their first Ligue 1 title in 2011/12, and went on to have spells as a set-piece specialist with the Croatian nationwide crew and Brentford earlier than his transfer to Manchester City.

At Brentford, he got here to know Mads Buttgereit, one other set-piece coach who was working for their Danish sister membership Midtjylland on the time. Matthew Benham, the membership’s proprietor, and Rasmus Ankersen, their co-director of soccer, had been anticipating the pair to bounce concepts off one another. They began what Buttgereit calls a “study group” over Skype. Before lengthy, there have been in-person visits too.

Thomas Partey headed residence from Emile Smith Rowe's nook in opposition to Aston Villa

“We would watch each other’s normal day routines but after that, in the evenings, we just sat and talked set-pieces,” Buttgereit, who now works with the German nationwide crew, tells Sky Sports.

Their conversations made a long-lasting impression on Buttgereit.

“I always had a passion for set-pieces but at that point I was still a normal coach, in a normal coaching role,” he provides. “I think, after meeting him, I began to see myself more as a set-piece specialist.

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“Nicolas is a genius in the best way he thinks and the best way he creates the plans. Sitting with him and discussing completely different set-plays, you’re feeling every little thing has a precise thought behind it. There aren’t any coincidences at any level in any routine.

“Whenever we mentioned set-pieces, it was by no means easy. We might talk about a selected nook routine for over an hour, not an issue. We would undergo each side and undergo what the opponent would then do. It was very, very detailed.

“There are a few set-piece coaches who I know personally but, in my mind, I think Nicolas is the best. He is fantastic.”

Jover’s consideration to element and ingenuity have been obvious in most of the objectives Arsenal have scored this season. “I see his fingerprints on their set-pieces, for sure,” says Buttgereit.

There are disguised runs, decoy actions and all the time loads of gamers in place to transform rebounds and unfastened balls – simply as Chambers was within the 2-0 win over Leeds.

Arsenal have 4 gamers stationed inside Leeds' six-yard field when Pepe's back-post header is nodded over the road by Chambers

When Thomas Partey headed residence Smith Rowe’s nook in Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Aston Villa a couple of days earlier than that, he was considered one of two gamers making near-post runs together with White to be able to maximise the possibility of a flick-on.

Takehiro Tomiyasu and Gabriel Magalhaes, in the meantime, occupied two defenders close to the penalty spot, with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stationed contained in the six-yard field.

Against Aston Villa, White and Partey make near-post runs whereas Gabriel and Tomiyasu occupy central positions and Lacazette and Aubameyang await rebounds within the six-yard field

The thought is that Arsenal are set as much as threaten from all angles and there is unpredictability by way of their supply too.

There have been inswingers and outswingers at completely different instances. Partey and Gabriel have discovered the online from near-post headers however deeper deliveries have additionally brought about opponents issues.

Indeed, in the previous couple of weeks, solely excellent saves from Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel and Watford’s Ben Foster have stopped Aubameyang and Gabriel from scoring on the again publish.

The underlying information highlights the size of the development. Arsenal’s anticipated aim fee from set-pieces has leapt from 0.19 per recreation to 0.42 per recreation this season. Their anticipated aim fee from corners is up from 0.11 per recreation to 0.29. It’s additionally notable that they’re finishing a far increased share of these corners.

A set-piece coach sometimes works on approach in addition to on the tactical aspect – “the two things are tied together,” says Buttgereit – and Jover has helped develop a brand new set-piece taker in Smith Rowe, who did not take a single nook final season, however has taken eight in Arsenal’s final three Premier League video games.

It helps, in fact, that there are actually greater targets to goal for. Summer signings White, Tomiyasu and Nuno Tavares all stand at over 6ft. Partey, Gabriel and Aubameyang are equally tall.

What’s most essential for any set-piece coach, although, is that the gamers purchase into their strategies. That definitely appears to be the case at Arsenal. Jover has already constructed robust relationships. Chambers’ celebration in opposition to Leeds confirmed his reputation.

“You can have the perfect plan, but after that, you need to make the players buy into the plan and bring it onto the training pitch in a way that makes them believe in it,” says Buttgereit. “I really feel fairly certain after I watch Arsenal that Nicolas is doing that.

Calum Chambers sprints in the direction of the dugout after his aim in opposition to Leeds

“Set-pieces are his passion. He transmits that to the players but he is also very open-minded. He listens to them and I think that’s a key point for any coach. It’s not just about telling players what to do; it’s a cooperation. Nicolas is always asking questions and he is never satisfied.”

Specialist set-piece coaches stay comparatively uncommon throughout top-level soccer however Arsenal’s current enchancment from dead-ball situations underlines why they’re turning into more and more common.

“A lot of young coaches say to me, ‘Yeah, but you are only the set-piece coach…'” says Buttgereit, who labored with Denmark throughout their run to the semi-finals of final summer time’s European Championship. “But the way I respond is, ‘No, not only…’

“Thirty-five per cent of objectives, generally, are scored from set-pieces, and if I’m doing my job nicely, then we’re going to be higher than that. The position of the set-piece coach is not a highlighted one however I’m certain, in three or 4 years, each membership could have one.”

In Nicolas Jover, Arsenal are grateful they already do.

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