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Lee Dixon's tactical view

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Match of the Day 2 pundit

We saw again at the weekend what a danger Rory Delap's throw-ins are when he created both goals in Stoke's 2-1 win over Arsenal.

I have never seen anyone with a throw-in like Delap's and I believe his missiles have created seven out of Stoke's 13 league goals this season.

I had a long throw and used to practice them, but I could only just about get it in the box. My team-mate Perry Groves could throw it a long way and we have seen the likes of Dave Challinor and Andy Legg do it - but nothing like Delap.

Most long throws tend to be a bit loopy, whereas Delap's are fired in like a free-kick - but even more dangerous.

Rory Delap
Delap's throws have created over half of Stoke's Premier League goals
For a start you cannot be offside from a throw-in, so the attackers can crowd the six-yard box. But, also, because a free-kick starts with the ball on the ground it means it has to have a natural arc in order to get up and over the first defender.

From a throw-in the ball starts from six foot and it is the angle and trajectory of Delap's darts that make them so potent. It is unbelievable how he does it - his throws come in flat like an arrow.

It is not so bad when it comes from near the corner flag but the real danger is when it arrives from level with the 18-yard area or further out because it is then at an angle that is heading for goal. There are so many bodies in the area it only needs a flick off someone to go in.

The advantage is with the attackers - the surprise element has been replaced by a fear factor. I watched Stoke the other week and it is amazing that there is such expectation and excitement every time they get a throw-in around the box.

Delap's throws have helped Stoke beat Aston Villa, Sunderland and now Arsenal and even he is saying they are "undefendable". So what is the answer?

The simplest and obvious thing to do is not give throw-ins away.

Stoke 3-2 Aston Villa
Delap sets up Sidibe's last-minute winner
Stoke 2-3 Everton
Created both of Stoke's efforts for Olofinjana and a Jagielka own goal
Portsmouth 2-1 Stoke
Fuller's goal from the hand of Delap is not enough
Stoke 1-0 Sunderland
Delap and Fuller combine for three points
Stoke 2-1 Arsenal
The Gunners have no answer as Fuller and Olofinjana secure a third consecutive home win
Stoke are not just a team that plays the long-ball game, they can pass it as well but you cannot blame them for taking advantage of such an effective threat.

They know that when the ball goes down the wings defenders are likely to come across and put it out for a throw. So they play plenty of balls down the channels to the likes of striker Ricardo Fuller.

Arsenal knew exactly what to expect and did not deal with it and manager Arsene Wenger will have been pulling his hair out because brawn got one over on his team. The beautiful game he plays has been beaten by hard work and a certain brashness and he does not like that.

It is hard to be too critical because they are not the first to struggle against Delap, but perhaps Gunners defender Kolo Toure should have attacked the ball for the first goal and the goalkeeper's positioning was poor - he stayed on his line and did not make an effort to come and collect.

But then we saw that Everton keeper Tim Howard tried to come and failed, while staying on the line did not work for Arsenal's Manuel Almunia.

It might take something a bit radical to defend against it.

I would tackle this by putting a team's four best headers of the ball on the goalline with the goalkeeper and ask them to ignore the forward and just go and attack the throw-in.

It might not work but it is similar to how the old Arsenal defence would have coped in my playing days.

It was not up to me to deal with set-pieces but the responsibility of the growbags, as I call them. We had two or three of the best attackers of the ball in Steve Bould, Martin Keown and Tony Adams and we would always use zonal marking at corners.

It was all right for me and Nigel Winterburn as we would just stand on the post and have a breather!

The rest would set up with someone on the near post marking the opposition player and Adams and co would be spaced out across the six-yard line with a gap between them. If the ball went in their area they would go and attack it - they did not worry about the opposition.

It is a lot easier if you are not concerned about your opposite man as you can concentrate on the flight of the ball, judge whether it is coming in your area and decide whether to deal with it or not.

When you are man-marking you do not even see the set-piece get taken half the time, you are too busy dealing with your man and when you jump you are doing so from a static, standing position.

I would also help out the goalkeeper by clearing some bodies from the box, maybe even position as many as four or five of your players outside the area. This way you turn the tables and try and make a defensive situation a chance for a counter-attack as soon as you win the ball.

It is dangerous but the opposition then has to think about marking your players. Manchester City tried something similar at the weekend by keeping three men up when defending a corner.

Everyone might think you are mad but if I was a manager I would try it.

Lee Dixon was speaking to Andrew McKenzie

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see also
Stoke 2-1 Arsenal
01 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Wenger admits to Arsenal weakness
02 Nov 08 |  Premier League
I'm not all Stoke have got - Delap
01 Nov 08 |  Match of the Day
Stoke 1-0 Sunderland
29 Oct 08 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
22 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Alan Hansen's tactical view
14 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Lawro's tactical view
09 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Lee Dixon's tactical view
26 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
18 Aug 08 |  Premier League

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