Arsenal have scored more goals from set-pieces than any other team in the Premier League this season. Two came in the 5-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, and beady-eyed pundits believe that captain Martin Odegaard is dictating the routines in a way virtually impossible for the opposition to work out – until now.
Mikel Arteta’s tactics in open play have been far from perfect this season. The Gunners came into their clash with Palace off the back of three consecutive defeats, and another slip-up could have had catastrophic consequences for their Premier League title bid.
The impact of set-piece coach Nicolas Jover set the tone at the Emirates Stadium, with Gabriel Magalhaes nodding in Declan Rice’s pinpoint corner from the left, and also playing a vital role in converting a Bukayo Saka corner from the opposite flank, which ultimately went down as a Dean Henderson own-goal.
Arsenal have now scored 13 set-piece goals in the Premier League this campaign. And those playing close attention are convinced that Odegaard is sending subtle messages to whoever stands over the ball by playing with his socks.
“He’s in the same place for every corner and he’s playing with his socks,” former Premier League defender Ashley Williams told BBC’s Match of the Day. “There is synchronicity regarding whether they go to the front or the back.
“Every clip we see here he is doing the same thing where he’s playing with his socks. It might be a coincidence, yes. But it is a big coincidence that he’s always there and always doing something with his sock.”
“That is a good quality of the team. Especially when you are attacking low blocks, to score in this certain way, everything has to be nailed perfectly.”
There were plenty of other positives for the Gunners to take as they look to avenge last season’s agonising defeat in the Premier League title race, as substitute Gabriel Martinelli returned to form with a quick-fire double in stoppage time.