Aston Villa: Set-piece improvement encouraging to see

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Newcastle United's Goalkeeper Matt Sels (28) looks at the ball as it hits the back of the net after Aaron Tshibola of Aston Villa (not seen) scores the equalising goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on September 24, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Newcastle United's Goalkeeper Matt Sels (28) looks at the ball as it hits the back of the net after Aaron Tshibola of Aston Villa (not seen) scores the equalising goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on September 24, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) /
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Set pieces in football are crucial. They can be the difference between winning and losing, between staying up and going down, and Aston Villa have been improving at them.

Tony Pulis’ Stoke side were experts at it, even when the long throw merchant left. It was the difference between them going straight back down and establishing themselves as the solid mid-table team they are now.

For too long now, Villa would get a corner or free kick in a dangerous position and it would barely trouble the opposition. I still have nightmares about Ashley Westwood’s ‘floaters’! The last few weeks has seen an upturn in our fortunes or more apt: the quality of our delivery into the box.

I did see somewhere that we scored the fewest goals from set pieces in the Championship this season a few weeks back but we have shot up that table recently. I’ll go as far back as the draw V Newcastle at Villa Park in September when we levelled from a late corner.

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Jordan Ayew swung in a deep corner and Aaron Tshibola stopped to score. It wasn’t the greatest of delivery but we made the most of it and that is a nice change.

The same occurred last Friday when Villa had a free kick centrally about 35-40 yards from the Brighton goal. Albert Adomah stood over it and delivered a deft little chip into the centre of the box. Not a great ball in to be honest but Nathan Baker got his head to it first and directed into the bottom corner for his 1st goal for the club.

He made the most of what he had and it shows that Villa are starting to turn bad balls into good ones. In fact, Villa had a free kick from a similar position which Adomah produced a better cross with which couldn’t be converted so it proves that the ball doesn’t have to be perfect in order for a goal to be scored.

Gary Gardner got his 1st goal for the club with a brilliant header V Blues a few weeks back from another set piece. This time Jordan Ayew took the kick and it was a nice height for Gardner to plant his header over the goalkeeper.

If Villa can continue to make use of these set pieces and also convert crosses from wide like Jonathan Kodjia did from Albert Adomah’s cross Vs Fulham then it is another string to their bow which wasn’t there earlier in the season.