• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

John Mousinho: Set-pieces ‘massive’ for Oxford United


Sep 7, 2022

JOHN Mousinho hopes Oxford United’s set-piece practice continues to pay off after reaping the rewards of their work on the training ground.

The U’s scored three times from corners in August, while the club captain headed home Billy Bodin’s free-kick in the 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient last Tuesday.

It was Mousinho’s first goal since he took charge of coaching set-pieces at the club.

READ MORE: John Mousinho explains how coaching is benefitting his playing career

The U’s conceded from set-pieces against Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town, but their expected goals against in Sky Bet League One from those situations is only 0.67 – better than every team other than Bolton Wanderers.

Mousinho knows it is important United get it right at both ends and has noticed an improvement since he joined the club in 2017.

The centre back said: “I don’t design everything around myself – and there’s a lot of jokes about it – but set-pieces are absolutely massive for us.

“When I came to the club we weren’t particularly good at defending or attacking set-pieces, so we made a conscious effort to work on those.

“The manager gives me a lot of free rein in terms of time on the grass, time in the classroom and the lads take everything on board.

“The most important thing for us is to concede fewer goals from set-pieces than we score, and we’re doing that.”

Mousinho added: “I feel a bit of extra pressure when I’m on the pitch, because I’ve got to remember what my jobs are.

“We have four or five standard routines we work on. We want to make them our stock set-pieces, then week to week we look at weaknesses in the opposition and try to design bespoke set-pieces.

“As things have bedded in we’ve seen a few of those rewards.”

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Cameron Brannagan has added two penalties and a free-kick to United’s total and their set-piece threat has been vital at a time when they are creating less from open play.

The U’s had a goal difference of zero from set-pieces last season, scoring 12 and conceding the same number.

It was a real weapon in 2020/21 as United found the net 20 times, although they also shipped 15.

Eagle-eyed fans will have noticed set-piece takers making certain signals before sending the ball in and Mousinho revealed this is a big part of their approach.

He said: “We try to be inventive and mix that with the fact we’ve got Ciaron Brown, Stuart Findlay, Sam Long, Elliott Moore and Kyle Joseph attacking the ball really well.

“Sometimes when we do one of our inventive ones I think ‘please come off, don’t counter us and score’.

“Most of the time the lads take on board all the detail really well and we’ve had some joy from it.”