English football coach Scott Parker doesn’t have much reason to be happy at the moment. Last Saturday, Premier League promoted AFC Bournemouth, who he coached, lost for the third time in a row – this time even 0:9. The 41-year-old probably had more important things to do than watching the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern and Mönchengladbach in the evening.
There was a scene right at the start that he would certainly have liked: Thomas Müller played a one-two with Marcel Sabitzer right from the start and then let the ball slap Joshua Kimmich. He then tried to use the well-established Kingsley Coman with a long pass to the front. That failed, the Gladbachers had put Kimmich under pressure and thus prevented a clean pass.
What does this have to do with Scott Parker? Quite simply, FC Bayern had tried to copy their team one-to-one. In December last year, when they were still second-tier, AFC Bournemouth used four passes to score a lightning goal in a top-flight match at Fulham. At that time, the last pass also worked – and attacker Dominic Solanke scored 1-0 after a few seconds at the beginning of the second half. You’ve rehearsed that on the training ground, the coach said afterwards, not without pride.
Working on dead ball situations pays off
And because football copies what works, teams across Europe have been inspired by Parker’s idea, even the big ones. Real Madrid tried the move several times in the past Champions League season and twice failed just in front of the goal. Paris Saint-Germain did even better recently: on the third match day of Ligue 1, striker Kylian Mbappé scored a goal à la Bournemouth eight seconds after kick-off; it was the fastest goal in France’s first division in over 20 years. Sparta Rotterdam also needed just eight seconds to score in the Netherlands, following the same pattern.
Not surprisingly, clubs are now including the kick-off in their tactical thinking. Teams have intensified their work on set pieces and dead balls – with success. The Bundesliga clubs scored 187 goals in the previous season from corners and free kicks. Ten years ago there weren’t even half as many.
The Dane Thomas Grønnemark even earns his money as a pure throw-in coach – RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC work with him, among others. Mönchengladbach, Bayern’s opponents last Saturday, had apparently thought very carefully before the game in Munich about how to deal with their own throws in the defensive zone: in order to cover up the record champions’ high pressing, the Gladbachers usually throw in that the receiver of the ball could immediately launch a volley shot to free himself.
In the 43rd minute, such a situation even led to Borussia’s lead. Bayern central defender Dayot Upamecano was unable to control Christoph Kramer’s direct shot from deep within his own half, and Gladbach striker Marcus Thuram then had a clear path to the Bayern goal and scored to make it 1-0.
Throw-ins are likely to play a greater role in training in the future than sophisticated kick-off tricks. Because, like corners and free kicks, they usually occur much more frequently. Whereby the AFC Bournemouth also set standards here to a certain extent. On Saturday against Liverpool, the team had to kick off ten times – coach Jürgen Klopp’s team had scored nine goals against the promoted team. Incidentally, for Scott Parker, the historic defeat was the last game on the sidelines of the AFC. The club released him on Tuesday. As his legacy remains a knock-on trick.