Werder Bremen would be propping up the Bundesliga were it not for their effectivity from the set-piece. Their tally for the season reached 19 after Saturday's 1-1 draw in Cologne. Jonathan explores the Werder wonder...
There wasn't much to say about Werder Bremen's 1-1 away draw at Cologne. Viktor Skripnik's men should have perhaps won the game - conceding with two minutes left is always tough to take - but the points tally keeps ticking over, and they are still in the top-10.
Werder's goal did come from a set-piece though and the fact that it's the nineteenth time that has happened this season is worth talking about. Considering Werder have only scored 41 league goals this season, it is noteworthy that 46% of them have come from a set-piece.
Largely, that is down to Austrian midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic. The Austrian has assisted nine goals from set-pieces this season (11 total assists) and has scored four direct free kicks. Add to that mix, his open-play playmaking abilities and he alone is a large reason why the club are where they are. Argentinean Franco di Santo has also been good from the spot, scoring two and making amends against Mainz by converting the rebound.
It has been fairly constant throughout the season too. In the first league game of the season - a 2-2 draw against Hertha - the Junuzovic-Lukimya connection saved a point that would have otherwise been lost. The win against Stuttgart on Matchday 11 would have been a draw (or worse) were it not for a pair of headers. In truth, Werder would never have made it to the German Cup Round of 16 this season were it not for their set-piece quality.
More importantly (assuming their opponents wouldn't have added to their scores), Werder would have 13 fewer points in the Bundesliga at the moment were it not for their set-piece swordplay. The 3-2 win against Augsburg was a win entirely constructed from the set-piece, with Junuzovic connecting with Lukimya (again) and Gebre Selassie (remarkable, considering his size) and di Santo scoring a penalty. Without any of those set-piece points, Werder would be bottom of the Bundesliga by two points. Imagine that.
While quality of delivery certainly played its role, it cannot be given the sole credit. There have certainly been a few defensive lapses during that spell, but Werder have been cool enough to benefit all the same and that did not look likely before Christmas. In theory, set-pieces are the easiest to defend against because they are static situations in a normally fluid game. Werder's efficiency has proven to be quite the shock for the Bundesliga.