Millwall’s set pieces could be the difference in the play-offs
The Lions will be looking to finish in the play-off places for the first time since their promotion from League one in 2016, and if they are to secure a play-off position, the way they achieve it is likely to be unconventional.
Despite placing fifth in the league after 43 games, Millwall don’t exactly have any outstanding stats in their favour.
They don’t score many goals, placing 13th for goals scored in the league.
While they have the fourth best defence in the league, their lack of goals has left their goal difference at +8, which is the seventh best goal difference in the competition, behind Coventry and Sunderland, who are both below them in league.
But what Millwall do offer, is a great set piece threat. Since the start of the season, no team in the Championship has scored from more set pieces than Millwall, who have scored from 23 dead ball scenarios. That equates to 40% of their goals this season coming from set pieces.
Six foot four centre-back Jake Cooper has proved to be menace in the opposition box from set pieces, picking up three goals and three assists throughout the season. Millwall manager Gary Rowett has been frustrated with the way that Cooper has been treated in the opposition penalty area, but it hasn’t stopped his team being a threat from free kicks.
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In October 2022, after Millwall had just beaten Bristol City, Rowett said that the secret to their set-piece success was desire.
At the time Bristol City were statistically the worst team in the league at defending set-pieces, whereas Millwall (even back in October) where statistically the best, scoring 10 goals from set plays within the first two months of the season.
Should Millwall qualify for the play-offs, their set-piece threat may benefit them more than it has done in the regular season.
Rowett said after the victory against Preston on April 15 that his side’s goals have dried up, but their chances haven’t, and having the best record from set pieces is a great way of consistently creating chances.
Assuming that Millwall finish fifth and Middlesbrough finish fourth, the two sides will meet each other in the play-offs.
Even though Middlesbrough have scored the most goals in the Championship at 79, almost 30% of the goals Middlesbrough concede away from home are from set-pieces. So, should the sides meet in the play-offs, Millwall could cause an upset, purely based on the threat they provide from set pieces at home.
The worrying stat for Millwall fans is that 18 of the 24 goals The Lions have conceded away from home have all come from open play.
Throughout the season Millwall have averaged only 43% possession when playing away, so conceding 75% of their goals from open play might prove to be a problem in the final stretch of the season, and moving into the play-offs.