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Rashid

Zonal v Man for Man Marking

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Good article on the BBC Website

 

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Liverpool have one of the meanest rearguards in the Premiership, but their defending has again come under scrutiny following the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday.

 

The reason is that for set-pieces, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez favours defending zones rather than marking players.

 

That is despite Chelsea's William Gallas and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand both taking advantage of the system and scoring against the Reds.

 

Former FA technical director Howard Wilkinson and ex-Liverpool defender Alan Hansen explain why they agree with Benitez's methods.

 

WHAT IS ZONAL DEFENDING?

 

In zonal defending, you don't mark a man, you mark an area," said Hansen, winner of seven league championships.

 

As you can see in the diagram above, Liverpool set up their defence for a corner with four players across the six yard box and a further four ahead of them.

 

Between them, they are given an area to cover and should the ball reach them, it is up to the defender to clear the danger.

 

Hansen added: "The three most important areas are your man on the near post, a man in the middle of the six-yard box and a man between those two."

 

WHY DEFEND IN ZONES AND NOT MAN-TO-MAN?

 

Although it tends to be more popular in European football than in Britain, Hansen is a fan of the system but admits it is down to the players involved.

 

He said: "We always used zonal marking when I won championships with Liverpool.

 

"It was all about winning the first ball and if not, you've got to clean up the second ball.

 

"The other thing of course was having a goalkeeper (Bruce Grobbelaar) who we knew was going to come for crosses."

 

Wilkinson has used the zonal system for more than 30 years in football and implemented it in many of the England teams when he was technical director at the FA.

 

He said: "Zonal defending is based on the principle that when free-kicks are taken in the attacking third in wide positions or from corners, there is a dangerous space which can be identified.

 

"Within this area roughly three out of 100 goals are scored from the first touch.

 

"The system attempts to concentrate the best headers of the ball in that space. Your other players are in positions to defend the second ball.

 

"With man-to-man marking, attackers can drag defenders all over the place by taking them away from the danger area.

 

"It is a collective responsibility whereas man-for-man marking is based on personal responsibility."

 

THE CASE STUDY

 

"The problem with zonal marking is that because of the movement of the opposition, you're going to have men that are unmarked," said Hansen.

 

"When you start off you need to decide who picks up whom and who then lets the other men go. In the game on Sunday, Riise made the fatal mistake of following the ball."

 

Wilkinson adds: "It's a common fault with players defending balls delivered from wide. They get attracted to a ball that they can do nothing about.

 

"If you can't get there, get yourself between the posts and defend the goal in case there's a second ball to deal with."

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

 

The most common opposition to the system is that zones don't score, players do, so mark the player.

 

But Wilkinson explains there is a further layer to the argument.

 

He said: "Players score from dangerous zones. What do goalkeepers do on corners anyhow?

 

"They zone mark because until the ball is kicked they don't know where the ball will go.

 

Liverpool earned eight consecutive Premiership clean sheets under Benitez

 

"They don't concern themselves with players, they concern themselves with the ball because it's the ball that scores."

 

And he dismisses the notion that defenders have to compete with attackers who have a run on them.

 

"Attackers get a run on you whether you are zone defending or man-for-man marking," Wilkinson said

 

"They always calls the shots. You start from a standing position but once the ball is in flight, you've got the distance the ball travels to get yourself moving.

 

"Lots of teams in the Premiership now mark zones on the wide free-kick, because if you try and mark runners you end up running into each other and you can't jump anyway.

 

"You've got to remember that the higher up you go, the greater the quality of the delivery.

 

"That's one thing you can't do anything about, you have to assume that the people who are taking it can hit the button."

 

TEACHING THE SYSTEM

 

Liverpool's defending as a team has been widely praised this season with the team matching a club record for consecutive clean sheets in the league.

 

Wilkinson says: "Benitez's record, before he came to Liverpool and since he arrived, says that undoubtedly in achieving some things he's a master.

 

"I'd be careful about arguing with him on defending because his record isn't bad, particularly in Europe.

 

"It is a difficult thing to coach. It's more complex than man-to-man but it is more effective.

 

"But it's only more effective if it's covered comprehensively and players understand not only their roles but the roles of others."

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Guest Brian Stewart

I read that on the BBC site earlier - made a lot of sense.

 

Trust in Rafa. (But make the players read the above piece.....)

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Thing is, every other team could read it and use it against us?

 

 

I am pretty sure those other teams know already, it is not anything new. I would be unimpressed with the other managers if they did not know how to attack the zonal defense. With that said it is still up to the players to learn it and defend with discipline. The more and more they play this zone the more and more they will anticipate the oppositions movements and in turn make this defense even stronger. My only concern is the EPL the problem? Everyone knows it is a more physical league than any other.

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That's exactly why it has worked against the lesser teams, but not against the good teams. I'm not necessarily saying that man to man marking will always be better against the top sides, but we certainly need to improve on the zonal stuff if we're not to keep losing big games.

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One thing that amazes me in modern football is that defenders don't attack the ball at corners. When you watch a game, especially on TV you can see defenders line up in front of the forward and not even face the ball. Their intention is solely to prevent the forward getting to the ball, by obstructing or blocking his run. The problem with this, is that when a forward manages to escape this attention he often gets in a header totally unchallenged.

 

Next time you see a headed goal from a corner, look for the nearest defender to the scorer, more often than not there is no defender making a challenge.

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One thing that amazes me in modern football is that defenders don't attack the ball at corners. When you watch a game, especially on TV you can see defenders line up in front of the forward and not even face the ball. Their intention is solely to prevent the forward getting to the ball, by obstructing or blocking his run. The problem with this, is that when a forward manages to escape this attention he often gets in a header totally unchallenged.

 

Next time you see a headed goal from a corner, look for the nearest defender to the scorer, more often than not there is no defender making a challenge.

I thought the problem with Chelseas first goal was that all our defenders kept watching the ball (and three players challenging for the first header), and noone paid attention to their players (leaving three of them free inside our six yard box. (But maybe you were refering to other teams?).

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I thought the problem with Chelseas first goal was that all our defenders kept watching the ball (and three players challenging for the first header), and noone paid attention to their players (leaving three of them free inside our six yard box. (But maybe you were refering to other teams?).

 

I was. Not referring to Sunday but defending corners in general. See how many free headers the forwards get because nobody is attacking the ball.

 

Silvestre last season at OT for instance.

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I was. Not referring to Sunday but defending corners in general. See how many free headers the forwards get because nobody is attacking the ball.

 

Silvestre last season at OT for instance.

 

To be fair, our zonal marking was in its infancy at that stage.

 

In fact for those regular match-day goers, i'm sure your realised that when Pellegrino had his 3 league games in succession (blackburn, everton and someone else - i forget) he was literally placing players where they were supposed to be.

 

That for me was the biggest (probably only) benefit Pellegrino brought to the team.

 

I think as a general rule, not matter which style of defending; if the set-piece is delivered well, you always have a chance of scoring.

 

This is one area which we need to improve - Alonso and Gerrard are simply not consistent enough with their delivery. You can see by Sami's lack of goals.

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This is one area which we need to improve - Alonso and Gerrard are simply not consistent enough with their delivery. You can see by Sami's lack of goals.

 

I think Gerrard delivers free kicks from the side of the goal perfectly. Head height and driven into the far post. The most difficult kick to defend. If everybody misses it the ball could well end up in the net. What we need is 3/4 players converging on it.

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I think Gerrard delivers free kicks from the side of the goal perfectly. Head height and driven into the far post. The most difficult kick to defend. If everybody misses it the ball could well end up in the net. What we need is 3/4 players converging on it.

 

 

Yep, agree with that. There's occasional stray one, but by and large he hits a good area. We never seem to have those 3/4 players converging on it though as you say.

 

As for Sami, he should be getting 15 goals a season with the chances he gets from set pieces. He can win headers (he's great at attacking the ball), but rarely hits the target with them.

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One thing that amazes me in modern football is that defenders don't attack the ball at corners. When you watch a game, especially on TV you can see defenders line up in front of the forward and not even face the ball. Their intention is solely to prevent the forward getting to the ball, by obstructing or blocking his run. The problem with this, is that when a forward manages to escape this attention he often gets in a header totally unchallenged.

 

Next time you see a headed goal from a corner, look for the nearest defender to the scorer, more often than not there is no defender making a challenge.

 

The point you make about a defender attacking the ball is exactly why zonal defending works better. If you mark man to man clever movement and you can easily lose your marker, that defender is then trying to pick you up again and not watching the ball properly. If your turning and trying to get close to your man you can't propel yourself into the air properly or attack thee ball.

 

If you mark zonally you cover the most dangerous areas and then as the ball comes in you can run and attack it without worrying about twisting and turning trying to stay close to your man.

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Yep, agree with that. There's occasional stray one, but by and large he hits a good area. We never seem to have those 3/4 players converging on it though as you say.

 

 

Dave did you mean 3 or 4 players or Garcia?

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article-1224956-04792E4F0000044D-746_468x286.jpg

 

Dearest Dad, why do any people bovver wiv Zonal? I mean, is it summat foreign?

 

Nail on head, darlin' son. It was dreamed up on the playing fields of Tenerife or somewhere like that. For sure. Somewhere they don't celebrate Christmas.

 

Strewth!

 

Yep. I think the Zonals claimed they had a separate country or summat like that, and Franco had 'em shot. That sort of thing. For sure. And that's sad, but that's no excuse to foist these memorial doo-dahs on all of us. For sure. This is England. We mark men here. Churchill said that.

 

Gawd bless him!

 

Gawd bless him! For sure.

 

West Ham had loads of man markers, didn't they, dearest Dad?

 

For sure! Billy Bonds - he marked men all right! He marked their ankles, their shins, their knees, their thighs, their whodyaflips, their arms, their heads, everything. Same with all the old hammers. Bobby Moore - he was a gent, but he'd still mark you, for sure.

 

Because he was English?

 

Because he was English, for sure!

 

I wish everyone was English, dearest Dad!

 

That's a beautiful thought, darlin' son! It deserves a curry! My treat, for sure!

 

 

 

 

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Man Marking? Zonal Marking? Bob Paisley never told us to mark anything. We never bothered with any tactics in any shape or form. Bob even used to hide the ball sometimes. He'd just say "Go out there and win". And we'd win. With or without the ball. Because we were winners. Not markers. But I don't care, to be honest. Do you know that the universe is expanding? What does that mean for us? It's not good. Was it Saul Bellow who said that mortality is the black backing that a mirror needs in order to reflect? Well, whoever it was, I couldn't agree more - and I LOVE mirrors! It's all so bleak, so shockingly bleak. We're going to hell in a handcart, and I say that as a fan.I could kill myself here and now but that wouldn't help. Nothing will help. As Beckett said, we can only dream of failing better. But what's the point? Really? I mean, we're staring into the abyss. And I say that as a fan.

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Which ever system you adapt, if it is carried out successful you wont have to many problems. The truth is we are vunerable at set pieces in the air, what ever system you use, problems arise if you cant head the ball before the opponent.

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Which ever system you adapt, if it is carried out successful you wont have to many problems. The truth is we are vunerable at set pieces in the air, what ever system you use, problems arise if you cant head the ball before the opponent.

 

Spot on.

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