These are my thoughts on the Zonal versus Man to Man marking issue. Having been a Centre Half/ Sweeper in my day on Hackney Marshes I do have some experience. But my tactic was that if the opposition forward was going to beat me, I’d give him a right hander ha ha. Never ever got sent off!
There’s been a lot of debate about the Arsenal zonal system because we see it fail time and time again. Any form of marking system for set pieces has to be organised and disciplined for it to work effectively. Ours for whatever reason, seems a bit distant from effective.
Zonal marking has it’s benefits, it keeps defending players within a designated area and defenders don’t fall into the trap of following a player out of the defensive area. However, the downside is that it gives a lot of space to attacking players to get into scoring positions, as we saw demonstrated by Andy Carroll at Upton Park.
Man to Man marking on the other hand, keeps defenders close to a designated opponent and space is restricted for attackers. The downside is that defenders can be drawn away from the defended area by an opponent.
Teams are aware of the systems used by opponents and can exploit the weaknesses of either system, therefore, the trick is to train to be disciplined in any particular system used. This has to be done in the training regime. However, all systems need a leader in defence to organise the defending. I watched the Leicester vs West Ham game and focused on Wes Morgan at set pieces, he was shouting at his players, organising and telling them what to do and consequently, they are very good at defending set pieces.
These are the two most important areas where the Arsenal are failing, organisation and a leader to keep the players disciplined.
I personally don’t see why both systems couldn’t be used at the same time. For instance, the four main defenders, FB’s and CB’s do the zonal marking, and a leader, let’s say BFG, organises the midfielders to man mark. With such a system, all areas would be covered. When Andy Carroll scored his first header against us…. no single player followed him to the back post and it was Bellerin who was left to jump with the big forward.
When I was playing on muddy fields at Hackney Marshes, we always had at least one FB on the goal line, sometimes two. Whilst myself and the other CB man marked the attackers and some of our midfielders man marked other players who’d come forward for the set piece.
I don’t think zonal marking existed in our day, but our man marking worked very well.
But we were disciplined and furthermore, my CB partner was captain and he was very verbal in organising the defending, shouting at players to mark this one, mark that one and that’s where it was successful. I’m not saying that we always prevented a goal being scored against us at set pieces, but I think we were probably more successful than not.
If I was the defence coach at the Arsenal, I would introduce the double system and train and train and train again until it was disciplined and organised. I would designate the captain to be the organiser of the system and be verbal with his commands. I would always have at least one FB on the goal line with the keeper and the four defenders would mark zonal, Coquelin, Elneny, Sanchez and Giroud or Welbeck would mark man to man, with Giroud or Welbeck on the airial threat. Or even letting the BFG man mark the airial threat and someone else in the zonal area.
In my final analysis, we need a leader who can organise, we need to use both systems and it needs to start on the training ground.
What do you think? Who amongst you were defenders in your day? Who can think of a better way for our defenders to prevent set piece goals being scored against us?
We can al sit in our armchairs and criticise our defending at set pieces, but sometimes it is so obvious that perhaps we could be right.