SunSport columnist Danny Higginbotham reflects on the pitfalls of defensive set-up after title rivals shipped four set-piece goals between them
ARSENAL and Liverpool both used zonal marking on the opening weekend of the Prem — and it didn’t go well for either of them.
They both shipped three goals — two each from set-pieces.
As a player I was really not a fan of the system.
With man-to-man marking, before a game in the changing room you are allocated a player to pick up at set-pieces. It’s quite often written down on the whiteboard.
You’re told: “He’s yours. He’s your responsibility”. There is simply no hiding from that.
If he then scores, you get it from the manager and you get it from your team-mates.
When goals go in with zonal marking, you see so many players looking round, pointing at each other after the ball has gone in the net. They are passing the buck.
“Well, he wasn’t mine!” “Who was meant to be heading that away?” No one accepts it is their fault.
It’s exactly what Gunners defender Nacho Monreal was doing after Jamie Vardy scored on Friday night.
I’d have a man just in front of the near post who would drop on to the post if the ball goes over him.
And also someone on the back post (that would have stopped Vardy’s goal, by the way).
The rest I’d have man-marking because it takes the indecisiveness away. With zonal, how do you know when is a player out of your area? It is hard to tell with players running at pace.
The other obvious disadvantage is attacking players get a running jump while you’re jumping from a standing start. That is huge.
I can only think the reason teams go zonal is because they fear getting blocked off when they are trying to go with a runner.
That and the fact with referees clamping down on shirt-pulling, they are worried about giving penalties away.
If you fear one player is susceptible to shirt-pulling he should be free to just attack the ball — the rest should mark.
For me, the negatives of zonal marking far outweigh the positives.
But defending really is a dying art. There just aren’t players like Tony Adams, Nemanja Vidic, Jamie Carragher, John Terry or Martin Keown anymore.
Those players put their heads where others wouldn’t put their feet. But they also were great organisers.
Imagine coming into the dressing room at half-time, you’re one down, you’ve lost your man at a corner for the goal and Vidic is looking daggers at you! You’d sort it out smartish!
With zonal you can hide. Man-to-man marking, no chance.
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