What it is and how Everton are currently executing Marco Silva's favoured defensive system badly
This article is in response to our present crisis and constant discussion of our set-piece woes. It’s not a problem new to Silva and this is a very interesting article written by a Watford fan in November 2017. (Note, this guy is hoping to be a set-piece coach and he prefers zonal marking. He explains it far better than I so read him, and forget about me.)
Darren Hinds did a piece on this and there followed an interesting discussion. Still, the problems continue. I will declare from the outset that my preference, as a player, is man-to-man. And yes, I would have a man on the post, as I myself always took the left post as left-back.
First thing to make clear is that we are discussing zonal marking relating to set pieces only. All teams in the Premier League and the major European Leagues, and indeed the Champions League, play zonal marking (in open play).
What is zonal marking? Zonal marking is best understood by watching any team defend. We all know 4-4-2 best so imagine a team defending as 4-4-2. We can all picture the two banks of four. Let’s keep it simple and have the opponent as 4-5-1. 4-4-2 v 4-4-2 confuses matters because it looks like man-to-man when it’s not. Imagine the 4-5-1 is an Allardyce side and the striker is a very isolated lone target man. He decides to go and stand on little Leighton Baines for the long hoof up the pitch. If it was a man-to-man defence, then a big centre-back would come across and challenge him for the ball. Instead, because it is zonal, Baines will take up the challenge.
Now zonal marking in open play is fluid. Baines doesn’t just stand in a box from the touchline to the edge of the penalty area to the halfway line and say this is my zone and this is all I’m defending. No, as the ball goes down the left the defence shuffles to the left and the right-back can be stood on the centre spot of the pitch, with the two centre-halves right over towards the left-back. The left centre-half could even come across and support Baines by actually making the jump for the ball. If the striker was smaller, and Baines was bigger, then rest assured the left-back would take on the striker’s challenge.
I hope you follow that and understand that in open play it is all zonal marking. Every side does it. They have done for decades now. Those zones are fluid and not fixed. Your teammates come into your zone and help you.
As I said before, 4-4-2 v 4-4-2 confuses things as the teams mesh nicely so the left winger takes on the right-back, and so on. It looks like man-to-man at times. But it’s not, and it has not been for a while. Watch a lone striker run across the backline and watch a backline simply “pass the man on”. This is zonal marking. Cantona exploited zonal marking in the 1990s. He would simply stand between the two lines of 4 and ask who is going to challenge him. If it was man-to-man marking, then the centre-half would simply pick him up and there’d be no questions. It was zonal marking, the centre-backs stayed in their position, the midfield stayed in their position, and Cantona ran riot because of the rigidity of the British zonal marking system.
So, we had a problem with zones in open play. We changed the formation and invented a defensive midfielder to take this zone and alleviate the problem Cantona and others caused. Since then, others have found spaces and in the zonal coverage and exploited them and again formations have changed to adapt to provide better zonal coverage.
No-one was screaming in the 1990s, "let’s play man-to-man marking". No, zonal marking is far better in open play, and the system needed tweaking. It was, and if Cantona played now, in his prime of course, against a 90s side versed in modern tactics, he would be far less effective. Don’t get me wrong though: Cantona was an excellent player. However, it is worth noting that French journalists and pundits laughed at us, they thought Cantona was overrated and the fact that he could run riot in English football by standing between the two banks of four was a major figure of amusement for them and only highlighted how poor the English game was. This was a very slow player who had flopped in France, was a figure of derision following his disgrace in France. The adaption to tactics that combatted this coincided with our return to European football as the ban was lifted and by playing sides who utilised formations other than 4-4-2.
Now you understand we do play zonal marking in open play, and that it is king, we can turn to the issue in hand, zonal marking at set pieces. Whilst teams have all played zonal marking in open play, they have retained man-to-man marking at set pieces. We all know why. We all played football at some point and so we all know the strengths of man-to-marking. It is easy to understand, it is easy to know what your role is, and what others' roles are. It can be extremely effective. Go to man-to-man on a little side like Man City, using your two big men on their two big centre-halves, keep another big man spare to double up on their most dangerous player, and then the rest can easily be dealt with as the defence always has a couple of men up, unless you’re a really attacking side against another really attacking side.
Man-to-man marking is all about individual responsibility. It is the strength of the system. That’s my man, I will stop him; if I don’t, blame me. The problem with the system is individual responsibility, the strength of the system. How so? Let’s imagine Duncan Ferguson is attacking last season’s Everton defence, we saw how they defended under Allardyce so it’s easy to understand. Sure, we all know who Duncan Ferguson is, but just in case we have a 16-year-old who didn’t start school until after Duncan retired, let me remind you of the Big Yin. He was 6’-4” and whilst wiry, he was extremely strong. Despite being tall, he actually leaped for the ball, as opposed to Peter Crouch. This meant he was unstoppable at corners. If he made the right run at the right ball, then it was a goal and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Mike Gaynes gave a very good analysis of how he as a defender would defend against someone like Duncan in the excellent Twilight Zone thread by Darren Hinds:
“a good man-marker essentially does both [be reactive and proactive]. You don't watch the man. You feel him. That's the point of the initial contact. I use my forearms a lot so as not to be called for holding or pushing. If my positioning is proper, I can tell my man's every movement, jar him off balance and never lose sight of the ball.
“Watch Jags. He's a master at it. That's why he consistently wins headers against bigger strikers.”
A good defender on man-to-man marking will be touch-tight to a defender. But, despite what Mike says, you are reacting to the defender. It is called man-to-man for a reason: you have to beat your man to the ball, or stop him getting to the ball. A good attacker will use penalty area congestion to his advantage, if I ran between two players, in a tight space, pushing my way through, then my marker is going to be blocked or lose me. If the attacker loses his marker, then man-to-man has failed.
It is so easy for this to happen. Watch a corner, any corner, with man-to-man. You’ll see about 6-8 duels. Does every defender keep their man? I would say you will see plenty of examples of man-to-man failing, only the free man does not make it to the ball for whatever reason. When this happens, no one blames the system.
You need to understand that you can’t take your eyes off your man for a second, and it’s impossible to watch both the man and the ball. I will make it clear again, that if I was Silva I would play man-to-man marking on corners. But we have to realise there is a fundamental failing with man-to-man marking that if your defender loses his man, then the system has failed. Sure, individual responsibility, blame the player. It’s the system’s failing as well.
John Pierce on the same thread makes an excellent point about VAR. We are soon to enter the Post VAR world in the Premier League. So, a lot of the “dark arts” could lead to penalties. Even if Gaynes is the right side of the rules, if he’s close to the line, then he’s running the risk of giving away penalties with a harsh ref or one who misinterprets what he sees (yes even on VAR). And let’s be real, the percentage of goals from corners is said to be somewhere in the region of 3% of all corners taken, so it’s not worth the risk of a penalty.
So hopefully, you can understand the problem with man-to-man marking at corners, and as good as Gaynes says he is, I don’t see a peak Jagielka stopping a peak Duncan Ferguson. It requires assistance which is where you get into the world of hybrid tactics.
So pure zonal marking. The theory is that you defend space – not the man. There is a fallacy to dispel immediately, you do not stand flat-footed, gawping at the ball and watch a man in your zone smash the ball into your net. I went into detail before about fluidity of zonal marking in open play. This is because the same theory applies. The zones are fluid. You move, and you move your zone, and your mate next to you moves with you and his zone moves and so on. Everton, as pointed out on Match of the Day, have been undone by the near post corner. The opponent gets a flick on and someone unmarked buries it. This is not a failing of zonal marking – it is a failing of the execution of it. With zonal marking you need to understand overloads. Overload is a simple term meaning that you get more men into the zone than the defender, so he cannot cope.
So, the attackers flood the near post to win the flick-on. What should we do? Well the zones are fluid and should move to intercept the ball. The man nearest should not be worrying about zones, he should realise that the corner is dropping short and adapt to run and head it away. The man nearest him should be making a run to support in case the ball goes over his head, and the rest of the defenders should be shuffling across, like a good defence in open play.
The idea with zonal is that you are in position to head the ball away. You can’t be “lost” in the way you can be lost in man-to-man. If the opponent runs 10 men near post, then all our defenders need to also flood that zone, there’s no point maintaining a good coverage of what is empty space. We need to adapt to meet the situation. Therefore, a good zonal marking defence adapts and lines up like man-to-man as the ball arrives in position. The defender has seen the ball coming into his zone, he can see an attacker coming towards hi,m and he can position himself so he gets that ball; he has a headstart on the attacker and so should not be losing out.
The attackers all start from outside the box, so they can make their runs and get a good leap, and confuse defenders with darting runs. Imagine I set my zonal defence up as a 4-4-2: 4 across the 6-yard box, 4 two steps ahead, and two protecting the short ball into the penalty area. Duncan Ferguson needs to run past 8 defenders to get his head on the normal ball into the 6-yard box. That’s no easy feat. 8 good defenders will be able to stop him every time. He cannot just push them out the way, that’s a foul. Zonal marking executed well means a team that cannot beat Duncan Ferguson on man-to-man can stop him. The collective trumps the individual.
The other “flaw” of zonal marking is the flat-footed defence. This is wrong. Again, this is a flaw of the execution. A zonal marking defence is not meant to be static and stood there scratching its arse and watching the ball. They are mobile, they are moving, they take a running jump. You can tell on a corner when contact is about to be made by the taker with the ball and you have sufficient time at this point to start your motion and jump, a running jump. If you have to position yourself inside the goal or off the pitch to get sufficient run up or motion to be jumping, then do it.
The problems with both systems are that they are system and rely on everyone doing their jobs. If someone fails, then the system can fail. Only we know who to blame with man to man so he is named and shamed on MotD, whereas with zonal marking it is less clear so it is the system that is blamed.
The big weakness in zonal marking is the execution. Everton are executing it very badly. Silva needs to up his game here. If he wants to persist with this system, then he needs to make it work — and fast. I’m a bit kinder than on MotD in that I won’t blame him for players missing their spot and not executing properly. It’s an individual mistake, it happens, I accept it. Where I am not forgiving and I lay the blame at Silva is that too often the opponent, see Danny Ings, has a free header on goal because we have flooded a zone and left spaces for the opposition. This is the direct opposite of what zonal marking is supposed to achieve. All areas are supposed to be covered and then we move an adapt to the opposition flooding zones.
Marco Silva has always played zonal marking. He’s never had a problem before England. He didn’t have a problem at Hull despite the stats on the goals conceded. A quick look at the Hull backline who were all 6’-4" and 6’-5” monsters like Harry Maguire and Andrea Ranocchia gives you some hope. Michael Keane is 6’-3”, Kurt Zouma is 6’-3” and Yerry Mina is 6’-5”. These monsters on zonal marking duties should help, especially the latter who is well versed in zonal marking. Things should improve. Silva is a pragmatist, he regularly changes tactics and is not set in his ways on formations or styles. However, I do not believe this applies to zonal marking, and we will see the stubborn side of Silva there.
Is the answer a Spurs approach? For those who have not seen it, Spurs operate a hybrid. Pochettino couldn’t get zonal marking to work at Spurs. So, he plays both. He puts a line of three men on the 6-yard box, there’s a couple with the keeper inside the box, and then the others are out on man-to-man duties. Those three men help double up on the danger men and can cover the “man lost”. This is perhaps the best of both worlds.
Zonal marking is not better than man-to-man marking. It simply has different strengths and weaknesses. The main weakness being the execution and complexity of the system. Done properly and it can be more effective than man-to-man marking, giving you the opportunity to collectively defend against unstoppable players — like Duncan Ferguson.
Reader Comments (80)
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1 Posted 06/09/2018 at 06:29:54
I think we all understand that it is the player that fails rather than the system if he stands and watches his man head the ball into the net but it's still enlightening to see this stuff written down in print.
We didn't do zonal marking last year and we were woeful at the back. Surprising that it's taking this long though. Yes, we have injuries but some of the goals we've conceded have been down to the defender losing his personal duel. A lack of aggression or belief?
2 Posted 06/09/2018 at 06:46:27
A very detailed, precise explanation of zonal marking as opposed to the several cluttered, unclear, emotional attempts that have been posted.
Thanks for your ongoing tactical analysis, Steve. Brilliant reading.
3 Posted 06/09/2018 at 08:04:00
If defenders concentrate and attack the ball effectively, it doesn't matter what you call the system, we'll just concede less goals.
4 Posted 06/09/2018 at 08:27:57
It doesn't really change my belief that zonal marking hasn't worked for many teams in recent years and I believe it will cost us even more goals in the coming games.
5 Posted 06/09/2018 at 08:44:02
Kendall used zonal marking very effectively in the 80s.
Capt Rat quote:
"You have to be touch-tight all the time and as people move about, your starting position has to naturally change because you don't want people to get a run on you. We had men who understood the system inside out."
That would seem to back up your argument.
6 Posted 06/09/2018 at 09:08:18
7 Posted 06/09/2018 at 09:37:59
The problem with man-marking is that so many defenders are so attentive on the man that they forget about the ball. A prime example was Shawcross of Stoke who was often highlighted wrestling with his man with his back to the ball. You can see this every week on MotD. It's the ball that matters, go get it!!!
8 Posted 06/09/2018 at 10:07:41
For me, a lot of the marking systems – man-to-man or zonal – develop as players move up through the ranks of football, and the player may or may not gel immediately or feel comfy with zonal or man-to-man marking.
Everton's defence has been lax at set-peices for years; in my view, the days of the mid-80s was the last time we had a solid defence and, with retirement of Waggy Waston, our last great centre-back (Distin wasn't too bad either). Since then, we've been mediocre, year on year.
Silva's style will take time and the whole team must take ownership at set plays. Marco will find a successful method for our team – I'm convinced he will.
nb: Steve, did you get a song scoped for Richarlison?
9 Posted 06/09/2018 at 10:54:48
One of the most disconcerting things about the modern game is that so much can be written and discussed about it. It is essentially a simple game, and it used to be played by people who loved it, so they would gladly put their bodies on the line to score a goal or stop one. They, we (at whatever level we played), would treat conceding a goal as a dagger to the heart.
I wonder whether that passion still exists in many players, and whether complicated instructions either confuse them or provide an excuse for going missing? In one of those clips provided by the Watford supporter in his article, the Watford player rubbing his head as Shawcross lurks behind him prior to a corner looks totally unconvincing!
10 Posted 06/09/2018 at 10:54:58
Which is all we ever need or want.
Sort it Marco.
11 Posted 06/09/2018 at 11:01:24
Honestly sounds as if the Spurs system seems to tap into the best of both worlds.
Whichever system we adopt, we simply have to avoid the situation where opposition players appear to have the freedom of the box.
12 Posted 06/09/2018 at 11:10:19
13 Posted 06/09/2018 at 11:24:50
"Everton are executing it very badly. Silva needs to up his game here. If he wants to persist with this system, then he needs to make it work and fast."
So badly are we executing it, that, as many on the previous thread predicted, the opposition would begin actively target us at set-pieces. Guess what Huddersfield's coach admitted to after the game?
You have made a good and educated defence of Zonal marking and tried to outline how you would do it better – by ensuring that players are spread over the zones and then adapt depending on where the danger is.
But, I would hope that Silva is going to try and at least using some form of man-to-man to try and alleviate the current issues. I would hope that we stop seeing goals conceded to the centre-forward of an opposition (like Ings), or their tallest player (Billing), or one of their Centre Halves (the Rotherham chap, and Bournemouth's CB, Ake).
Man-marking at least two of the opposition danger men at a set piece - whilst employing a zonal system for the rest - surely can't be a bad tactic whilst our defence settles into Silva's way of defending.
It may also introduce something into our defensive psyche that we are missing – concentration and responsibility. It is telling how the players have looked round at each other after conceding every set piece goal. Different reaction when a player was supposed to be marking a man and lets him slip – head in the hands time.
I would not persist with a full-on Zonal system (or, at any rate, Silva's version of it) for any more games. I would try and ensure the opposition's most dangerous threats were marked and then cover the rest in the most efficient manner you describe. It will, surely, reduce the threat we are currently experiencing.
Meanwhile, the other Achilles heel – crossed balls from open play – has been a long-standing issue of ours. That, too, needs work from Silva and his coaching team.
14 Posted 06/09/2018 at 12:16:04
I think Baines is one of the best value buys in the history of the Premier League. I could never work out why, even when he had time to get tighter, he stood off and allowed room for the cross.
15 Posted 06/09/2018 at 12:27:33
As someone who has obviously followed and admires Silva, I think you stating it is doubtful he will change his approach to zonal marking is quite disturbing.
As he brings everyone back for set-piece defending, then everyone should have a job to do.
The fact that after weeks since players returned to preseason training and we are still seeing the same errors is quite unbelievable.
I have asked this before but how long should it take to get across to his players how he wants them to mark up?
Silva needs a good look at himself, to be honest.
16 Posted 06/09/2018 at 12:56:23
17 Posted 06/09/2018 at 13:18:36
The stats would be interesting to see how many crosses he stops from his position versus how many go past him into the box.
18 Posted 06/09/2018 at 13:28:41
Quite a few defenders throughout the Premier League adapt this arms behind their backs and static.
Call me old-fashioned, but I would prefer a player to attack the ball, throw his body in the way, something Jagielka was very good at.
19 Posted 06/09/2018 at 13:39:25
You hire a manager to manage the side. If you have Mourinho, you'll know what Mourinho does. You can't then complain he doesn't play open possession-based football. If we hired Guardiola and we started getting pumped playing his style, we couldn't grumble and request that he parks the bus.
Managers are hired and styles are known. You allow them to work within that gambit.
As I stated I prefer man-to-man. Not because it's better, it's what I grew up with, and what you all grew up with and so everyone knows what to do and there's little coaching needed. Just a few tips and adjustments here and there.
We can't demand, and the board can't demand that Silva abandon a fundamental principle of his.
Silva won't fail at Everton. He can't fail. If Silva does badly and gets sacked, we'll that's the end of his career. Sure he could get a job in Portugal and work his way back up there, but he'd have to do something special to get himself into one of the big 5 leagues.
Silva knows this too. That's why there's a thread where he's saying he wants to build something here. He's a talented and ambitious manager. He sees himself winning the Champions League. Whether Everton is seen as a stepping stone to that or he thinks he can do it with us has to be seen.
So why would he allow zonal marking to be the thing that brings him down? He's not Martinez. He won't fiddle like Nero as the empire burns. He will work harder and harder and harder until he fixes it. This will be by watching tape, making adjustments on paper, and then fixing it on the training pitch.
Martinez didn't bother with set pieces. Only gets you or costs you 3% of the time so he wasn't bothered. He didn't say which type of marking to use, he let them do man-to-man because he didn't train at it.
Silva is working hard. He needs his Yerry Mina. Things will change once Mina is in. Silva can not afford to fail here and he will get it right.
20 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:11:01
Then we have the fact that the lineup has had to be chopped and changed due to suspensions and injuries. Jagielka suspended after being sent off in the opener. That also meant we were defending with 10 men, shouldn't be overlooked. So now, instead of Keane and Jagielka, it's Keane and Holgate, with Holgate missing almost the entirety of preseason due to injury. So his time training was severely impacted, which Silva spoke about prior to the season kicking off.
Then Keane goes down injured, bringing Zouma into the side, who again has only been with us a couple of weeks. Also, Schneiderlin has gone down, reducing our size in the box further. So we have our third central defensive partnership to start the season, and we also had to again play the majority of the game with 10 men, which obviously impacts the defending of set-pieces.
So, as we analyze how things are going, nobody has their heads stuck in the ground ignoring that the defending at those set-piece was poor. Silva said so. But things have adjusted. When Pickford and the defense just let Ings stand unmarked in front of the keeper, that was not the system working correctly. Pickford should have been telling his defenders to adjust. Since then, he has obviously been told this and has been more vocal and directing the defensive set up more.
The other issue was that players were standing and waiting for the ball. That's not how it's supposed to be, man or zonal. You should attack the ball, the zonal aspect is simply to put men in positions to attack the ball. Far too often, certain players have been guilty of being passive and not attacking the ball, Baines for one for Bournemouth's second goal. These concentration and passivity issues would exist no matter the system, and indeed have existed for the goals we've conceded from open play or penalties conceded.
I'll be waiting to see how we're doing come January, with half a season behind us and hopefully with a settled side and not having to continue to play half our games with 10 men. But, if everyone wants to say it's zonal marking, that's the issue, I'd ask what system our opponents have been using while we have scored multiple goals from set pieces ourselves and Keane was getting clean headers on goal before going down injured.
21 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:24:45
I said Silva should have a look at himself as, so far, he has rigidly stuck to his interpretation of zonal marking. If as you yourself say, he will not change, then something has to give.
In my opinion, if a bunch of professional footballers, can't understand what Silva is trying to get across then we have a real problem. There has to be some sort of flexibility in his approach to his zonal system, as, if what we presently see is his final plan then we're in for a long season.
If the present bunch haven't got what he's after because they haven't had enough time then, in my opinion, that's shocking. Does it mean if someone gets injured or due to tactics he changes a player we have to retrain the system? Surely everyone in the squad should be schooled so that someone coming in seamlessly fits in.
Silva has to be given time, I think most of us agree with that. It is already noticeable that attacking wise there has been improvement but it's also noticeable that defensively we are still poor.
If we who actually go to the game can see our defensive frailties – and literally every pundit agrees – when will Silva react?
22 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:33:33
Those same pundits were screaming that Pep was a failure after his first season and that his style would never work in England. They lambasted him for persisting with playing it out from the back and being so focused on a keeper with good distribution. They also have gone on for years saying Klopp can't sort a defense out.
Cut to this season and Pep's team just dominated the Premier League in a fashion that hasn't been seen in England for many decades and now Liverpool are seen as the only club to be able to challenge City. Pep had a full year to sort it out and build his squad. Klopp has had a few years.
23 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:39:23
24 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:44:54
Our defending from set pieces started falling apart when Roberto took over. Successive managers have failed to correct the problem. We were well drilled pre-Martinez; I am hoping that Hi-Ho can get us solid again.
25 Posted 06/09/2018 at 14:48:56
If the template is at least a season, as per Guardiola, or a few seasons as per Klopp, then that being the case, as I mentioned, we look to be in for a long old season – at least.
26 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:05:09
If Silva can achieve the same by creating a ball-retaining and incisive side, he too may buy enough time to implement his defensive strategy. If he doesn't and we continue to leak goals, we will be punished and points will continue to be lost.
The implications of a failing zonal marking system are less severe if you can score three or four most games. Certainly not the approach Allardyce would adopt!
27 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:20:07
Silva went and signed, just like I predicted, two tall centre halves over 6'-3" (Mina is 6'-5" and Zouma is 6'-3") and swerve the much smaller guys you were all suggesting. Clearly the reason for this was he needs a couple of big guys to make his brand of zonal marking work.
28 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:31:39
"Don't mark space, mark players, space doesn't score goals, players do."
Not sure where it came from, possibly Brian Clough?
29 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:35:46
Picture the scene at the moment a free kick is taken and half-a-dozen attackers rapidly interchange positions. It becomes impossible for defenders to 'stick to their man' while at the same time keeping an eye on the ball.
Also, there is the increasingly common practice of the attacking team shielding its main striker from such contact.
30 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:36:15
31 Posted 06/09/2018 at 15:48:33
I think you will find it did NOT work at Hull. There may have well been no complaints from supporters but the stats do show Hull were more susceptible to set pieces than the average team...
Personally I don't care what system Silva uses or doesn't. I just want him to employ a system that does not give cheap goals away, especially if those goals have a common denominator.
I appreciate you set your stall out long ago with regards to Silva, and quite rightly he deserves praise when we see improvements; however, that should not give him a free pass when we see no improvements in other areas.
Nobody expects Silva to transform the trainwreck he inherited in a few months. You, yourself said at the beginning we would see changes straight away; going forward, I think we have, but defensively we, or should I say I, and other supporters I speak to, see nothing.
Personally, I would have expected to see some improvement – even in the short time Silva has been here.
32 Posted 06/09/2018 at 16:23:46
33 Posted 06/09/2018 at 16:47:27
I wonder if Howards, Jagielka, Distin, (Moyes?) told him that if he couldn't get right on the opponent, to get out of the way so they could get a clear view of the ball's path.
I can see he would get skinned these last few seasons if he pressed up. But he was plenty fast and quick-footed for years. Yet, he always stood off.
34 Posted 06/09/2018 at 16:51:29
You clearly state that sometimes the attacker is in such a good position or gets such a good run on the perfect ball in (okay, that bit you did not mention!) that the goal is inevitable. But the way our goals against are analysed, especially on corners, seems to presume there is always an error in the defence.
By way of example, perhaps you could indulge me with a 'neutral' analysis of Romelu Lukaku's first goal for Man Utd at Burnley on Saturday. Zonal or man-to-man — were Burnley really at fault for that? Or was it simply a case of a pinpoint cross onto the head of the Big Galloot?
To my scaley eyes, there were two defenders pretty close to him, both watching the ball come in and watching the man, but not close enough to put in an effective challenge, simply because of their positions when the ball was clipped in. Had they been closer, however, I suspect that it would have been hard to effectively prevent Lukaku from scoring without fouling him, and the risk of giving up a penalty.
(I know it wasn't a set piece but I think Burnley had ample time to set their defence in this case.)
35 Posted 06/09/2018 at 17:16:47
One thing stuck out, however: set-pieces only getting you or costing you 3% of goals didn't seem right. Not sure if this is your figure or a quote from Martinez but a quick look at last year's Premier League shows 1018 goals and 120 of those from corners = 11%.
I'm not one for stats but set pieces play a much higher part than 3% of goals, also that figure is just corners, not direct or indirect free kicks.
I think the hybrid option best and, even if Silva sticks with a purely zonal system, I think Mina will make a big difference at both ends.
36 Posted 06/09/2018 at 17:41:24
I suggest all the people suggesting man-for-man marking, have a look around at all the best coaches using zonal whether it be Guardiola, with apart from his back 4 and Fernandino has midgets do they concede goals from corners no!!
Klopp uses zonal and, as I said a couple of weeks back, they used to concede like we are at present till the got Van Dijk. Conte won the Premier League playing zonal. Pochettino plays a variation of zonal.
So stop blaming the manager, the players are to blame not him. Let's see when we have Mina, Zouma, Digne and Gomes all in the same side... let's see how many we concede then.
37 Posted 06/09/2018 at 17:52:38
My particular thoughts are a post VAR world which you touched on will need a zonal system to reduce contact areas but will also need revision. There will be tactical changes from it.
My point is Silva's wedded to his principles, now that's great but so was Martinez to the point of extinction.
Has Silva got it in him to change and keep up with potential changes in the footballing landscape? Your many lines of support for him suggest not.
That for me is a significant worry. A bridge to cross down the line but why not try and get ahead of the curve?
38 Posted 06/09/2018 at 17:59:50
It feels like the taller the player, the more room for error in the players lack of movement. I fully understand that, in zonal, players attack the ball not the player, but even the best exponents ball watch and are often stuck in concrete. What gets them out of the situation? Their physical height, I guess?
Really that simple, taller players better zonal? The issue is the front post, ultimately the best header who can read the flight of the ball goes there. To date, it's been Tosun and Calvert-Lewin. That needs sorting.
39 Posted 06/09/2018 at 18:19:53
You never improve by standing still. We had to try something different to close the gap and I believe it will work.
Attacking players have gotten too fast to get touch-tight to. It's all about defending in the correct areas now.
40 Posted 06/09/2018 at 18:22:31
When it enevitably comes in, we will be ahead of the curve and ready. Man marking days are numbered.
41 Posted 06/09/2018 at 18:33:19
John, show me one criticism of Silva's Hull from zonal marking. Google is your friend. I can't find any.
Michael, Mee held position for no reason. Only Lukaku was there, it was three on one. He should have tried to beat Lukaku to the ball knowing he had Tarkowski and the fullback to assist if he slipped, fell or was pushed. So yes, great ball, but Lukaku pulled off Mee and he didn't react.
John, get ahead of the curve how? And John, the height issue is something I've noticed from Vitoria at Estoril to Ranocchia at Hull. Silva signs 6'-5” centre-halves only. He never signed anyone under 6-'3”. Clearly height is a key. But Mina is very mobile. As I said, he's both fast and slow. Slow over 10 yards, fast once he gets going.
42 Posted 06/09/2018 at 19:09:10
Had you read my post rather than get ultra defensive regarding any sort of criticism of Silva, you would not have asked that question.
43 Posted 06/09/2018 at 19:22:48
Martinez isn't incorrect about the 3% – the statistics you cite aren't quite addressing the same thing. That is, Martinez isn't saying only 3% of goals are scored from corners, but rather that only 3% of corners are successful in leading to a goal. Slightly different, but the nuance is important. As an article from the Times last year notes, 3% is about right.
As you can see there, some teams (Everton, West Brom, etc...) convert 5%+ of corners into goals, but these are far outweighed by the majority of teams who convert less than 3% of corners into goals. For example, Man City's success rate was 1.5%.
44 Posted 06/09/2018 at 20:20:20
One: Silva must be speaking to them in Portuguese... or,
Two: The majority of the professional footballers he inherited are simply thick.
I know which option I believe.
45 Posted 06/09/2018 at 20:40:06
Could match goers enlighten me on whether that is the case or even if it is necessary in the modern zonal tactics?
46 Posted 06/09/2018 at 20:42:56
47 Posted 06/09/2018 at 20:45:47
So far this season I have witnessed both.
I have seen them scratching around and screaming at each other as if they haven't a clue. I have also watched them set up without a word but it's still obvious they haven't got a clue.
I just wish someone would get them all together and make a plan.
48 Posted 06/09/2018 at 21:12:17
In pre-season, it was atrocious. It was very embarrassing to watch them defend and even bury were getting through them, round them and over the top. Silva adjusted and dropped them back a good 5 or even 10 yards. It's still a high line but not a crazy high line. That and the defence seem faster.
The only criticism of the defence can be the big one, their execution of zonal marking. So I'd say we can see improvements all over the pitch, just a major, major regression at set pieces were Allardyce was exceptionally strong, and we only gave up 6 goals all of last season, as bad as we were. We've conceded 4 already.
Dick. Baines never talks. Coleman talks when the ball is out of play. Holgate and Jags go through periods of talking and silence. Keane is very quiet. Zouma isn't seen to talk much. It's a far cry from Dave Watson who all he did was point and bellow. It was amazing he had time to get himself into position. Sadly, we've no one even close to that.
49 Posted 06/09/2018 at 21:39:12
In all our games so far, we've been opened up in open play and good luck and poor finishing has allowed us to escape. Even Rotherham had 2 great chances from open play. Look at the miss down at the Gwladys Street end.
I heard an interesting stat. When at Hull, they let in 36 goals, 14 from dead-ball situations. At Watford, out of 44 goals shipped in, 17 were from set pieces. 10% more than the league average. As you said, ignoring the free-kick at Wolves, we're 4 from 7.
As I keep saying, I have no problem whatever tactic Silva uses defensively; it just seems to me, and others, he has to tweak it.
A number of posters ask for more time which is fair enough but how long is long? A season?
Some reckon we should wait until we get a "settled" defence? So what happens when we get injuries and suspensions?
You say there has been defensive improvements, your opinion shared by many no doubt. In the scheme of things, I don't see it and I have to see many at the match also don't see it.
I am afraid, unless he becomes more flexible, all the good work Silva has done in attack will be negated by the lack of improvement at the back. Just a sign of improvement would be appreciated by many.
50 Posted 06/09/2018 at 21:47:10
Defending is a skill, and at the moment the psyche and dynamic of the team is still too feeble to be totally effective, but it will come.
The game's changed in style but that team defended and played as a team, verbally from Nev, Watson, Ratcliffe and Pat... the midfield were no church mice... The forward line was the first line of defence.
The charisma of this team is being formed and let's hope the next full captain and the team get in the groove that all good sides find, in time. Patience is needed.
51 Posted 06/09/2018 at 21:47:42
Zonal marking did not suddenly arrive in the nineties, although I do agree, it did signal the birth of the Number 10... decades before.
The Zonal marking in open play which Kenny Dalgleish so ruthlessly exploited had been established around the world for years and he was not just exploiting the "poor English game" – especially when you consider the success the English teams had in Europe around the time. He was destroying defences all over Europe.
Dalgleish was not the first either. Bobby Charlton was doing it 20 years before him; so was Tostao... Puskas was even earlier.
To truly understand zonal marking, you need to understand its origins; it's not something that suddenly sprang up in the nineties. The term "zonal" may have been introduced later but, even at schoolboy level, teams had long since ditched total man-marking – at least the decent ones had.
The fluidity of a zonal system when defending a set-piece is at least, if not more important than it is in open play. Having gone through drills with players at a decent level, I am fully aware of the problems a "this-is-your-area" rigid zonal system brings.
Let me give an example; We are playing Spurs. We are 1-0 up in the last minute, but they have a corner. Loriente strips off and runs on. He looks around and sees one of our "shorter" players have been given a particular space to police (Seamus?). The bastard does not do what we want him to do and match himself up with one of our units. He gets on Seamus's shoulder. The whole ground know that, if Eriksen can put the ball in that area, he will fecking murder our boy. Somebody else has to occupy that space... but where does Seamus go? Does he go into the space vacated?
Zonal marking only works when you have flexibility and fluidity. When each man understands not just his role, but everyone else's.
This is another monumental effort, Steve, and you are to be congratulated, but I must take issue on one claim: Hull?
You know how to research these things, Steve. Take a look at the amount of goals they conceded while their three big units did a perfect impression of a row of lighthouses... They were as bad then as we are now.
I think we all get a little hung up here thinking it's all or nothing; nobody – and I do mean nobody – employs a total zonal system, especially if there is a Duncan Ferguson ranging. Even the most ardent coach will compromise.
I remember sitting in a session given by George Graham at Rushden & Diamonds' "New" gaff – after "The Bung" scandal. He was asked how he defended so successfully. After going through the pros and cons of different systems, he gave a very simple answer. He told the audience that defending set-pieces is not about systems, it's not about how tall your players are.
"It's all about desire... The defending team have an enormous advantage," he said. "They can clear it anywhere and it's job done. The attacking team have to get it into that little space between the post and the cross bar."
He told the audience he did not drill his players to defend set-pieces during the week. He simply told them to sort it between themselves and work on it...
"But don't you fucking dare come back in here on Saturday and tell me the other team have shown more desire than you!"
Finally, the piece I submitted a few weeks ago was not an argument for or against Zonal Marking, it was to discuss the wisdom of trying to get a group containing three thirty-somethings to adapt to a system that is totally alien to them. I was told it will eventually work – it hasn't... and it won't.
I was told it won't cost us too many points – it already has!!
I was told that Silva will not change it. He will...
I'm with Derek Thomas @10, George Graham and good old fashioned simplicity...
53 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:12:50
54 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:24:37
Southampton had a few good chances from open play as did Bournemouth; as mentioned, the mighty Rotherham missed two great chances, one in each half.
And no, I don't see any noticeable improvement. We are still open, our defenders are still making individual and team errors. We are still failing to stop crosses coming in. At set plays we are as bad if not worse than last season.
Now you may see different things than I do but if you think there has been defensive improvements under Silva then there's not much I can say. I will give credit to Silva if I see improvements... but, if I don't, I will question him.
His past defensive record in the short time he has been in English football has not set the world on fire and, so far this season, nothing I have seen has shown me he has learned.
It may seem I am in the minority in this but all I can say it is quite a large minority going on what those around me say at and after the games.
55 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:32:53
And no, I watched the saints game about 20 times and they didn't get behind, through, or past the defence. They just had those set piece chances and the Pickford save after he spilled a soft shot. That doesn't mean the defence was breached.
56 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:43:26
Oh, Park End.
57 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:52:00
We'll leave it there if you want. But sit through the game as many times as I did and trying to dissect it all – you'll see that the defence held firm. It wasn't a good defensive performance and some of it was good luck, but Saints couldn't get through us, past us or over us. They can shoot from distance all they want, that's not the defence's fault. Sort out zonal marking and we'll be flying.
Anyway, we ain't played anyone yet. Arsenal is the test. They've got plenty of players who can rip good defences apart and we ain't a good defence.
58 Posted 06/09/2018 at 22:54:33
I prefer man-to-man myself, but where it falls down is when the attacking team bunches together, like the love train England used in the summer. Look at the joy England had by stopping Harry Maguire from being man-marked – he won every header he was left to challenge for. This is where zonal marking can help.
I personally think it's too early to judge anything. We have had a different back 4 in every game so far, players sent off etc. Let the new personnel come in, and then we'll see if the problem is the personnel or the system.
If we do persist with the current system, I hope Silva remembers that the most important zone is the 6-yard box in front of our goal. Opposition teams should not be getting tap-ins 6 yards out unchallenged. Place an extra man there if all else fails.
59 Posted 06/09/2018 at 23:48:47
60 Posted 07/09/2018 at 00:48:44
The point I'm making is that (hopefully) Mina could make all the difference if he's positioned on the corner of the 6-yard box nearest the corner kick. We need someone to dominate this area to stop us leaking goals; hopefully he can do for us what Van Dijk has done for the other lot.
62 Posted 07/09/2018 at 06:40:39
"It was to discuss the wisdom of trying to get a group containing three thirty-somethings to adapt to a system that is totally alien to them. I was told it will eventually work – it hasn't... and it won't."
You can coach schoolboys to play the system, but not top-level professional footballers?
63 Posted 07/09/2018 at 08:11:50
And I never said Cantona was the first either. Read it again.
“Cantona exploited zonal marking in the 1990s” – no mention of when zonal marking was introduced, no mention of Cantona being first. It simply explains zonal marking being in place and Cantona exploiting it.
Cantona's exploitation and the reintroduction of English football to European football revolutionised English football tactics which had become antiquated as a result of the isolation of the English game. That's indisputable, Darren.
As for the French laughing at the English game, they did, Darren. As I said, not because Cantona was terrible but because what he was doing was so simple and yet we didn't do anything about it. The point is that it was constantly noted that all he was doing was standing between the two banks of four and yet he was held up as a genius. It was this that the French, and others laughed at. That and how much the English game had declined due to the ban.
64 Posted 07/09/2018 at 08:28:19
But there is a strong case for teams to use man-for-man from set-pieces, particularly corners when teams really need to decide who is responsible for which attacking player. This is exactly what Steve Ferns advocates.
The problem lies with the obstruction which is now permitted at every set piece, when players hold and block off the ball. You see players now who have no idea where the ball is from a corner as they are so busy watching and holding their opponent.
Man-for-man marking is as successful as the referee allows it to be and there is not the collective will of officials to police the game effectively.
65 Posted 07/09/2018 at 09:00:57
Although mention of his 'All British' figures have hardly been sighted up to now, the Echo has, today, disclosed that, since his arrival on these shores, no less than 38% of corners awarded against his sides have ended up in the defenders' net. This has to be set against a Premier average of a full 10% less.
So whilst our manager's disciples preach patience whilst he drills his new troops, the portents are not good by any standard. He couldn't manage to effect a solution at Hull or Watford so why should one be a given at Everton?
Whilst so many have panned my suspicion that Silva will go the way of Martinez, the fact remains that, just like the Catalan, the man just cannot defend – and quite bizarrely blames a fledgling centre- forward for the loss of two points in the last game!
So, it seems, unless he can find a forward line to outscore the opposition, however many we concede, we – and he – are doomed to go the way of his previous career in England. Down the pan.
66 Posted 07/09/2018 at 09:23:19
67 Posted 07/09/2018 at 10:21:43
Recent years have seen us still playing at least two of Moyes's men (Baines & Jagielka) and the central defensive pair chopping and changing. I'd say that either system will work, but not without a settled back line and not with aging players who haven't got the pace they once had.
68 Posted 07/09/2018 at 10:43:25
69 Posted 07/09/2018 at 11:32:35
Then, with the likes of Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Coleman, Digne in charge of man marking other threats – take up space, be physical, be a nuisance, etc. One of them needs to be on the back post – with Pickford also watching the ball and aiming to gather at the front post.
The likes of Tosun, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison – again, whoever is on the pitch – tasked to attack the ball within a zonal channel. One front post, one in the middle – watch the ball, not the players.
Then the likes of Gueye and Walcott to be used to win the second ball. With Walcott being the counter-attacking outlet up top – as his speed and ability to break at speed is a great asset.
70 Posted 07/09/2018 at 11:39:21
It's all well saying a taller defender will make zonal marking work, but our last two goals against Huddersfield and Bournemouth, we had nobody near their player when they struck, they were unmarked, left alone. It don't matter how tall you are, if you're not near the ball or your marker (in your zone), you're fucked.
Maybe the message will take a little while to get across.
73 Posted 08/09/2018 at 16:29:19
Personally I do not want to read pontifications about the why's and wherefores' of zonal marking, in fact I am fed up of listening to 'those that know'. I am more interested in seeing with my own eyes the result of a system that the players can play to and one that stops these silly goals from set pieces.
Until then Steve, you can write until you are 'blue in the face' but as the Dragons like to say "I'm Out".
74 Posted 08/09/2018 at 16:56:36
75 Posted 08/09/2018 at 19:06:39
76 Posted 08/09/2018 at 19:33:11
Did you think of that one your own or did you have to ask a 5-year-old to give you that brilliant line? Wow, I have never had anyone make that joke about my name, how has everyone missed that for all these decades?
77 Posted 08/09/2018 at 20:08:21
Desire, bravery, its the main ingredient, and I would have enjoyed listening to a man as good as George Graham, and bet he was a very uncomplicated coach?
Steve, like most of us I fuckin hate that 5 times shout, and I often throw in to a debate, how many United would have won only for the way eufa, changed the rules, and they could only play “3 NON-ENGLISH PLAYERS” when they possibly had Fergusons best team, during the Cantana era?
78 Posted 08/09/2018 at 21:28:41
Using what you have seen with your own eyes.
How do you reckon we should set up defending set pieces?
79 Posted 08/09/2018 at 21:44:53
80 Posted 08/09/2018 at 21:50:14
81 Posted 09/09/2018 at 17:07:06
The fact that only Sir Alex got the best out of him says a lot about his man-management skills.
A good thread this, but 99 times out of 100, if a defence is fully committed to not conceding and has the ability to concentrate consistently, it doesn't matter what you call the 'system', they'll concede less goals.
Over 30 years since we had a defence like that, surely we're due one?
83 Posted 10/09/2018 at 18:02:34
85 Posted 11/09/2018 at 04:59:06
Set-piece defending — will it be sorted out over the break? Zonal marking — will he get it sorted? Will he be able to get the players to adapt to it or be able to get in players with awareness who can?
Midfield and wings — can Silva get more quality ball in to forwards? Forwards — can they get into good positions and actually beat their markers?
The next few weeks will show if Silva has the coaching ability or not. He appears to be heading in the right direction, but the above issues have to be addressed and the attempt at changes have to be seen when Everton next play.
86 Posted 11/09/2018 at 15:07:58
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