The Twilight Zone

by   |   21/08/2018  131 Comments  [Jump to last]

A lot has been said about Marco Silva and the start he has made at Everton. There is a very definite change in the mood of the average Evertonian. After years of dull uninspiring mediocrity, the matchgoer is looking forward to going the match again. Entertainment is back on the menu and Blues all over the world are buzzing.

But there is unquestionably a nagging worry. You could hear the murmurs around the ground when we were defending set-pieces. You all heard the commentators speak about the space we afforded Southampton's strikers. People have come on to this and other websites to express their concerns.

If you were to ask 20 TWers to explain Zonal Marking to you, the chances are you will get 20 different answers. Some will give plausible and intelligent answers; others will just embarrass themselves in their attempts to show they know what they are talking about.

"Zonal" isn't new. It's been around since forever; having been involved in the game since the late sixties. I have come across dozens and dozens of coaches at all different levels who have wanted to introduce this to their players... and every one had a different version.

I'm worried Marco Silva has taken this route and I'll tell you why. No manager has ever got a British back 4 or 5 to defend zonally successfully.

Whether we like it or not Jagielka, Baines and yes even Seamus are all knocking on. They are well past the stage where they can embrace and adapt to a way of playing which has been totally alien to them throughout their careers. These guys make up half of our defenders. Keane won't adapt either. Holgate might and Mina will, but Zouma... Really?

And here's another thing that bothers me, Shouldn't Rhino's boys be marking zonally too? We may need to call on players like Kenny, Browning or Galloway. Should they not be playing the same game now as the one they'll be expected to play when asked to stand in ?

It's okay to play fast and loose with defensive marking if your team score over a hundred goals and rarely give the ball to the opposition anyway, but Silva does not have that team. He does not have the players with the mentality and if he spends from now until the end of the season drilling his British defenders at Finch Farm every day, they will still not get to grips with it.

I'm not against Silva adopting zonal marking, but its something that needs practice from the start, the first day of pre-season, with players you plan to build your season around. It's something that needs to be done at every level throughout the club, with young eager minds wanting to learn. It's not something he should be asking his defenders to learn on the job when points are at stake.

Nothing destroys a teams confidence more than giving up soft goals from free kicks. My concern is that by persevering with something the players clearly don't like, Silva will undo all the good stuff in the process.

I know his supporters will claim he will get it right eventually. He won't. Not with these players... and, by the time they realise it, another season will have slipped through our fingers.

He needs to ditch this system. Now would be a good time.

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Reader Comments (131)

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Don Alexander
1 Posted 22/08/2018 at 00:47:15
I agree, Darren. To me, "Zonal Marking" is a very dark art based on all sorts of hopefully-not-spotted-by-the-ref skulduggery, usually in our own penalty area. It is foreign to the UK psyche (and I say this as a "Remainer" if anyone's interested).

To me football isn't overly complex. You are 11 vs 11. Contest for the ball, all day, every day, and use it to hurt the opponent when you've won it.


Derek Thomas
2 Posted 22/08/2018 at 01:56:51
I find it too rigid, it's scope too wide. Its main purpose is to stop players getting dragged out of position.

The other way, the One on One manner, man marking... where ever he goes can get a bit blinkered.

2 attackers vs 2 markers... or 2 attackers vs defended zones

All can be undone by the Harry Lime option... The Third Man.

The Third, not picked up... a whole other discussion... Man, pops in between or behind or in front of his 2 mates... goal.

The Third Man goes into the grey area on the edge of 2 defenders zones, a split seconds thinking time – is he mine or his?.. .goal.

Today's programme was brought to you by the phrases:

Attack the Ball & Goal Side.

So what's the cure? As always, it's that old favourite – The Goldilocks Option, not too much of one and not too much of the next... and having players with the brains to pick one from the other at any given time – easier said than done.

Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 22/08/2018 at 01:59:50
Spot on, Darren.

(Wow, there's something I don't say often, right mate?)

And I'll take it one step farther. Zonal marking requires a mindset of going to the ball with a single-minded fanaticism, like a forward. Never mind the man, just get the ball. But that goes against the instincts of most defenders. When you've practiced all your life to defend the player first, then the ball, it's very hard to react differently.

I've been a man-marking specialist for 25 years, and on the rare occasions a coach has dictated zonal marking, I have simply ignored him. The minute the corner kick goes up, I thump my man, seal him off and then go get the ball. Any other way of doing it is idiocy in my opinion.

I'm afraid we're going to lose some games due to this foolishness before Silva gets the message. But I do believe he'll get the message. I haven't seen anything yet to indicate that he's a Koeman-esque idiot who won't make adjustments.

Gavin Johnson
4 Posted 22/08/2018 at 04:21:06
The idea of zonal is a one size fits all approach. Rather than spending a lot of time looking at how to defend against the opposition on an individual basis of marking the man in game preparation. It has its merits if each player defender knows his role because it can be used against any team. It gives more time to focus on other areas of match preparation. I'm not a fan but can appreciate why it's used, especially if the coach wants his team to play nice attacking football. There is only a limited amount of time to prepare for each game.

We played some amazing attacking football in the 1st half last weekend but would have been punished against one of the league's best sides. We are already reaping the rewards in playing better football but there's still much work to do defensively.

David Barks
5 Posted 22/08/2018 at 05:28:53
Just curious, what system have our opponents been employing while we’ve had so many set pieces headed on goal and scored? I swear Keane has had at least 6 headers on goal in the opening 2 games from set pieces.

Plenty of sides use zonal marking successfully. There is no reason we can’t do so. They just need to work on it, as I’m sure they will and are. As I’ve said, zonal marking does not mean the keeper just stands idly by while a man stands in front of him completely unmarked. They’ll learn.

To say Keane won’t learn, really? That’s an insane mindset, that a young man can’t learn. And I don’t want us basing a damn thing on the capability of Jagielka or Baines, or even Coleman if I’m honest. There is a reason why we’ve signed three defenders in Brands’ first window. To say scrap anything after 2 matches is madness.

John G Davies
6 Posted 22/08/2018 at 06:18:25
Very interesting article. I can't see how there are dozens and dozens of versions of zonal marking, to be honest. Perhaps the OP could elaborate on his explanation of zonal marking?
Si Cooper
7 Posted 22/08/2018 at 13:12:43
Don (1), I think the dark arts and skulduggery are more relevant to man-marking, where the whole point (as Mike Gaynes points out) is to nullify the one man you have responsibility for.

The simple flaw with man-marking is the problems that ensue if any of the attackers has dominance over their marker or is able to lose them in the melee. If that happens you will still end up conceding unopposed goals.

It is not that I am an advocate for zonal marking, as like Mike Gaynes I would generally back myself to stick to the task of disrupting my man, but I think what we saw on Saturday was a huge departure from how the zonal marking system is supposed to work. Persevering with it or not all depends on whether Darren is right in thinking our defenders are incapable of learning new tricks.

Mike Allison
8 Posted 22/08/2018 at 13:22:36
I agree with Si. Man-to-man marking is based on the cheating, not zonal. Zonal defending of set pieces is very, very simple. The ball comes near you, you head it away. Nothing else much matters. Every defender should be able to grasp it, I don’t understand why it’s considered difficult to learn.

We’ve conceded plenty of goals from set pieces marking man-to-man, including one a few years ago that had me fuming. I think it was Heitinga who was all over his man, fouling him in at least two different ways, whilst not looking at the ball. The attacker, who was looking at the ball, managed to score anyway, and if he hadn’t, the correct decision would have been a penalty.

Either system works if you win the header (or even challenge for it successfully), neither system works if you don’t. In my experience, zonal marking makes it much easier for a defender to concentrate on challenging properly for the header.

Dennis Stevens
9 Posted 22/08/2018 at 13:48:37
I like Twiglets.
Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 22/08/2018 at 13:57:47
I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of zonal marking but, for me, the first thing you watch and look for is the ball, that's the most important thing.

I remember the game at Anfield with Howard and Neville fretting and worrying about Kyte at a corner, they pushed and shoved him for over a minute before the corner was taken, still worried about him as the ball came in, forgot about the fuckin' ball which Kyte headed home.

Watch your man but keep your eye on the ball!

Steve Ferns
11 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:03:50
Sorry, but Silva has always operated zonal marking at corners. The Watford fans moaned and he didn't change it. We'll moan and he still won't change it.

There's pros and cons to both systems of marking at corners. The difference is that with man marking, it's always the player's fault, not the system. When a player cocks up in zonal marking, it's the systems fault.

Zonal marking is here to stay. Silva won't change it. Most of the top coaches in the world operate it. Sorry lads, you're going to have to get used to it, not just with Silva but in general as less and less managers / coaches operate man marking systems these days.

Jamie Crowley
12 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:16:51
I favor a hybrid system of man marking and zonal marking.

11 players on the pitch. One man up top zonal marking a jail-break counter attack. ;0)

7 men mark their men like glue.

3 men zonal mark - keeper has the middle of the net, one man has the near post, one man has the far post. ;0)

Done. If everyone does their job, no goals scored against.

Zonal marking is trash. And it's the rope Marco Silva will eventually get hung with. We hang them all in the end (sans Sir Alex at Man Utd but guys like him are a once-in-a-generation anomaly).

Zonal marking will be the eventual death of Silva.

Steve Ferns
13 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:19:45
Jamie, can you name a manager successfully operating a man-marking system at a major club in the Premier League, never mind the rest of Europe.
Jamie Crowley
14 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:21:03
Steve – "every game I watch, it's man marking"?

What do you mean?

Mike Corcoran
15 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:22:15
Wasn’t Tosun drawn out of his zone for the Ings goal?
Steve Ferns
16 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:23:35

Man City, Spurs, Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal … it's all zonal marking. That's what I mean. They are just doing it properly.

Amit Vithlani
17 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:26:46
100% agree that the system should be ditched, or at least shelved for now. If we are still getting to grips with the system, and coughing up chances at each and every set piece – guess what the oppo will do in the early games of the season? Yep, target us on our weak spot.

We have to find the best way to stop the chances, and its clear these are arising because we are not defending the zones properly and nor are we man marking. In fact, I am not really sure what we are doing when defending set pieces.

In this league it is very hard to win once you go behind. It is the pig-headed attitude that cost Martinez – his refusal to see his set up was eroding his team's confidence, thus badly undermining the abilities of some very talented players he had at his disposal.

I also 100% agree that the team needs confidence, and results breed confidence and we look currently very vulnerable to conceding. A good pragmatist would compromise his beliefs just to get the team up and running before introducing this way of defending – which we clearly are not good at right now.

Jamie Crowley
18 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:27:52
Steve – can you name me a set of fans who don't have a fucking heart attack at every corner whose teams employ "zonal marking"?

It's trash. It's counter-intuitive. Pick up a man, do your job, put a guy on each post, done.

Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.

You can explain away the "tactical" reasons for zonal marking, or some other high-flung, PhD sounding explanation as to why it's superior. Most likely I'm going to read and hear to my ears, "Blah, blah, blah-blah-blah blah. Blaaaahhhh bla-bla-blah. Blah blah. Blah."

Not trying to be rude, Steve – you're genius with this stuff. But I've seen zonal marking and nothing will convince me it's a good system to defend set-pieces.

Jamie Crowley
19 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:29:09
Steve -

I'll try to watch a few games this weekend and catch some set pieces with some of the teams you mentioned and give it a look with an open mind.

Steve Ferns
20 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:29:34
Jamie, Man City conceded 1 goal from corners all season, despite having a tiny team, playing zonal marking. Their fans didn't have a heart attack.

Name one side successfully operating man-to-man marking on corners please?

Jamie Crowley
21 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:30:31
Stan Schofield
22 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:35:53
Surely in reality every game uses a combination of both 'zonal' and 'man' marking depending on the situation? I don't think it's either/or.

If you're faced with a particularly dangerous forward, you'll track him closely compared with someone less dangerous. If you're faced with a set of middling players, you might as well 'mark the zone' and pick up whoever enters it. Unless I'm missing something.

Steve Ferns
23 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:37:00
Haha nice one!

Pullis was a corner master. West Brom were the top scorers in the league in his last full season at corners. Defending them was a different matter. Man-to-man marking has lots of flaws. If the man gets free of his marker he can score nearly every time.

Zonal marking isn't perfect. If I was managing a side, I'd play man to man marking because it's what I know, but I'd also have some free men to mark zones. But you have to acknowledge that man-to-man marking is dying from the game. No one plays man-to-man marking in open play anymore. It's all zonal these days, with the odd exception when facing someone like Messi. Use of man-to-man marking at corners is firmly in decline. I don't know how many teams will operate it this season with Pullis and Allardyce gone.

Pete Clarke
24 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:46:10
Outside of the zonal-marking issue, isn't the 6-yard box the goalkeeper's territory?

Pickford should be controlling what happens around the danger zone and, if he is prepared to come and get the ball at corners but gets a knock in doing so, then 9 times out of 10 it's a free kick.

Back to the zonal marking: our defenders need to attack the ball in their zone, as mentioned on other posts. A Derek Mountfield mentality to win the ball at all costs.

Steve Ferns
25 Posted 22/08/2018 at 14:56:07
The main thing to bear in mind is that Silva defends corners like he does because the players are meant to be in the setup they need to be in break in attack at speed. If you man mark, then you can get pulled to the wrong side of the pitch and then it's harder to run a rehearsed move. Whereas with zonal marking, they can break at speed and rip an opponent to shreds, which makes them, in turn, have less men in the box, and so makes it easier to defend the corner.

Barcelona use zonal marking, Mina will be fine. The rest, Zouma included (played for Stoke last season) will need a period of adjustment.

The big problem on zonal marking I usually see is that the defenders are static, and so the attacker can easily out jump them. There's no rule that the defenders should be static, really they should take a few steps forwards to get into position and so be able to jump and head away. When it goes wrong, it's usually due to a flat footed defender who has switched off.

Steve Ferns
26 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:03:43
Watford Corner Analysis

I found this excellent article, written by a Watford fan at the end of November 2017. He was very concerned about goals conceded from corners as you will see. Of course Marco Silva was in charge of them at the time.

It will no doubt reinforce a lot of views that man-to-man marking is the way to go, whereas the author suggests tweaks to the zonal marking method.

And the answer to my earlier question was Burnley. They are the team operating man-to-man corner marking with great success. Pochettino operates zonal marking but with some element of man to man marking. Mourinho always used zonal marking and has tried to switch United to the system, but I have lost track of whether they have effectively switched or not. Liverpool and Man City are firmly zonal marking. Wenger was zonal marking, I believe Emery is too, but I would not bet my life on it. Italians always go man to man, but Sarri isn't your typical Italian so i'll need to check on them.

Paul Tran
27 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:06:57
An interesting debate chock full of confirmation bias. Zonal marking apparently doesn't work, except for the successful teams that use it!

My instinct/age lends itself to man to man, but many successful sides use zonal.

I think it's more to do with the defenders' levels of concentration than any system. When Southampton scored on Saturday neither man nor zone were marked.

Mina and Zouma, two big centre backs who attack the ball have just been bought, presumably to make the back four more effective in a zonal system.

We shall see, but I'd concentrate on the concentration, regardless of the system we play.

Steve Ferns
28 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:15:54
Sarri utilised zonal marking at corners at Napoli. I can't find anything on Chelsea yet.
Jamie Crowley
29 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:27:30
This is the type of thread where I think – and folks may consider this absolute bullshit that's fine - a non-cultured set of eyes can actually bring some enlightenment.

Some top teams, with top players mind you, can make zonal marking successful. But, from my perspective, I don't know of a single sport where it would be preferential. Confirmation bias? Oh hell yes.

Football (my football) employs zonal coverage that often gets picked apart. In hockey, if you marked a zone, your own teammates would get 5 minutes for fighting in the penalty box as they would have beat the pulp out of you for doing so. Basketball uses zone defenses and it leaves holes so wide at points you could drive a truck through them and teams give up outside shots.

I can't think of a single sport on earth where it would be a more preferential way of approaching defending.

The only way it is acceptable is if you have a player who isn't as talented, and he needs “support” from a teammate in the neighboring zone. It may be elementary, sophomoric, unintelligent, and simple?

But to my eyes, why over complicate?! Keeper, two men one on each post, 7 men marking a player, and one guy up top so the ball doesn't come straight back at you if cleared.

You can still counter out of a man marking system! If you gain possession in an advantageous position? RUN! BREAK!

Why is that not so obvious? Despite all these “top teams” with foreign managers espousing a zonal system? Seems to me very basic and the best way of not conceding on corners?

You don't have to be the smartest guy in the room to out-think everyone else. Because everyone else ignores the glaring obvious as they are trying to be overly clever and out-think everyone else! Just mark up and do your damn job already.

Marco Crowley.

Rob B Williams
30 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:28:47
'The big problem on zonal marking I usually see is that the defenders are static, and so the attacker can easily out jump them. '

That in a nut-shell is the very problem of Zonal – a moving attacker will always have the advantage over a static defender – the moving defender will usually have eyes only for the ball and the goal, whereas the static defender must watch the ball, watch the moving defender and then get himself into position to stop that ball going into the net – unless of course he just stands there and expects the ball to hit him.

Jay Harris
31 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:29:42
Very good post, Darren, and some good knowledgeable responses.

I was brought up on man-to-man marking and ensuring "the big fella" was adequately nullified. You don't have to outjump them – just make sure they can't get an effective touch on the ball.

Any sort of marking requires players to be aware of what is going on around them to be successful and unfortunately we have had defenders with absolutely no sense of awareness so either system was bound to fail hence our hasty entry to the transfer market for defenders.

Silva will never get an award for his team's defensive resilience but we will hopefully see a big improvement on the Martinez theory of (non-)defending.

I did have big concerns about Silva and really wanted Emery but he and Steve Ferns are winning me over so far.

Chris Gould
32 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:31:24
The last thing a young forward-thinking coach should do is change his principles and revert to outdated methods for short-term gain. Instead, he should train the players to adapt and, if they can't, then get players in that can.

It may take time and a couple of windows, but Silva must stick to his plan. The whole team needs to get behind the idea, and we need to be consistent with it.

Darren is correct in suggesting that the U23s should be using the same tactics. The whole club needs to evolve, and we can't switch back to old tactics because of a few hiccups along the way. We must trust Silva's methods, and he must keep believing in himself and not allow doubts to enter his mind.

Goals will go in that may well have been prevented, but we must stay positive and trust that it will be for the greater good.

Steve Ferns
33 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:34:02
Rob, why does the zonal marking defender need to be static? When the corner taker kicks the ball, run forwards two steps and start to jump (in time with the ball obviously) then you can be just as active as the attacker and he’s usually trying to get through a crowd of defenders to hit his spot, which is why zonal marking can be so effective.
Andy Crooks
34 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:50:55
This may well be false memory syndrome but I believe that the Arsenal team that won the double under Bertie Mee and Don Howe used zonal marking which, at the time, was unheard of but very effective. However, if anyone thinks I am talking nonsense I will not put up a fight.
Brent Stephens
35 Posted 22/08/2018 at 15:56:42
Steve #16,

"Man City, Spurs, Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal … it's all zonal marking. That's what I mean. They are just doing it properly".

If so, then I'll bide my time on this one rather than jumping to conclusions yet. <>It's not clear what's meant by "these" players when saying Silva won't get it right with them. The team that started the season? Or the team that started against Southampton? Or the team that will include Mina? Or Zouma? Or both? It won't be a season before they're playing for us, pretty obvious!

Too early for me to judge. I'll wait and see.

Mike Allison
36 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:13:08
Zonal marking is the simple system: stand there, head it away.

Man-to-man is the complicated system: watch your man, but also watch the ball, (they’re in opposite directions and one of them keeps moving). Foul your man, but make sure you don’t get penalised (whilst one of the opponents is trying to foul you so that your man gets free). Run back towards your own goal as the ball is delivered but then somehow head it away from your own goal. Where ‘man-to-man’ has worked it’s because refs haven’t had the guts to penalise the blatant fouls.

Zonal marking: stand there, head it away. Your man doesn’t matter, as he can’t do anything without the ball, and you’re already in position for where he needs to get to.

How is zonal the one that’s trying to be clever?

Mike Gaynes
37 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:17:59
I missed a nice debate overnight. Steve made the clearest points, so I'll address those.

Yes, zonal has been the standard in open play for decades. No, it usually doesn't work in defending set pieces. Just watch games around the world and see how many ridiculously easy goals are scored against non-reactive zones. Zonal is much harder to do well.

Yes, Barca and City are successful with zonal marking, but they've been doing it for years. And Barca has only recently shed a longtime reputation for being soft on set pieces. Chris Gould might be willing for Silva to spend a season teaching zonal at corners. I'm not. In the first two games our backline has lined up like the subjects of a firing squad, complete with blindfold. Nobody has reacted to the ball properly. Bad is bad.

Besides Burnley, Bournemouth is another example of a side using man-marking on corners with good success.

Jamie, loved your Marine callout.

And Mike Allison, yes, of course you're supposed to be looking at the ball while you're defending... if you don't, it's simply bad man-marking. And no, man-marking isn't cheating. "Where ‘man-to-man’ has worked it’s because refs haven’t had the guts to penalise the blatant fouls" is just malarkey in my opinion. I'm no pro, not even close, but I've never been beaten for a goal off a corner by a man I was marking, and I've never been called for a pen in that situation.

Ray Robinson
38 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:19:54
Man-to-man marking, zonal defending – it ultimately gets down to the quality and anticipation of the defenders. At the end of the day, who was either covering Danny Ing's zone or man marking him last Saturday? Either way, rank bad defending! The flick-on at the near post seemed to catch everyone by surprise.
Mike Gaynes
39 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:22:39
Ray #38, true. Ings was all alone in front of Pickford before the corner was even taken, and nobody ever marked him.
Erik Dols
40 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:24:30
I was a striker in a past era - lower league stuff of course. As I wasn't lightning fast and my skill on the ball was, even for the level I played at, limited, almost all my goals came from outwitting the opponent.

Living on the continent, I had both zonal and man marking against me and I can assure you that from my perspective neither stands out. A smart man marker will see when he needs to drop his man and step out to the free "third man", a smart zonal defender will recognize when he needs to leave his zone when there's a calamity in another zone.

I scored a lot against defenders that were not able to see when they needed to adapt, I hardly scored against defenders who were not outsmarted as I lacked pace and/or technique to beat them on my own. Had little to do with the system they used.

I am not saying both systems are the same but the differences some people are pointing at are an exaggeration.

John Williams
41 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:27:28
I'm with Brent; let's wait and see how Silva's preferred centre-backs operate the system before passing judgement.

However, the ease of Ings goal on Saturday was scary. If he had missed the ball there were a couple of other Southampton players behind him in the six-yard box also not marked. Pickford was nowhere as well.

Surely the best method would be a sort of hybrid where some defenders also man mark the opposition's biggest aerial threats. If the top six all adopt the zonal system when we get set pieces against them, can we expect Mina not to be marked? If so, could be happy days.

Brian Harrison
42 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:42:25

Your first paragraph says: "There is a very definite change in the mood of the average Evertonian". "After years of dull uninspiring mediocrity, the match goer is now looking forward to going the match again". "Entertainment is back on the menu and Blues all over the World are buzzing".

I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments so why, when a poster came on saying how well Silva had done, did you label him a "happy clapper". Insinuating that some – but not you – are easily pleased.

Then you can't resist having a go at Silva saying why hasn't he got the Under-23 team using zonal marking. How do you know they aren't? The guy has only been here a few weeks, so I guess he is trying to educate the first team how it works before starting on the Under-23s... if he hasn't already.

There has always been pros and cons about zonal or man-to-man marking, the difference is good players make systems work – not the other way round. Just look at Liverpool: they have played zonal all the time under Klopp. Yet, before they got Van Dijk, they conceded from dead-ball situations as much as any club, but getting a top-class defender, their goals against in the league since he joined has been as good as any club. Players make systems work or not, the better clubs with the better players will make any system work.

Dermot Byrne
43 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:48:46
The post by Jamie C asking about other sports got me thinking about the sport I played to County level, rugby. Bear with me

The thing that interested me was the changes in Rugby Union and how they have moved to a more zonal Rugby League approach.

When I played, forwards fought for the ball and lolloped across the field to the next maul or scrum and wrestled again with other forwards.

Meanwhile us three-quarters when defending concentrated on the guy in same position in other team and religiously man marked him.

But then coaches got clever.

The traditional attack style faded and forwards and backs started interplaying and drawing in players to create space or an overlap. As I went for my opposite number, the ball had gone inside to someone else and I left a gap for them to exploit.

I recall coaches looking at the more zonal approach of League. They covered the whole pitch and the emphasis wasn't so much man marking but a line of players covering a pitch.

In football I think coaches and their attackers have also become smarter. Players exchange places, interplay, swap roles and do other wickedly clever things.

Previously when it was a predictable cross to their forwards in the box with a midfielder coming in from behind them, it was easier to spot your man.

Now not as easy and perhaps if we stick with man marking too much longer we will continue to have that horrid moment when the player got the man, whilst the ball was elsewhere and ultimately then in our net.

I can see the prob with corners and how you defend those against a good attacking team I am not sure.

But I do recall it took us ages in rugby union to change how we defended and made some howlers on the way. But we got there and became a much harder team to breach.

Does that solve the problems of upcoming season? Who knows yet but strikes me the attackers are showing they are adapting to change so far.

Chris Gould
44 Posted 22/08/2018 at 16:56:28
Mike, we were even worse in pre-season, but have significantly improved in a very short time. These players will be working hard on getting it right, and if they can't, Mina and Digne will be waiting in the wings. Maybe Zouma also has previous experience of Zonal marking?

Everyone needs to get behind Silva's methods. One change may have a knock-on effect and undo other good work.

I was as angry as anyone else when Ings scored, but thankfully it didn't cost us points and the players will hopefully learn from it.

We haven't defended well on a consistent basis in years, and Zonal marking can't be blamed for it. I'm willing to give it a chance and accept there may be some teething issues.

Dermot Byrne
45 Posted 22/08/2018 at 17:01:01
Wait till my rugby references get it Brian H!

Though I am a happy clapper and proudly wear the t-shirt!

Nicholas Ryan
46 Posted 22/08/2018 at 17:06:28
So, with Silva's calamitous zonal fetish, we lost to Wolves and Southampton... except we didn't – we are currently unbeaten, so the proof of this pudding is (so far) very firmly in the eating.

If we win our home games, and draw our away games, I don't give a fuck what the system is!

Also, if your defensive system (whatever it is) is being operated by John Stones and Vincent Kompany, it's more likely to be successful, than if it's operated by Bert Sproggis and Freddie No-mark!

Jamie Crowley
47 Posted 22/08/2018 at 17:10:02
Dermont -

Two points regarding the zonal marking in rugby.

1. You're comparing open play with a set piece in soccer. It's not the same thing.

2. The space in question is much, much smaller (usually) on a set piece than the entirety of a rugby field.

Your point is well taken however! I think, and my American brain didn't consider rugby because I simply don't watch it, a zonal defensive approach in that sport would be preferable.

Not knowing the sport I stand to be corrected obviously. But the size of the pitch with overlapping players and what not could definitely dictate that.

It was a really good point and comparison you made.

Oh! And I have to say - what Mike Gaynes said @ 37!

In the first two games our backline has lined up like the subjects of a firing squad, complete with blindfold.


Dermot Byrne
48 Posted 22/08/2018 at 17:23:35
You may well be right, Jamie, but it particularly works when defending close to your own line (a small space) from a scrum, what is close to a set piece now.

As for the space to overlap, pass inside etc, watch the good attacking teams and they increasingly do it well enough in the 18-yard box.

Truth is, I know the tactics and coaching of rugby much better and watch football as it plays to my emotions and family history rather than my head.

So, if I wander in to tactical discussions, I usually end up just learning!

John Pierce
49 Posted 22/08/2018 at 17:27:40
Despite my despair of it, zonal will stay. But perhaps not as a Steve Ferns suggests because Silva won't change but because of VAR.

It's likely VAR will be ruining games in the premier league from next season. Handballs and penalties will abound of course. Hurrah, I hear you say, contrived video-assisted drama!

Okay now, I'm down off my high horse.

Let's look back at the World Cup. Set-pieces were hugely important, most of the defending was man to man and that yielded more decisions to review for the minions in the VAR chamber of horrors.

Grabbing and pulling penalised, jumping for the ball with opponents, greater scrutiny was placed on arm positions. A veritable jackpot of pens.

To circle back, as trend I'd believe zonal will become en vogue. A system with less dueling, and hence grappling, the emphasis is on getting to the ball unimpeded unlike ‘Gaynes' sealing off his man and then going for the ball! Mike great challenge by the way. No pen! Ref waves away the protests from other Toffeewebbers.

That, I believe, will be one of the many unintended consequences of VAR. Coaches will want less contact in the box, to mitigate VAR, zonal achieves that over man-to-man coverage, a little US sports cliches for ya there.

Back to Everton's zonal attempts to date, cumbersome. But the team will improve. Keane is not the answer but he may well learn zonal but his ability to defend high and 1v1 will see him lose his place to a more mobile and pacey team-mate.

Tosun got caught ‘in' for the goal, playing Ings onside. But what I don't like is having all XI back for both corners and free kicks.

What purpose does Walcott serve? I can see why Tosun and a Richarlison are there, both 6-footers & aerially decent.

Marco, just lob Theo up top, mate.

Jay Wood

50 Posted 22/08/2018 at 18:07:14
I think it was the late Sir Bobby Robson who instructed his defenders thus:

"Don't be the dozy sod that switches off and doesn't do his job."

Zonal or man-to-man marking, if you have a dozy sod switching off and not doing his job, you will concede goals.

The point John Pierce makes @ 49 is a good one. VAR is going to change how teams defend in their penalty area at corners and free kicks.

I'm of the belief that players can and do learn new systems that are possibly alien to them, so I can't subscribe to the belief in the opening post that it is beyond a 'British back four' to adapt to whatever system Marco Silva wishes to introduce.

Steve Ferns
51 Posted 22/08/2018 at 18:12:27
Give it a few weeks, Jay, there could be no-one in the back four who is British (Coleman, Mina, Zouma and Digne).
Tony Abrahams
52 Posted 22/08/2018 at 18:41:50
That Ward-Prowse has got a good delivery and it was noticeable that he was trying to hit the ball flat, with pace; that's why I think I would go with Jamie C, and do a bit of both whilst defending set-pieces.

It's imperative to stop any flick-ons because this type of ball always creates danger and this is what I think Ward-Prowse was trying to achieve with his delivery.

So a man at the front is zonal? Then, whatever you say, it's defenders being both clever and brave that is obviously the most important thing.

Good article, Darren. Great point John Pierce, because "the times they are a changin"

Ray Robinson
53 Posted 22/08/2018 at 18:58:08
Steve, as you are the tactical expert, can you confirm that the reason most corners go to the near post is that statistically more goals come from flick-ons rather than corners that go straight to the centre of the area or to the far post. This means that often it appears that a dead ball expert "cannot clear the first man" whereas it's Allardyce type managers who study statistics that instruct their players to go for faster, flatter crosses.

My point is that, zonal or man-to-man, both of which have merits, the degree of success at defending such set-pieces ultimately depends on the anticipation and speed of thought of the defender. Perhaps the instincts of the defenders are as important as the system deployed?

Rob Halligan
54 Posted 22/08/2018 at 19:14:50
Looking at the Sky Match Choice from the Southampton game. Zonal marking or not, but Michael Keane it seems, is looking at Danny Ings as the corner comes over for their goal. The only problem is, Ings is goal side, about five yards from goal, while Keane is just outside the six-yard box. Pickford should have been screaming at Keane to get goal side, and therefore having a better chance of clearing the flick on. In fact, there are two Southampton players who could have scored, Ings or Hoedt.

I'm not in favour of this zonal marking. Much better to have man-to-man marking. Again, looking at the Southampton goal (with a freeze frame) we have four players, Holgate, Tosun, Baines and Richarlison all stood in or on the edge of the six-yard box in effect marking space. It only needed Holgate to drop back about three yards of so, and help Keane out. In fact, as you roll the picture on, there is possibly any one of three Southampton players who could have scored that goal.

If we persevere with zonal marking, and it appears we might, we are going to concede a lot of goals from corners.

Darren Hind
55 Posted 22/08/2018 at 19:28:56
Interesting reaction.

As I said in the OP, I've come across dozens of coaches with different views as to what Zonal Marking actually entails. Reading the differing opinions offered I guess that view has been born out.

Steve Ferns,

I know how much you want this guy to succeed and you have never been adverse to a little sleight of hand when it comes to defending him when he is questioned. You challenged Jamie to name a successful manager currently operating a man to man marking system in England – sneaky.
Yes the manager of the current champions employs Zonal marking, but you forget to mention that the previous 50-60 winners were all managers who preferred man to man.

Ask yourself this; Did Pep win the title because his zonal system was able to repel the few corners his team of superstars had to face... or did he win it because he had a team of superstars who dominated possession in nearly all of their games and scored for fun all season? I think you know the answer.

While we are at it lets address some of the other claims you make.
"Manchester City, Spurs Chelsea, Liverpool. Man United and Arsenal it's all zonal marking, that's what I mean. They are just doing it properly " Do you really believe that? Where on earth do you get this stuff from?

When a big unit marches into the Spurs penalty area for a corner. You can be absolutely certain he will be immediately picked up, if another approaches, he will be picked up too. Spurs have a couple of players on "zonal duty" but you can be very assured the two Belgian centre-backs will be marking the danger men very closely.

Why you claimed Chelsea go zonal is beyond me. You even say yourself you can find nothing to support it.

You claim Arsenal do it successfully, but their fans have been tearing their hair out over their defending for years... and the new guy has only been there for two games. Oh and did you catch Man Utd's game on Sunday? Jose will be lucky to survive Christmas.
Not quite the roaring success you have portrayed it. Pep could have played any system he wanted and they would still have won the league by Easter.

We are not Man City, so let's not make daft comparisons. We won't score a hundred goals. Pep's version of zonal is different to Marco's. When they go zonal, they do it properly and leave two men up, when we have done it, we have pulled every single player back into our box leaving no out ball. Yet another case of two coaches having completely different idea`s as to what "Zonal" actually is

Many of our games and most of our points will be decided by fine margins. If Silva perseveres with a system alien to his players, we will drop enough points to prevent any real improvement on last season's finish.

Mike Gaynes
56 Posted 22/08/2018 at 19:32:46
John #49, that is a really good point about VAR, and one I hadn't considered.

But I'm not sure it's an "unintended" consequence, because there's been a lot of comment about the grabbing on corners for years, and I think the powers that be would be happy to see it go away. We differ on whether VAR will be positive or negative for the game overall, but I think you're spot on regarding this particular consequence.

Rob #54, I saw what you saw before that corner was even taken, and Pickford definitely should have been screaming. I certainly was.

Darren Hind
57 Posted 22/08/2018 at 19:52:52
Brian Harrison 42

You're about six months too late Fella.

Yes, I have labelled some as happy clappers when they have applauded previous managers, but to be fair I think those claims were later vindicated.

In Silva's case, I said people are being a little too quick to hand out the bouquets – not quite the same thing. I don't contradict myself either. I feel the new found optimism has been generated by a number of factors, not least the sacking of Allardyce. Brands has also got the place buzzing, not just with the players he has been able to acquire, but with the players he has been able to ship out.

Silva is the manager, not being Sam Allardyce is good for now... but he still has it all to prove. I'm not a clapper of the happy variety and although I will support him. I won't be applauding anything until he has actually done something

Steve Ferns
58 Posted 22/08/2018 at 19:53:34
Darren, Man city conceded the least goals from corners last season, utilising zonal marking. Pep Guardiola has always done it.

Arsenal have played it since Wenger came in and Emery continues it.

Man Utd play it under Mourinho.

Liverpool have played it under Benitez (who still does it at Newcastle), Rogers (who plays it at Celtic) and now Klopp.

Chelsea have a manager who has ALWAYS played it, even back in the amateur leagues. He's got very strong views on zonal marking. Checkout the Chelsea highlights for confirmation he's playing it there. Huddersfield score off a corner.

Pochettno plays zonal marking (following Bielsa's handbook like Pep) and it's a key component to the counter-attacking philosophy as I touched on above.

I didn't say they all do it successfully but there's the big six all doing it. It's only British managers playing man to man. Meanwhile, Man City, one of the smallest teams in the league, had the highest success percentage in defending corners last season.

Personally I'd go man-to-man, but zonal is here to stay and Marco Silva is not alone in using it. All the cool kids do.

As for the previous 60 winners using man-to-man I could name 3 immediately who played zonal and that's without digging deeper. I could only really confirm Ranieri and Ferguson as man-to-man guys, so who else are you thinking? I'm not sure Conte played pure man-to-man, it seems a hybrid.

Darren Hind
59 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:12:50

Not so

For years Wenger enjoyed the fantastic combativeness and marking ability of the defence he inherited from George Graham – they brought him every one of his titles. Only when these guys faded into the background did Wenger go zonal. Once he did that, Arsenal fell off a cliff so steep, they still haven't hit the deck. And their fans turned on him.

A little bit like when Jose enjoyed the combativeness and snuffing out marking skills of his back four; Imagine asking Terry to tell his men to leave their opponents and mark space... and are you really suggesting Jaimie Carragher zonally marked for Rafa? Take the man-marking skills out of Carragher's game and you were left with nothing.

And I would not put forward Newcastle as an example of how to zonally mark.

As for Man City, when you have £100m+ worth of defenders and you concede the least corners... chances are you will concede the least goals from those corners too – however you set up.

Steve Ferns
60 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:15:50
Darren, I refer you to a video on Sky, Carragher vs Neville on the subject of zonal marking.

If you can be so wrong on that, you need to realise you're wrong about some other things. And Mourinho has used zonal marking before and he did at Chelsea. Look it up.

Brent Stephens
61 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:18:00
Steve (#60), have you got a link for that video?
Steve Ferns
62 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:20:31
Zonal v man marking: Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on why both can work perfectly

“I'm sick of hearing people talking about zonal marking, I hear the same thing every time the ball goes in,” said Carragher. “But when a same goal goes in against man marking, we don't blame the system, we blame the player. I did zonal marking under Rafael Benitez, so I like to think I've got some understanding of it.”

Darren Hind
63 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:27:32

I refer you to the number of times Carragher would be tussling with our very own Big Dunc and Tim Cahill. I distinctly remember him "zonally marking" Lescot to the floor.

Jose – just like Wenger – inherited his man markers. That's where he gained his big successes

I wonder, Steve: What is your take on Silva bringing every man back inside the box for each of the corners we have faced? And how do you see a comparison with Peps version?

I watched the video too. What it says is he sometimes played zonal. Rafa was/is a tactical maniac – he tried just about everything. For most of the time, Carragher marked – as we all saw with our own eyes – that was all he could do.

Steve Ferns
64 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:32:46
Darren, the issue isn't how well it works. You said they didn't play it. They did.

Leicester won the league despite zonal marking. They conceded 31% of the goals in their title-winning year from corners.

West Brom in Pullis's last season were devastating at attacking corners, scoring the most off set-pieces. Yet their man-to-man system in marking corners was a failure and they were one of the worst teams in the Premier League for conceding goals from corners. And that's with a team of big ugly grocks, not a team of midgets like Man City.

Darren Hind
65 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:39:16
Steve, read my post. Rafa tried everything at some stage... but he was only ever successful when they were not zonally marking. Ask any RS.

Steve Ferns
66 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:47:37
Darren, you said Liverpool didn't play zonal marking under Benitez. They clearly did. All the time. Watch the video. Benitez has used it all the way back to Valencia. He doesn't compromise.

Sarri has always used it. Chelsea do now.

Wenger used it for years and years and Emery does now.

Mourninho uses it Man Utd and he did at Chelsea.

Pochettino uses it at Spurs and used to use full zonal marking.

Where's these successful defences using man-to-man? Burnley and who else? Did Burnley have such a good record before last season?

In your original post, you said it needs work; I agree. You never said bin it off. He won't anyway. It was Gaynes and Co. Yet you're now the one who's determined to prove it's never worked ever. Despite Man City only conceding one goal from a corner last season, with a team of midgets.

Both systems have flaws. Silva plays it for a reason. He'll make it work and he's never kept everyone in the box before. It must be a transitional thing as he tried to iron out issues and get it working.

Erik Dols
67 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:47:55
Darren, do you feel that zonal defending means defenders cannot/will not touch an opposing player? Your antics on Carragher certainly leave that impression on me. Zonal defending does not exclude one from attacking the man in his zone...
Steve Ferns
68 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:52:04
Exactly Erik. And if your zone is free you don’t stand there scratching your arse you move to the nearest man.
Steve Ferns
69 Posted 22/08/2018 at 20:53:18
Mourinho book

Mourinho says zonal marking is the only way to defend set pieces. Great book by the way.

John G Davies
70 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:00:30
Darren, 55.

I said doubted it when you said dozens and dozens of "coaches" had a different version of zonal marking. As far as I know, none of the posters on this thread are coaches. So that doesn't vindicate your claim in any way.

It would be interesting to read your explanation of zonal marking though?

Jamie Crowley
71 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:01:24
Except Eric, as Mike Gaynes points out rightly, our Everton men stand around like deer in headlights!

Zonal defending is a reactive system opposed to a proactive one, as man-marking is.

One says - get on on man and mark him until you're axe-murdered. Proactively stick to him like glue to prevent him from scoring. Get on him and affect the outcome before the ball is kicked by marking.

The other espouses - stand here in this space and if an opposing player jollies through this area pick him up. Or, actually, if he leaves your area leave him for the fella next to you. Ah, fuck it, just look at the ball and go get it.

All these specifics and quizzes are irrelevant. This is a philosophy argument and debate.

I'd rather we zonally (is that a word?) defend areas of the goal and high up the pitch, while man-marking the bastards in the box trying to do us harm and score against us.

Philosophically sound in my opinion.

Again, keep it simple.

Both approaches will ultimately result in the opposition scoring goals, as we don't have 11 Jesus Christs in our line up. Man City has the only Jesus in the league to my knowledge, and he'll concede a goal probably on a corner at some point.

I prefer man marking, even if it may prove to be an outdated way by the in vogue soccer minds.

EDIT - is that "en vogue"? I've no fuckin' clue.

Steve Ferns
72 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:06:18
Jamie, you got that the wrong way round.

Man to man is reactive. You follow the man. You react to his movements.

Zonal is proactive. You move to anticipate the ball and try to win it.

The bottom line is threefold.
- both systems can work and both systems have flaws
- Silva won't change it and certainly not mid season
- we do have problems with it presently and hopefully those are teething problems and they will resolve once Silva gets his big 6'5” monster out to defend the corners alongside a 6'3” guy. Remember he loves big tall guys?

Edit: me too Jamie, although I always marked the post so I suppose that's zonal marking! And it is en vogue.

Mike Gaynes
73 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:06:27
Steve, is it merely a great book or a Special One?

I might buy a copy as bathroom reading. Just the sight of Jose makes me wanna... ah, never mind, keep it classy.

Stan Schofield
74 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:07:20
Zonal marking has been around for yonks, and it works, just as 'man marking' works when needed and you have good defenders. I recall us using zonal marking (or what looked like it to me) from when I started going the match in the 60s.

You just need good defenders and good organisation between those defenders for it to work well. And since that time, we've also used man-marking. That is, we've used each, as the need arises. So again, it's not an either/or.

Jamie Crowley
75 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:08:15
Steve Ferns - honest question.

How do you appropriate responsibility for conceding a corner in a zonal system?

If you man mark, you know who lost their man.

In a zonal system, how in the hell do you actually know who should go and get the ball? One guy can stand there and say, "not my area!"

Also, and if you can just enlighten me (and I mean that sincerely not snotty - actually teach me), what happens when the opposition floods 3 players into one zone? How does one man defend his "zone" against 3 opposition players? Seriously how does overloading against a zonal marking system work?

Steve Ferns
76 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:09:47
Mike, it's written by him. The arrogance seeps off the pages!! It's really good though. It's not an autobiography — it's his football philosophies and ideas.
Jamie Crowley
77 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:11:28
Also, someone explain to me the flaw of my original point.

Keeper, man on each post, man up top, and 7 men in the box marking.

How is that bad? How could anything be better at defending a corner than that?

I know I'm not the most cultured football mind, but I can't see the flaw in that system defending corners. Everyone has an area to protect or a man to pick up. Simple.

Cue mic drop?

Mike Gaynes
78 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:15:03
Hey Steve #72, no way... all defense is reactive, but good man-marking is proactive, especially at a corner. You make the first move, the first contact, before the ball is kicked. In a zonal system, you hold your position until A) the ball goes up and you can go after it, or B) an attacker comes into your designated area. It's the more reactive/passive of the two.

I hope you're right that the issues resolve themselves when the big guys are ready. And I hope you're wrong that Silva won't change things if the system isn't working. Stubbornness is my least favorite characteristic in a manager.

Steve Ferns
79 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:15:59
Jamie that’s the whole point. With man marking its individual responsibility. With zonal marking it’s collective responsibility. Jose is big on team and he says zonal marking holds the whole team responsible for the play’s outcome. He’s big into collective responsibility. Watch the pep programme, he’s repeating the same mantra. Team and collective, not individual.

Man to man falls apart as soon as the individual makes a mistake. It’s too easy for someone to make a mistake. I used to always lose my man at corners which is why I made sure to get the post, saying fullbacks always get the post, but the truth was I found it too hard to stick to the man without fouling him.

Rob Halligan
80 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:17:01
We should go back the good old defending of the two full backs on each post, man to man marking and a player on the halfway line waiting for the goalie to catch the ball from a corner and launch it.

The amount of goals a team concedes from a corner because there are no defenders on each post. The attacking team will never throw all the outfield players forward for a corner, so there are some defenders "marking space", so stick em on the posts. This in turn should create some space for the goalie to come off his line and collect the ball.

Rob Halligan
81 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:18:45
Ah shit. Jamie beat me to my defending manual. 😕😕
Jamie Crowley
82 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:19:50
Exactly Rob @80! Exactly!

And, to my post @77, someone please explain how that approach and system to defend corners is inferior?

I don't think you can!

Steve Ferns
83 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:20:27
Mike, you need to watch the man and the ball. You can't do both.

You also seem to think that zonal requires you to stand on a spot and not move. You can move and you can adapt and you can block a man and you can mark the man who's come into your zone.

Jamie Crowley
84 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:20:31
Hahaha. Even a blind American squirrel gets a nut now and then.
Steve Ferns
85 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:22:20
Carragher: Arsenal do zonal marking, but there's someone at fault in that system, someone doesn't do their job properly. Chambers will have been given a zone, maybe at the back post, level with the six-yard box. But your feet aren't stuck in concrete, you have to adjust to where the opposition players are.

You would not let a player have a run on you like that. If there's someone that far away at the back post, get closer to him. He has to get a better position.

Another job everyone says is nobody on the posts –we looked at every team this weekend, 14 teams don't have anyone on the post.

Mike Gaynes
86 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:22:33
Jamie #77, the biggest flaw is that it's almost impossible to counterattack with only one man up top and seven players tracking their man into the center of the penalty area. Even when you get a good clearing header from somebody, the ball is likely to come right back at you.

Personally I think it's worth it – to me it's defend first on a corner, and your favored system is mine as well – but when one of your primary objectives from a defensive corner is a quick-strike counter (City, Barca, the RS, Belgium at the World Cup), you need a system that gets everybody out quicker.

Darren Hind
87 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:25:07

I'm not saying it doesn't work, I've seen it work. but not with thirty-somethings that have played a different system all their lives.
You made a number of false statements to back up your claim saying all the successful clubs use it and they all use it properly. That's nonsense.

You claim Jose used it at Chelsea, but you gloss over that fact that their real success was achieved when not using it.

You claim Wenger used it, but you gloss over the fact that his prolific run of titles ended once he adopted it.

You talk about Man City conceding only one corner whilst glossing over the fact that they conceded less than everyone else and that most teams were scared to put numbers into their box for fear of a swift counter.

You read facts and stats Steve, but you are not quite grasping the point or how this system works. You seem to think there is only one Zonal Marking and one Man Marking system, You can't seem to accept that some (Pottetchino) combine both. You don't seem to grasp that some coaches will only use it for certain games. You appear to believe it's one or t'other

You don't seem to get that different coaches adopt it for different purposes, some purely for defensive reasons and others with a breakout in mind. When asked to explain the difference between different versions, you evade the question.

I will ask you this question one more time and I will throw another one in the mix for you: Why is that Silva is pulling everyone back into the penalty area when Pep leaves two men up? Why is it that Wenger would leave three men outside his area, when Rafa has eleven in his.

You first have to understand why the coach is doing it; you then have to understand if the players are up to it and you then have to consider the purpose – are we looking to just defend (11 in the box) or are we looking to break out (a wide man + Aguero and Sterling up front)? Sometimes you have to look beyond the bare stats you read on fan sites.

The issue is not about who else does what, it's about Everton and Silva and why, despite having 11 men in our box, we are repeatedly beaten to the ball by opposition players?

Steve Ferns
88 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:28:46
Darren, I'm 100% correct in what I said.
Mike Gaynes
89 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:30:49
Steve #83, a good man-marker essentially does both. 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. (John Terry was the best I've ever seen at it, not that I want to give the bastard any credit.)

Problem is that too many defenders just don't know how to do this anymore.

Brent Stephens
90 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:34:50
Rob #81 "Ah shit. Jamie beat me to my defending manual".

That's because he wasn't marking a man but being proactive in the zone.

Steve Ferns
91 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:36:02
Mike, I'd use man-to-man myself. I wouldn't like to be in a zonal defence.

What about a Zeman system? You know the one, where everyone pegs it up the pitch at speed to catch the opposition offside (from an indirect free kick). Crazy guy Zeman. If Bielsa is in England they should get Zeman over too.

Jamie Crowley
92 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:49:31
I don't do zones, Brent! I was the dude up top preparing for the counter with acres of space to move in!
Darren Hind
93 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:56:01
Yes, you are 100% correct with what you say, Steve, but you are being very selective with what you say.

You can't simply ignore the titles Wenger and Jose won before they introduced zonal then use the fact that they later used zonal as a measure of its success. Nor can you ignore all the titles people like Sir Alex won and claim all the successful sides use Zonal simply because the current Champions do.

You are a very good debater, that doesn't mean you are right

Mike Gaynes
94 Posted 22/08/2018 at 21:57:00
Zeman? Wow. That's a name I haven't heard in years. Just vaguely remember he was kind of a legend/cult figure in Italy... but I never saw his system. Got a video link?
Brent Stephens
95 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:00:52
Goal line hero, Jamie?
Steve Ferns
96 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:05:00
The point is all the big six are now using zonal marking. Albeit Pochettino with his hybrid with those three on the edge of the 6 yard box.

There's no-one doing well using man-to-man so how can everyone lambast us for playing zonal, when all the decent sides are doing it? Even Pullis's West Brom got slaughtered playing man-to-man in his last season.

Who's the successful sides using man-to-man that we should copy?

The reality is we defend zonal because it's linked to how we counter-attack. If it was really such a big problem and man-to-man would be more effective and we could still play the same way, then wouldn't Silva just use that? Only a pigheaded idiot would refuse.

Silva fielded lots of questions on this issue at Watford and he made himself very clear. He thinks this is best and he won't change.

As for the 11 in the box, I answered above. It's new and I can only guess he's doing it to try to give more solidity in the middle. And he had 9 in the box in all the bits I checked for my analysis. So I'll keep an eye out for the 11 in the box.

John G Davies
97 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:13:24

I enjoy your tactical analysis on TW.

If you have the time, mate, imagine you are picking Everton's side and tactics for the weekend.

Can you let us know how you would set up zonal marking defending a corner please. Players positions in that set up would be a bonus.

Steve Ferns
98 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:13:49
Steve Ferns
99 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:15:41
John, the point is that I wouldn’t. If I had to go zonal I’d still want at least four of my tallest guys on their tallest guys.
Dan Davies
100 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:23:14
As my Nan used to say- "and if my auntie had balls she'd be my uncle!"

Simple really lads, just win the fuckin ball.

Grant Rorrison
101 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:28:14
10 outfield players on the goal line and Pickford flying out to meet the cross with his fists. Problems solved. :)
Paul Birmingham
102 Posted 22/08/2018 at 22:48:02
Man to man, or zonal, you need good planning and communication skills. At the moment, in terms of defending, we are not there on either scheme.

Hand on heart, the last 4 years our defending has been abysmal. Ings's goal was a tap-in as no-one spoke and he got his tap-in as he was unmarked.

I'm sure Silva will have the team collectively defending and also attacking. This needs clear communication and good understanding. To be a team, this area is where we must improve, massively.

In time to compete the team must become streetwise and savvy, read the game, see the pass and movement before it happens. Taking ownership and good team work, will become normal soon, for our team but will take time.

Silva will go for zonal, but collectively the team must defend ad an effective unit.

Dan Davies
103 Posted 22/08/2018 at 23:13:18
For me Pickford needs to boss his area and communicate with the defenders closest to him. Ings goal was a shocker.

Mina not talking the lingo might be a problem. He is six and a half feet though. That might help. Zouma and Holgate for Bournemouth.

Laurie Hartley
104 Posted 22/08/2018 at 00:04:21
I don't know what zone or men both Keane and Holgate were marking for the Southampton goal. What I do know is that they were both standing on the 6 yard line directly in front of the goal.

Pickford was on his line (no full-back on either post) and Ings was standing directly in front of Pickford.

When the corner came in, everyone charge at the ball except Keane and Holgate (they stood still). Davies nearly got to it but, once their player got a touch to it, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Schoolboy defending.

That is why we need at least one domineering centre-half and instead of having 3 or 4 players in no-man's land getting in each other's way we should, as Rob Halligan said at 80, have the full backs on each post. Let's be honest, Coleman and definitely not Baines are not going to win anything in the air at corners.

As for Ings standing on his own in our 6-yard box, that is a disgrace. Somebody must have seen that and didn't do anything about it.

Apart from that I am pretty happy because we won.

Dan Davies
105 Posted 23/08/2018 at 00:43:54
These zonal defenders need to get in the zone man!

Can't be dealing with that man on man shit. That's Allardyce/Pulis bullshit.

Physically attack the players before the ball gets to them.


Not good enough to get on the ball. Foul the player.

Vinnie Jones/ 80s/Wimbledon bullies bullshit.

We can't match your ability so we"ll attack you with elbows forearms and whatever it takes.

I've won the ball ref! ( doesn't matter you've broke his ankle at the same time)

I won the ball!

Will Mabon
106 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:02:49
Great stuff, Darren – and good discussion in the posts.

Not a lot left to add, but whatever defensive system works best, and whatever inevitable mix of zonal and conventional it turns out to be... I hope it will look a lot more like we did under Moyes, and nothing like it did for that Ings goal, which we have seen many times in recent seasons.

Last night I heard, Williams gave a familiar performance for Stoke. Poor defending and clown antics culminating in another sending off, to the dressing zone.

Amit Vithlani
107 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:07:10
Zdenek Zeman, if I recall, was a Bielsa-esque mythical figure who did not win any trophies of note but somehow acquired a cult following.

His Foggia team featured one Beppe Signori, of Lazio (and Gazza) fame.

Foggia and Milan played out a mad game (can't remember the score, but it was full of goals). They played without fear against a Milan team which, in my opinion, was the greatest ever club side assembled.

I think he was a whistle-blower which may have scuppered his chances of further jobs.

Steve – I continue to marvel at the breadth of your knowledge. You can't have been very old when Foggia (and Zeman) were at their pomp.

Ah, those days of Gazzetta. James Richardson sitting reading the newspapers with a crazy desert; Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard; and some of the best football I ever saw, all on Channel 4! Before the days of Sky of course.

Amit Vithlani
108 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:11:57
"Poor defending and clown antics culminating in another sending off, to the dressing zone."

This conjures up images of Williams trudging off slowly in his funny shoes, removing his bright red nose, wiping off his make up, removing the funny acrylic wig, all in a zone specifically cordoned off for Clowns and Entertainers to get in and out of their outfits!

Will Mabon
109 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:19:14
Amit, I caught a bit of comment about it while driving, either TalkSport or 5 Live, and the speaker was not impressed at all. He was an OK player some time back but really has bordered on vaudeville since his move our way...
Derek Taylor
110 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:41:26
In short, Silva will never change and eventually, zonal marking will do for him?
Jim Harrison
111 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:48:47
Just like with Richarlison may leave if he is good style posts, we have played 2 competitive games so far. Can’t we at least see what transpires before we write off the manager?
Jim Harrison
112 Posted 23/08/2018 at 09:50:04
And does anyone know what type of marking Brands favours?
Darren Hind
113 Posted 23/08/2018 at 10:07:58

When you say you we defended with nine when "I checked my analysis" What exactly are you talking about? Does this "analysis" hold sway over the evidence of your own eyes? Ask any of the thousands of Evertonians who watch our games if we pulled every man back to defend corners... or, better still, cut to the chase. YouTube any of Southampton's corners on Saturday. Have a look at their goal and see if you can come back and name the two players who aren't pulled back to defend?

You come back repeatedly to defend a tactic you clearly haven't been observing, one which you freely admit you would not employ yourself. That's not tactical analysis, mate, it's blind faith.

An interesting thread. Given the nature of the question asked in post 97 and the way it was worded. Your reply (post 99) did make me laugh.

Steve Brown
114 Posted 23/08/2018 at 10:14:04
Interesting thread but I am surprised we are having it so early in the season, despite the Ings goal.

Zonal marking requires tall defenders who are dominant in the air and attack the ball. The two new signings Zouma and Mina are comfortable with the system and it allows teams to launch quick counter-attacks after winning the first ball.

Hopefully Keane and Holgate can pick it up with work in the training ground so let's give it a bit longer. I am sure that Guardiola, Klopp, Pottechino and Emery use it with good reason.

David Ellis
115 Posted 23/08/2018 at 10:46:10
I certainly wouldn't bin the zonal system. If the manager thinks this is the best way to do it then the players just need to learn and adapt. If they can't... get new ones... which actually we already have in the centre back department.

Binning zonal now and introducing it sometime "later" makes no sense to me. When is "later"? Next pre-season? After the academy (but not the first team) has been playing zonal for 5 years??? It's all or nothing – now is as good a time as any.

Steve Ferns
116 Posted 23/08/2018 at 10:59:40
Darren, I was writing an analysis / match report for the Southampton game. I've watched the entire first half three times and I've not noted that every single player was in the penalty area because I did screenshot a couple and named the all players on screen. I was at the game and saw 11 in our own half but didn't note 11 in the box.

And it's not blind faith. People consistently go on Merson-esque rants about zonal marking. I merely pointed out that all the big 6, the successful sides are using it. Okay, I'll give you Spurs use a hybrid, but they're not using man marking. So these Merson-esque dismissals of zonal marking are just ridiculous.

Why not stick to your original post and say there's good reason to be concerned but that it's still early days and we will see how it goes.

Silva is very aware of the issues, he had them raised at Watford. But he did not have them raised at Hull. Maybe it's because he had 6'-5” and 6'-4” centre-halves at Hull. If only we had signed one of them instead of someone small like Gibson. Oh wait, we did.

Brian Harrison
117 Posted 23/08/2018 at 11:39:09
I will say again: good players make any system work average players don't, whether that be zonal or man to man marking. This game has always been about players — read any present or former managers and they all say the same.
Darren Hind
118 Posted 23/08/2018 at 13:09:51
I don't indulge in Merson-esque dismissals of Zonal Marking? I've seen it work, I simply emphasise what I know and what I have learned.

You continually refer to the top six adopting this "system" as if they were all playing the same game ("They all play "it" so it must be right.") You could not be further from the truth.

I haven't seen Arsenal this season, or Chelsea, they have only played twice under new managers, so I won't comment (neither should you) but I will explain the huge difference between what the other four do.

Spurs are full of compromise (my preferred choice); they will have their roles to play but, when a big centre-back marches into their box, it's not unusual to see even Kane come back and mark him. They always man-mark the people who worry them.

Man City are different again; by putting players not only on the half-way line, but other "springers" outside their box, Pep is challenging the opposition to come into his parlour. They don't dare. He never blinks first.

Klopp also has balls; like Pep, he adopts a purer version. He trusts his defenders to police their given areas, but he also imposes his will by leaving men up and deterring the opposition from flooding his box. I've seen him leave three men up when they were defending a corner.

I'm not quite sure what Silva is up to; that's why I raise concerns. He has been leaving nobody up front. He doesn't even have people outside the box looking to counter-attack. He pulls his entire team back into the box. They are not policing their area and they are not marking men. Result — free strikes on our goal and no means of a breakout.

I have no problem with Zonal Marking, but there has to be a point to it.

John G Davies
119 Posted 23/08/2018 at 13:27:16
Steve, thanks anyway mate. I would have been interested to hear your tactical analysis given your football intelligence.

I suppose I could always Google or YouTube zonal marking and come up with a few catchphrases used by coaches.

Sam Hoare
120 Posted 23/08/2018 at 13:36:07
Interesting thread.

Seems most people will admit that both systems have their flaws and advantages.

I think John's post @ 49 deserves more discussion. Man-marking works best with physical defenders who are able to control/limit/impede their given man. However the World Cup showed that new refereeing imperatives and in particular the usage of VAR are likely to see to see such tactics being punished more frequently.

For this reason I suspect Zonal marking may well get the edge in the future (with the Premier League likely to implement VAR sooner rather than later) and having some old-schoolers who may struggle to get used to it suggests that they are the ones who need to be fixed rather than the system.

Ray Robinson
121 Posted 23/08/2018 at 15:36:47
I can see the VAR point totally but why is it assumed that man-to-man marking always involves pushing and pulling of the attacking team? It is possible to do one without the other!
John G Davies
122 Posted 23/08/2018 at 19:39:25
I have talked to many coaches on zonal marking. It is a subject I enjoy debating.

I believe defensive strategy is absolutely essential if you want to attack a lot. I like zonal marking, but you have to attack the ball from the space.

Defending a set piece your best headers of the ball should be positioned in the most dangerous positions. Man to man marking systems risk those players being pulled out of position.

When VAR is brought in man to man marking will see more penalties conceded.

The debate will continue. Silva will play zonal so let's back him.

Darren Hind
123 Posted 24/08/2018 at 10:14:36
Some very funny stuff on here.

I enjoyed this thread.

John G Davies
124 Posted 24/08/2018 at 12:56:33
Me too.

I just need your take on zonal marking now, mate...

John G Davies
125 Posted 24/08/2018 at 13:09:32
"If you were to ask 20 TWers to explain Zonal Marking to you, the chances are you will get 20 different answers. Some will give plausible and intelligent answers; others will just embarrass themselves in their attempts to show they know what they are talking about."

Just so I can determine which one of the above camps you are in. 👍

Erik Dols
126 Posted 24/08/2018 at 13:27:15
Darren Hind #118; I agree with a lot you say in your post, but want to add one perspective/angle. You claim Silva leaves nobody up front or lurking around the box for a quick counter-attack. Now I have to admit immediately that I did not take the trouble to see how he defended corners at Watford. At Everton, he had only two games.

Against Wolves, we didn't even concede a corner with 11 men. That we had nobody up front with 10 men afterwards might have been a tactical decision. So that leaves only the Saints game to judge his set-up. Point might even be made that he does this (not having men up front) in his first games to settle the team in the new system.

By all means I am not trying to be a zonal apologist or to defend Silva at any cost. I cringe at all set pieces conceded around the box as I feel this is our mayor weakness right now. But if people cannot judge Chelsea or Arsenal because their new managers had only two games, the same should hold for Silva.

John Daley
127 Posted 24/08/2018 at 13:53:52
"They always man-mark the people who worry them."

Exactly Dazza.

When defending set-pieces, strict adherence to one or the other often goes out the window and what you are most likely to witness is a practical symbiosis of the two. Even a team whose manager preaches zonal marking as the zenith of zipping the back fours fly shut will still task someone specific, whom he thinks best suited, with sticking tight to a towering dangerman. Continually running the risk of Deerhunter scenes from every single corner if they don't.

Even Benitez, who is talked of above as a strict disciple of zonal marking, knows it would be dunderheaded tomfuckery to embrace it fully whilst excluding man marking entirely:

"That flexibility is something I tried to teach the players from the very first day: the zonal-marking system was criticised in England, but most teams are more flexible.

More often than not, for any individual game, your defensive strategy at set-pieces is something of a mix . . . some man-to-man marking, some zonal.

You have to adapt to the circumstances of the game.

It is always important to adapt your marking strategy to your opposition...(sometimes) we detailed one of our defenders to pick a player up, man to man "(see: John Terry every time the RS faced Chelsea)

Darren Hind
128 Posted 24/08/2018 at 16:10:51

Good intelligent post to bring the conversation back again and the added bonus of a post from the lesser spotted JD

I take on board what you say about two games Erik, but that's all we have to judge by. The point about not talking about Arsenal and Chelsea after two games is that we have not sat through their games and don't have a scooby how they played.

What we do know is what Silva is doing here. We have seen it against Valencia, Wolves and Saints. I know Steve is very pro Silva, but if he can sit through the Southampton game and say we didn't pull everyone back, I think he's left his analytical skills in the house. If you haven't recorded the game, just google the highlights.

I said I wouldn't discuss Arsenal and Chelsea because I have not seen them play under their new managers, but I was happy to give a detailed account of the various different set ups of the other teams Steve mentioned.

There is a genuine ignorance in asking people to describe zonal marking. It would suggest the guy asking the question is blissfully unaware of the many variations. It's right up there with asking somebody to describe a nice day. I tried to demonstrate those variations by using teams we all know as examples.

I once listened to Justin Edinburgh give a really good session at Sixfields. He spoke about the pros and cons of Zonal and Man Marking. The difficulties of getting either message across. He was articulate intelligent and knowledgeable, so much so he received a very warm round of applause from all present... He clearly knew what he was talking about; he couldn't buy a win and The Cobblers sent him packing a few months later.

As I said. I'm not for or against it per se, but I am very much against asking 30-somethings to suddenly incorporate it into their game. I don't hold with the notion that Silva will not change it even if he can't make it work. This is Everton, not Watford or Hull, and if Silva can't get it to work, the pressure will be so great, he will change it quicker than he can say "Me job's on the line here!"

This site can be incredibly educational and can inspire people to learn more. Take post #97 for example: not for the first time on the thread, he is asking another poster to explain the system to him in detail. Not to be deterred, he gets off, speaks to "many coaches", and comes back able to give a full and a detailed report. Seems very progressive, this zonal lark...

Apparently, it's "essential if you want to attack a lot". You "need your best headers of the ball in the most dangerous positions"... and you can attack from space and everything.

Honestly, that wins me over. I think I've changed me mind!

John G Davies
129 Posted 24/08/2018 at 16:35:21
There are many variations of zonal marking? Not interested. I asked you for your explanation.

I may be wrong in your opinion but at least I posted my take on it. You, on the other hand, hedged your bets (pardon the pun).

Have a nice day.

Tony Abrahams
130 Posted 24/08/2018 at 16:49:00
Some man marking, and some Zonal, so Jamie C was pretty close to calling it right... but only in the eyes of Benitez.

Mind you Everton scored twice from set-pieces at Anfield, in the space of about a week, even if little Timmy Cahill, was very elusive!

Shaun Laycock
131 Posted 29/08/2018 at 17:56:22
Zonal marking is probably the reason why Silva likes monsters as his central defenders... stick them on the edge of the 6-yard box and head anything away. Unfortunately, we don't have those players available as yet!

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