Why marking zonally is the way forward in modern day football

Why marking zonally is the way forward in modern day football
Sep 1, 2016


Different strategies of defending set pieces is a much debated topic in the tactical side of football. Some clubs opt to mark man for man, some zonally, each system having their advantages and disadvantages. However, with the recent rule changes within the game, I will be discussing why zonal marking could potentially be the future tactic that all top clubs will opt to use.

Firstly, one of the many new rules recently brought into the Premier League is that shirt pulling inside of the penalty area is no longer allowed on any level, meaning that referee’s will be highly encouraged to give more penalty kicks when seeing any form of shirt pulling or fouling in the penalty area.

As a result of this new rule, defending set pieces, and in particular corners, will become a lot harder with the lack of contact the defenders are allowed to make when challenging attackers for the ball.

We have already seen many examples in the Premier League of times in which penalties have been given, when in previous years they may not have been. A time that this rule has already come into force has been Mike Dean awarding 2 penalties for holding and shirt pulling at the Bet365 stadium when Stoke City faced Manchester City.

So how can teams defending set pieces do so to the greatest effect?

Over the years, teams defending zonally have often been criticised for doing so by both pundits and fans, however with the forever changing game, is zonal marking finally the way forward for successfully defending set pieces?

The idea of zonal marking is that each members of the defending team has their own position to stay in, and if they ball coming into the box is in their area, they are responsible for clearing. This differs from man to man marking, which is the more traditional way of defending in which each defending player marks and attacker, and follows them round from within the box, meaning that if the attacking player goes towards the ball, the player marking him should be responsible for clearing the danger.

These new shirt pulling rules favour zonal marking as for a team defending this way, there is hardly any contact needed with the attackers, therefore meaning they are a lot less likely to give away fouls as they would be with a much more physical battle in man to man marking.

Manchester United, and more particularly Jose Mourinho are one of the first teams to adapt to this new style of defending, and thus far have been involved in no shirt pulling incidents as well as being capable of defending these set pieces effectively.

If referee’s continue to cut down on any shirt pulling incident within the penalty area, it is more than likely that more teams will be looking to switch to this less risky style of defending in the coming months.



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