At the Audience with Rafa Benitez last Sunday in Liverpool, some fans wanted to know the true data about marking at set pieces whether the marking is zonal or man to man or a mixture.
In answer to the question, Rafa showed the table below. (The data is provided by Opta).
From the table, it can clearly be seen that, during his time at Liverpool, the team were twice the best in the Premier League at preventing goals from set pieces. During the years under Rafa’s management, they were always in the top 4 at conceding from set pieces except for one season when they fell below this high standard.
During this time, Liverpool were using zonal marking when defending corners and this aroused a lot of debate, yet the figures in the table were never really included in these discussions. All the other teams in the Premier League at the time were mostly using man to man marking and their figures do not show that this type of marking is any better than zonal marking, in fact, in the majority of cases it is shown to be worse. As a comparison, the table also shows Liverpool last season under two different managers when the team changed to man to man marking and they conceded the same amount of goals as in the one poor statistic under Rafa Benitez. Manchester City are currently top of the league and they are using zonal marking.
So what does this data show? As Rafa said at the Empire Theatre on Sunday, it shows that it should not be the system that is blamed for conceding goals at set pieces but it will always depend on the determination, concentration and ability in the air of the players at the moment of delivery of the set piece. The data certainly does not show that one system will always be better than the other. It is about using the right system for the right players at the right time. In fact, at Liverpool the zonal marking evolved through the years under Rafa to take in to consideration the changes in personnel of the team but still maintained the high success rate.
Hello Ray, obviously I liked these players in different moments, but, as you say, we didn't have too much money to even consider them.
The counter to this though is that when the match video is reviewed the coaches can pinpoint exactly what went wrong and who made the mistake whereas a mistake in the man to man system can too easily be put down to good attacking movement and therefore not corrected.
I would be greatly interested to know if you agree with this perception
Hello Canny, it is always easier to blame the system and the manager with the zonal marking. With man to man marking, we blame someone and that's it. The coach has to have another vision.
You say which system you choose is about the "right system for the right players." Can you expand on that please? Which characteristics in players suit the ZM system, and which characteristics suit the M2M system?
Hello Daan, It depends on your players, how many are good in the air?, are they quick or just big lads? It it your keeper good in the air? It is not a simple answer. Thanks.
Rafa do you ever have a left footed player marking the inside of the right hand goalpost and a right footed player marking the inside of the left hand goalpost so that their stronger foot is facing the centre of the goal and making it easier to clear the ball?
There are many considerations when you are planning defending a corner and as we have said many times, it will always depend on the players you have at your disposal and their stengths and weaknesses.
On a side note can I remind (and thank) you of a quote you allegedly said, 'Some day people will realise how good Lucas is'. I think that day has come, happy new year
As always, it depends on the players you have because the man to man and zonal systems of marking have their advantages and disadvantages. The system should suit the players. We also would like to wish Lucas a speedy recovery from his injury.
Hello Nick, why not both. The best players and coaching. City this year is doing zonal marking and they are at the top of the league, good players and well organise.
In the not unlikely but impossible event that in Mr. Benitez's 2nd and 3rd season, Liverpool conceded 12 such set pieces, then zonal marking would be rubbish, for example.
But thank you for this. I will use this next time at the pub when this debate arises.
Hello, I was doing my own research, the corners are the key part of the analysis and still the figures are very good. Thanks for your observation.
I thought i would just point this out as i found it quite interesting to see statistical proof of this trend.