Is the Best Way to Defend Man for Man or Zonal (Advanced Marking)?


What You Will Learn:

  • The theory and practice of zonal/advanced marking

The first step is to look at the two basic ways teams can defend - "man for man" or zonal. The conclusion of this will be that only a zonal system is effective in soccer.

Why? Because only the attacking player, who may be slower than the defender knows where he is going. It takes time for the marker to adjust (he can't mind read) the attacker "has the run" (see earlier). In short, no matter how fast you are, the person you are marking will always find space.

Get your players in pairs. Emphasise that the two players will be of differing pace. You can put them anywhere on the pitch; the penalty area (scoring zone) is probably best. When you say "go" players have to find space. After a couple of seconds stay stop. Ask if the player was in space. The answer will usually be yes. If not, (at that particular point they may have been caught up with) ask if the player could find space. The answer is yes. Move the situation to a free kick.

Go man for man. Have a separate word with those trying to lose their marker and point out that they can run their marking player into another marking player (encourage them to do this).The outcome is obvious.

The example on the next page is intended to make it clear why zonal marking is called advanced marking

We can relate zonal marking to the professional game. In an article in Champions Magazine (December, 2004) Andy Roxburgh made some interesting comments

Fifteen out of sixteen teams at Euro 2004 played a flat back four with zonal marking.

Clearly at professional level zonal marking is the preferred tactic. Lets now look at some specific examples of why zonal marking is the best defensive system.

Extra Tips

  • Man for man marking is less effective than zonal. Defenders know where attackers want to go (the scoring zone). It is better to cover the space and wait. (advanced marking)
  • Players play zonaly even if they have never been formally taught, because they have learnt through trial and error (see how we learn)

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