23 Sept 2009

Great - Another false Liverpool FC myth resurrected by the media

Whether it is player rotation, Steven Gerrard’s best position or how much was spent on transfers, there has always been press criticism of Rafa Benitez's decisions. And with Liverpool conceding a number of goals from set-pieces this season, the tiresome 'zonal marking' myth has been resurrected yet again.

ESPN’s recent coverage of the West Ham - Liverpool game has made it crystal clear that the zonal marking myth is alive and well. The media report this apparent 'problem' as if it is fact, with the compelling statistic this season being that Liverpool have conceded nine goals so far, all from set pieces.

This is clearly a statistic aimed at backing up the old English argument that man-marking is best, and it influences other members of the media to agree and regurgitate this as fact – when in reality the statistic, as always, is much more a complicated than it appears.

Let’s run through the nine goals that Liverpool have conceded so far this term. Two were penalties, scored by Ashley Young and (overhyped) newcomer Alessandro Diamante There is no way that zonal marking has anything to do with penalties.

The other goals:

* An unfortunate deflection off Lucas from a free-kick

* A deflected free kick against Tottenham, which rebounded to the boot of Benoit Assou-Ekotto

* A wonder-goal from Assou-Ekotto

* a punt from inside the Bolton half

* A free kick

* Three corners.

Taking into account that the punt at the Reebok was allowed to drop and the second ball was not won, only the free kick at Tottenham and the corners against West Ham, Bolton and Aston Villa can be criticised on the methods used when they were defended.

So it is typical of the press in this country that this is used as a statistic to criticise zonal marking, despite nobody analysing the situation properly.

I was quite relieved when I saw the punditry team of Kevin Keegan and former West Ham and Charlton manager Alan Curbishley, as I personally cannot stand the arrogance of a Jamie Redknapp sitting in his skinny grey suit telling viewers where Steven Gerrard needs to play.

However, these two ESPN pundits proved to be no different, and the method of moving around players on a screen showing us where they could have been standing is just ludicrous.

It is all well and good doing that with zonal marking, but what about the times it works? And could you not show where players could have been standing when any goal from a set piece is conceded? Of course you could, it was stupid and pointless, and, as always, missed the point in marking by zone.

Even worse was Kevin Keegan’s insight that Jamie Carragher dislikes the zonal marking system, and would prefer to mark man-for-man. King Kev may have been a great player but to claim that Carragher kicking an advertisement hoarding after Liverpool conceded from a corner means that he dislikes the tactic is putting two and two together and getting five.

Ever thought that Carragher may have just been frustrated that Liverpool had conceded a goal? Also, why would Carragher, after five years under Benitez decide now that he dislikes the tactic? It is lazy and presumptuous and I expected more out of an ex-Premier League manager.

It is no coincidence that English managers are not thriving in the modern day; it might have something to do with the reluctance to accept new ideas and methods, and the over-reliance on man-marking and the 442 formation. Change is not encouraged and (apparently0 we learn nothing from overseas managers and their ‘strange’ methods.

The West Ham game was a perfect example of media bias and this love for man-marking. Two goals were scored from set pieces; Liverpool’s was blamed on zonal marking, although one of three players could have headed the ball away.

The credit should have gone to Carlton Cole for the way he attacked the ball, just like the credit went to Steven Gerrard when he arrived - shock horror - unmarked to head the ball into the back on the net.

Gerrard’s header exposed the frailties of the man-marking system. If West Ham had been using zonal marking, there would have been a defender attacking the ball instead of being left in Gerrard’s wake.

In truth, both systems have their merits, and this should be acknowledged by the press. In reality Liverpool are having a little trouble with the system at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the system is flawed and it is certainly not an extreme problem.

Liverpool have always struggled when new players arrive, as they take time to adjust to the system and bed in with the rest of the defence, especially a full back as attacking as Glen Johnson.

Furthermore, neither Carragher or Martin Skrtel have hit top form and we've also had an 18 year old and a new signing playing at the heart of defence. All this unrest is never explained as a possible reason Liverpool could be having some problems with corners and free kicks.

The zonal marking debate is a media myth that completely irks me, just a touch more than the claims that if you took Gerrard and Fernando Torres out of the team we wouldn’t be nearly as good, that would seem obvious to me, but then again that is another debate entirely.




45 comments:

  1. Great article, brilliantly argued. I'm sick of the sloppy sports journalism in this country. They concoct a permanent managerial flaw for every individual error by a player, each reporter or pundit copying the previous analysis and exaggerating in a little bit further until becomes embedded in our pscyhe as a false reality.

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  2. Thought about our defending of corners (or lack of it) during yesterdays match and came up with the following. It is not down to zonal marking, it is rather down to what is pretty obvious. We are extremely poor at taking corners (more often than not the corners we take don't even get beyond the first defending player) so it is no surprise that our players don't learn to defend them during training. It is mainly during matches that our players get confronted with corners or free-kicks that actually make it into the danger zone. Anyone still surprised that our defending of dead-ball situations resemble a rabbit caught in head-lights?

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  3. Well done, mate. Nice one.

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  4. To be honest I think you're totally wrong. Carragher has been dreadful so far this season, simply dreadful, the West Ham penalty and 'performance' against Debrecan both show he's too slow and his positional play this season has been nothing short of apalling.

    On the zonal marking I appreciate that 2 of the 9 conceded were penalties so don't count in the 'stats' but it's plainly obvious to any sane thinking Liverpool supporter that set-pieces are our biggest weakness. Argue all you want about zonal marking being a great idea, and in theory it's better than man to man, but in reality it isn't. We concede a high percentage of our goals in this way, and we never seem confident defending set-pieces. We need to revert to man to man marking, because otherwise you get mis-matches i.e. someone like Ballack jumping against someone like Kuyt or Insua. I know who'd win that header. You put your best defender against their best header/attacker - simple. It works more often (and yes I accept not always) than zonal does, fact.

    The problem with a hell of a lot of Liverpool fans is that we have a deluded and misguided idea that everything Benitez does is genius, and he's above all criticism. Wrong. Zonal marking is a perfect case in point, as is this stupid idea that he's never given any money to spend. Open your eyes and realise that Benitez isn't the messiah, he is wrong sometimes. Kuyt starting every game, Carragher not being dropped yet, Skrtel starting in front of Agger when both are fit, his (mostly shocking) signings, rants, defensive nature, mis-treatment of Alonso, ZONAL MARKING; these are all things Benitez should be criticised for, he will never accept he's wrong and that is the biggest problem of all. He's wrong about zonal marking, and anyone who can't see it is simply deluding themselves.

    I think Benitez is a great manager for the record, he's improved most things about us. But those crucial things, the things that win leagues (like signing a genuine winger instead of playing a headliess chicken like Kuyt) he has not got right, and that's why after 5 years, we've not won it yet, and don't look like doing anytime soon!

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  5. There are many stupid statements reproduced throughout sports journalism about our club and about football in general.  Sports journalism is unfortunately the domain of the half-wit and it's easier for them to repeat cliches and lies rather than take a truly analytical approach.  That said, whether it is zonal marking or 'bottling it' Liverpool FC have a real problem with set plays.  Any fan who is honest with themselves will say that we have looked shaky during corners for (at least) the last few seasons. 
    It's a major frustration that, in matches where we dominate, the opposition can play for simple free kicks or corners and have a real goal scoring opportunity.  I'm no football analyst, I don't have the experience or real desire to say whether our marking is the problem but the point for me, as a Liverpool fan, is that we have a problem. 

    Tighten up at the back and we're really looking strong this season (I hope)

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  6. I totally agree with you about the lazy media. Here in Ireland 'respected' pundit Eamon Grumpy (that is Dunphy) said last week that Liverpool couldn't even beat Birmingham last season. A bit difficult when they were in the Championship!  And you are correct that when goals are scored against a team who man marks it's never mentioned. Another favourite saying by ex-players is 'at least you know who to blame' as if knowing that chalks out the goal just conceded.

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  7. Nice one mate but don't you think we should listen to those 2 defensive guru's (Keegen & Curbishly) especially the former.

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  8. Okay, so its obvious you are against zonal marking Nick! That much is true. But Carragher does not deserve to be dropped. I dont understand how you can make a statement like that, yes he's been in poor form of late making silly mistakes, but he's a great defender that can read the game. You dont know whats going on with Agger, only the manager does. Our entire backline is looking sloppy in defense. I would love to see Agger back but maybe he's not ready yet. He was having a back operation for cryng out loud.

    And Kuyt a headless chicken? Are you insane? That man works his butt off on the field, and gets himself into useful positions. He was there as a backup incase Gerrards header went wide against West Ham, and he was there to slot in the goal when the Burnley keeper couldnt keep Benayoun's shot under control, and he aided Torres with a chest off to allow him to score against Bolton. How can you not see that Kuyt is a valuable player to the team? His role so far has been to goal-assist, and that's just as important in scoring goals.

    On a positive note its good to see Torres coming to his usual self. When he's on form he's unstoppable.

    Call me old fashioned but i dont think you can go wrong with simple MAN MARKING. Goals may be conceded but thats what makes a striker a good striker, the ability to get passed the defense and score goals. Our two biggest problems right now is our weak play against set pieces and our passing. I dont care what type of system is used, as long as it shows a reduction in the amount of silly goals we are giving away. To me man marking just makes more sense. Everytime we get a corner given against us I cringe! Because you just dont know whats going to happen.

    And you're right in saying Benitez aint no Messiah! He makes a lot of strange decisions. And what happened with Alonso was a major screw up! But he's gone now and we have to move forward.

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  9. Great article one of the best from this website. To the bloke who called Kuyt a headless chicken. WTF!

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  10. I'm not totally against the idea of zonal marking, like I said it's good in theory (and basketball) but not in football, it doesn't work...we've tried it, it's not as good as man marking, so lets go back to man marking.

    On Carragher, I see him as any other player. If he's not performing, drop him. Simple. He does it with Babel, Riera, Benayoun, Voronin etc. Stick him on the bench for a few games and either he wakes up and starts performing or he stays there until he does.

    My biggest gripe though, of all the ones I have with our club at the moment, is Kuyt. I cannot believe that he's regarded as highly as he is by most fans and pundits. I'll tell you why he works so hard, because his second touch is always a tackle! I actually lost count (against Debrecan, I very very very mediocre opposition how many times he miscontrolled the ball, passed when he shouldn't have and made the other player loose the ball, misplaced a pass. He's always like it, and he never improves. Lets remember he came as a goal-scoring striker. Now he's a 'winger' with no pace, no flare, no skill, just work rate. It's ridiculous that we have 2 of either Riera, Babel or Benayoun sat warming the bench when we're crying out for a winger with pace to go past a man. He should be a squad player at best, he's not good enough for the role he's in. Isn't that obvious?

    Re Agger, I know he's been injured, I meant more last season and the season before really.

    Anyway, rant over!

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  11. Hey Nick,

    It is not a fact! The other top teams all let in more goals from set plays than Liverpool last year! Liverpool being the only one who uses zone marking of the top 4 teams. Sounds like the same type reasoning for complaining about rotation we have heard for years while the Manure rotate more than Liverpool but nobody notes it or complains.

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  12. Havent Liverpool had the best defensive records for the past 3 seasons or so? Reina being the Golden glover in each of the last three seasons. Would this go some way to prove that defensively we generally get it spot on and the start of the season can be put down to injuries and players finding their form? I dont doubt Zonal has its flaws as much as man to man does. But I think the OP is alluding to the fact that whenever a team concedes who doesnt play zonal, man to man is never mentioned as the reason for the conceded goal.

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  13. I think zonal marking is the best system for Liverpool simply because our players are not (with few exception ofcourse) very tall nor strong in the air. Our defensive record (goals conceded) from past three or four years is very good. The problem we have now is not caused by zonal marking but players not defending well and making simple mistakes.

    If we used man marking when we play Chelsea in early october who would you put against Drogba, Ballack, Terry, Lampard or Ivanovic? Other teams have many very good players in the air, especially defenders. Now when Hyypia has gone we don't have any.

    I know that we conceded two goals from set pieces in last years CL match against Chelsea at Anfield using zonal marking. It's not a perfect system. No system is, but so far, it has been working quite well. The problem we have now is more about individual mistakes made by almost every player. Don't blame the zonal marking for that.

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  14. Zonal marking is as good/bad as man marking. Teams concede as much, from previous readings there is no statistical difference.

    Now, zonal marking gives you an edge over man marking when you counter attack after a corner.

    Realistically, Liverpool is too far behind Chelsea and Man Utd in terms of personel (first 25 players) to ever think that they can win the league.

    However, it takes a very risk conscious manager to limit the risks of a whole campaign and get his squad to win the league.

    RB nearly managed all his risks last year that he nearly won the league...if we had won the league it would have been due a whole hosts of events which would have gone our way...Man Utd and Chelsea do not need that...they can manage more risks

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  15. Agree, Anteater.  We no longer have an imperious, commanding centre-half who wins everything in the air.  Sami was the man when it came to aerial superiority, and almost nothing got by him when it came to corners etc.  It's all well and good having ball-playing defenders but if we lose everything in the air then then the negatives outwight the positives.

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  16. I agree to an extent about Kuyt.  Whilst his record over the last months can't be knocked in terms of goals and assists, I still feel that we could do better in that position. Every season (even last season) he has spells where he has no creative impact. I posted the stats in another comment (I'll repost later) but in every season Kuyt has been here there are spells lasting 10-15 games where he does nothing.  Despite doing nothing, Rafa keeps him in the team.  yes, his workrate is great but in those barren spells, we should have someone else in his place actually contributing. I refuse to accept that of all the players in the world, the best we can do on the right is Dirk Kuyt.

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  17. It seems as if the general criticism of zonal marking comes down to this: it doesn't work and man marking is better. It's hardly a convincing argument. As most people can see, Liverpool have had an outstanding defensive record over the past few years. Rafa has to repeatedly point out that we are actually not that bad from set pieces. We're amongst the best in the league when it comes to defending them, a rather irrefutable fact that is simply ignored. As always I think the over-generalisation is based in ignorance and an inability to understand the finer points of the system. 

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  18. I think people are very quick to just dismiss Kuyt's workrate. In theory its easy to say that any player can work hard but I'd challenge anyone here to find a player in world football who actually works as hard as Kuyt does on the right wing, game after game, for the full 90 minutes. It's the things he does off the ball and how he enables his team mates to have more freedom that are so important. Then, when he does get an opportunity, he's got the skill to take advantage. We've seen this pretty clearly last season. The spells where he doesn't get those changes are simply the games where he's working so hard off the ball and in defense that he doesn't get a chance to be in good enough attacking opportunities. It didn't seem to hurt us, we scored more goals last season that anyone else in the league and we're leading the league again this year. Just because we can't all see exactly how he contributes to this doesn't mean he's not a part of it and I think our goal record speaks for itself.

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  19. I'm fairly sure that Tompkins did the stats on Zonal vs Man to Man a while back and Liverpool had gone something like 7 months straight without conceding from a corner once. The stats 100% back up Zonal and the fact that we have not one of but THE best record of defending set pieces in league should maybe have shut a few people up but ex-pro's are hardly going to do research or read intelligent arguments when they can rely on clich├ęs and old fashioned bias I suppose .

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  20. I agree with Fraggs, even the most successful Liverpool teams in the past had a player who worked very hard and was not blessed with pure natural talent. To name two to explain my point is Craig Johnston and Ray Houghton, even Kevin Keegan was noted at least as much for his hard work than pure natural talent. It is not just Liverpool either other great sides have had these players in the past but I won't go on. I would also say apart from the exception of a few players we could do better in most positions with players from around the world but having the worlds best players in every position would not mean you would walk every game you played as certain players compliment others, a basic example of this is Kuyt being disciplined can allow Johnson to get forward if Kuyt is not having the best game, it is the same with centre halves, Henchoz was not the most gifted but he complimented Hyppia amazingly well. I could go on but I won't bore you all.

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  21. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (I think that's right!!). Is imperious and commanding who wins everuything in the air! It's just a shame he not too good at the other things.

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  22. I believe we all need to calm down and take a deep breath and realize that the season is only a month old, before we all start jumping on the bandwagon of; zonal marking, Carra's form, Alonso's departure and Benitez's decision makings.......we are a team that as far as I've witnessed over the past 4 seasons, has immensley improved. We have a far more tactically aware side than we've had since the Daglish era. We have a defence (albeit of late) that leaks fewer goals than the rest of the league (bar Chelsea perhaps). We have started scoring more goals than any team in our league. We are a fixed top 4 side (if not top 3 side) and have been for the past 4 seasons. We are regularly in the last 8 (or indeed 4) of the CL. We have one of the best players in the world as our captain (if not the best) and we have the world's best striker. We don't have the necessary funds to buy 18m pound + players to sit on our bench, so let's get realistic. Yes, I still believe we can win the league even if Chelski are 6 points ahead and the reason is simple, we now know (after last season) what it takes to win a league even if we just missed out. Psychologically, this is MASSIVE for the squad and will serve us well over the course of the next 8 months. Furthermore, even though Alonso had arguably his best season last season, would he have stood out so obviously had Gerrard and Torres featured as regularly......probably not! Meanwhile, we have signed a fantastic talent in Aquilani (OK he's yet to prove that but believe me, the boy is class) and he's only 25. Let's not get ahead of ourselves and instead let's look at the positives so far this season.......we have a new RB that for me is the most exciting RB in our league and arguably in Europe (alongside Maicon and Alves) + Benitez will make him a better defender. We have one of the trickiest little players in the league in Benni Onion and he's now turning out to be a great buy as proved towards the end of last season and continued into this season. Finally, our manager has decided that draws are no good and as a result, we're pressing teams that much more in order to win matches, rather than defend deeply in order not to lose matches (something The Scum have done brilliantly well for the past 15yrs).

    So it's not all doom and gloom and I suspect and expect us all to be singing from a very different and far more upbeat hymn sheet over the coming weeks.

    Keep believing and YNWA!

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  23. I agree with your overall point but I have to disagree re Houghton and Johnston. Neither were workers like Kuyt.  Yes, they defended but they were more creative than work-horses. Hougton especially was an intergral creative part of the exciting Liverpool team of the late 80s.

    I agree that Kuyt's workrate is impressive, and he has had a good 6 months, however as I've stated before, he always has barren spells in every season. 

    Examples:

    2008-09 - November to March


    * 21 games played (2 goals/3 assists) 

    2007-08 - October to February

    * 20 games played (2 goals/0 assists)

    (there are more examples but you get my point)

    I refuse to accept that there is no one out there in world football who can do better than this.

    We need a more consistently effective right-midfielder; someone who doesn't have so many barren spells.

    Workrate is no substitute for specific, measurable impact on games, i.e. goals and assists.

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  24. "Workrate is no substitute for specific, measurable impact on games, i.e. goals and assists"

    Sure it is, at least the way Kuyt does it. His work rate prevents goals being scored against us, it helps us keep possession and build attacks. He provides space and freedom for other players so that they can score goals. It's not just mindless running and tackles, it's tactical positioning, timing, passing, linking up with other players, providing an outlet. If Kuyt's actions on the pitch lead to other players scoring goals, providing assists, keeping clean sheets and winning games then how is that not a measurable impact?

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  25. This is all supposition though Fraggs.  You're assuming (without evidence) that Kuyt's workrate leads to building attacks/providing freedom for other players to score goals.

    The figures I have provided are irrefutable - I would rather have someone scoring and assisting during those barren spells (and thus having a measurable impact on Liverpool's success, i.e winning games) than running 50 miles a game with no end product.

    It is no coincidence that Liverpool's bad spell last season coincided with Kuyt's lean spell.  Just image if we had a right-mid who actually contributed more during that period; it's conceivable, is it not. that some of those damaging draws could've been turned into wins.  After all, the only thing that turns draws into wins is goals, not vaguely defined workrate.

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  26. Ray Houghton was a workhorse certainly in terms of the other players in the team at the time. Maybe he was slightly more creative than Kuyt (he certainly had a better technique), but so was the whole team in terms of mentality and attitude even the goalkeeper liked to go on walk abouts! but he was known as our workhorse of the time and it is all relative. As I say of course we could do better in nearly all position s not just right mid/wing, but you also need balance, it could be and has been justified in discussions that Kuyt has finally adjusted to his role on the right hence his immense improvement playing there. After being a striker or certainly a forward most of his career it was never going to happen over night. It also depends on what you mean by measurable impact - believe it or not it isn't about goals and assists even from attacking players - Ian Rush was one of the hardest working defenders we had when we never had the ball, and that is the same now, Kuyt is not a defensive workhorse when we have the ball only when we don't, and in terms of a measurable impact on the game as a whole that is a priceless commodity to have. I do agree that there are better right wingers than Kuyt - that is a no brainer, but how many of them can we afford or are even available, so talk of replacing him is a non-starter anyway really.

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  27. Football can always be spoken in if's and buts, like if Benayoun had scored his chances against Stoke or not give the free kick away against Everton at home, they could not have scored from the resulting free kick. 4 priceless points dropped that would have won us the league. I for one minute am not blaming Benayoun for costing us the title but it highlights if's and but really mean nothing, if you analyse every player last season ther are if's and but's in their performances. Again the stats you have used do not begin to scratch the surface when judging a players worth, I think we spoke about this the other day. This season for example Johnson has been able to bomb forward knowing Kuyt would cover him, I think that is a point Fraggs is making.

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  28. What aspect of this discussion is not supposition? You're presuming first of all that there exists a right winger out there that we could afford, who wants to play for us, and then that he would fit in the team, that he would be in form at the right time of the year and that the absence of Kuyt would not adversely effect the team in some way. It's all supposition. You're also assuming that Kuyt's workrate does NOT lead to goals and good results for the team and you have nothing to back that up. 
    My notions of what Kuyt does for the team are based on what I see every week when I watch the team play. I see the runs and tackles he makes, the passes, the space he creates. I also see the errors, the lack of time in the penalty box and the spells of games where he doesn't score. For me it's quite obvious what he adds to the team and why he starts every week and it's not based on statistics. It doesn't need to be. So exactly why would my suppositions be any less valid than yours?

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  29. Jaimie, you can't ignore the off-the-ball work that Kuyt does even when he's not scoring, assisting. His work-rate even through his barren spells allows the full-back to go forward more, and every inch that he runs more means one inch less that Gerrard and Torres have to run, and thus they can focus on their creative play more. I mean, he had a great season for a right winger/midfielder last year - 12 goals (as many as Rooney) and 8 assists (the highest was 12 by Stevie G). For me, he's one of the first names on the team-sheet, and is one of the players that should be used whenever he is fit - along with Gerrard, Torres, Reina, Agger and to a certain extent, Masch.

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  30. A very good article - love the bit about arrogant Redknapp - you can add Collymore to that list too.  Two ex-players who have proven they have less than half a brain between them, instead choosing to become 'wind up merchants' that appeal to the talksport/606 mentality.

    As for Kuyt - he has come through a bad patch and is now showing the sort of form we expect.  I believe this had a lot to do with the personal bereavement he suffered in the last couple of years.  He works well on the right, closes people down, he defends and he scores (15 last season?) and assists.  Generally a nuisance, a right sided forward rather than a winger than some of the old schoolers want to see.  He now cuts in, dragging defenders with him and gives Johnson space.

    And just to add, a few people have compared zonal with man to man and zonal comes out top.  So to NICK - do check your FACTS!!!

    It's funny how NICK assumes he is right with his arguments.  And where are the examples to back up your claims?  You see that hindsight and speculation DO NOT WIN YOU GAMES.  Are you sure you are not Jamie Redknapp???

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  31. Good article except for one glaring error. Steven Gerrard did NOT score against West Ham, it was actually Dirk Kuyt's goal. Steven Gerrard simply got the assist. 

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  32. to be fair he said gerrards header not gerrards goal,

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  33. The point I was trying to make (which I probably didn't make clear) is more to do with the fact that we concede so many goals from corners/free kicks vs. goals from open play. This would lead you to believe that there is something happening at those points in the game that we are doing wrong, or could do better.

    My assertion would then be that if we reverted to man marking, this COULD (not will) lead to us conceding fewer goals.

    In terms of me thinking my argument is right, well of course I do, who thinks their opinion is wrong before they make it and have it proved to be wrong? And I don't really think it's fair that just because someone has an opinion everyone assumes that they're jumping on a bandwagon. I've always said that our zonal marking system leads to confusion and more goals conceded. It's not just the start of this season I've thought it!

    Like all the people who believe in zonal marking have said it's not all doom and gloom, far from it. It's only early on in the season and Chelsea started in exactly the same way last year as they have done this, and look how they faultered during the middle part of the season. I would love it if Kuyt scores 15-20 goals this season, if Carra gets back to his fantastic best soon, and if zonal marking means we concede fewer and fewer goals, all culminating in winning the league. I do believe however, that to go that step further and win the league there are aspects which need addressing/changing and certainly Kuyt and zonal marking are two of those, for me.

    Anyway, on a different note, can't wait to see Aquilani play as I think he'll give us so much more impetus going forward. I also think this season could be the making of both Insua and Babel, with the former already looking great, as he did last season when he played. Let's just hope Babel can keep pulling his finger out and improve to cement his place in the team.

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  34. The things that annoys me most is that everytime we concede a goal from a set play, the so called experts say zonal marking is to blame. Why is it that when a team that man marks concedes a goal the "experts" do not say that man marking is to blame.

    It comes down to the fact that zonal marking is a system, therefore there is no individiual responsibility. The team marks zones. If you are man marking the individual who was supposed to be marking the player gets blamed. Which is why we get so much stick from pundits. However it is still lazy punditry.

    Last season Hull conceded most from headers, and Everton conceded the highest proportion of goals from set plays. I believe that both man mark. On the other hand over the last four seasons we have had the best defensive record after Chelsea and/or Man Utd. 

    Our problem this season isn't with the zonal marking system. its individual errors and a lack of continuity in our defence. This season we've had 3 different centre back pairings in as many games. Carra/Skrtel, Carra/Greek lad, Carra/Ayala. We've also got a new defender in Johnson who may not be used to the zonal sytem yet.

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  35. Spot on Gary. I would like to add though, just before the corner we conceded on Saturday, we scored from one. Funnly enough it was put down to a great corner and fantastic header from Stevie G, which of course is correct in both aspects. But I think West Ham's corner was equally good and the header possible an even better one than Gerrards, but it is put down to Zonal Marking - very strange!!

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  36. Re: NICK

    I think Paul Tomkins has done lots of analysis on this - over seasons, not just a handful of games this year and concluded we concede less goals from set pieces than other sides (especially the top 4).  This would suggest zonal marking is a better system.

    The trouble is in the media there is a large cohort of 'old schoolers' who still view modern techniques in the game as unworkable - and some as the article points out, can't even understand things like zonal marking.  The faults with zonal marking lie with the player not winning the ball and then the second ball.  Faults are also found with man to man marking which, because of the media, are focused on as errors rather than the system itself.  But if a player makes a mistake in the zonal system it is the system to blame and not the player.

    My own view is that the current debate about zonal marking is related to the form of defenders.  We'll see at the end of the season.

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  37. Re: GARY

    Don't forget, Skrtel had an injured jaw so the changes where not just done on a whim.  And you're right, Johnson is still bedding in.

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  38. Another thing Jaimie towards the end of last season, didn't you proclaim Kuyt to finally be a top class midfielder, or something to that effect. Why six games into this current season have you suddenly changed your tune? He has not been that bad and has not played every game on the right, and has so far scored a good ratio of goals which according to you is the be all and end all stat.

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  39. No - you must be confusing me with someone else!  At no point have I ever proclaimed that Kuyt is a 'top class midfielder'.

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  40. ok mate, someone else must have written it in an article. My apologies.

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  41. ok mate, someone else must have written it in an article. My apologies.

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  42. I agree with you 100%! The truest statement I've read so far.

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  43. Probably one of the other writers.
    Sent using BlackBerry� from Orange

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  44. Probably one of the other writers.

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  45. wtf!!! It;s not the ysytem that's the problem, it's the way it's implemented that matters. If the players do their jobs properly it works. Almost every team on the continent uses zonal marking including the italians (supposedly the best defenders in the world!) As for the guys that have been criticising Kuyt you need to start watching football  a LOT more. It's true he's not the quickest or the most exciting on the ball but he was the highest ranked winger in the league last season for goals and assits. Not bad for a headless chicken with no ability.

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