Danny Higginbotham believes that Arsenal are making a mistake using zonal-marking during set-pieces.
Merely mentioning the words “zonal-marking” is the quickest way to confuse English pundits. None of them like it, and very few of them understand how it works.
Hence, it’s no surprise that former Manchester United player-turned pundit Danny Higginbotham has criticised Arsenal’s and Liverpool’s use of the system during the opening round of Premier League fixtures.
“As a player I was really not a fan of the system,” he wrote in The Sun. “With man-to-man marking, before a game in the changing room you are allocated a player to pick up at set-pieces. It’s quite often written down on the whiteboard.
“You’re told: ‘He’s yours. He’s your responsibility’. There is simply no hiding from that. If he then scores, you get it from the manager and you get it from your team-mates.
“It’s exactly what Gunners defender Nacho Monreal was doing after Jamie Vardy scored on Friday night.”
When goals go in with zonal-marking, you see so many players looking round, pointing at each other after the ball has gone in the net. They are passing the buck. Arsenal shipped two goals during set-piece situations on Friday.
The first was less a problem with zonal-marking and more one with marking in general, as nobody picked up the Leicester players coming round the back post. The second goal was a zonal-marking problem, as Vardy ran past two Arsenal players to score.
Liverpool had their own issues against Watford. Naturally, much of the discussion was about how bad zonal-marking is and how man-marking is more preferred. That teams conceded while also man-marking on the same weekend was, of course, ignored.
Arsenal’s record at defending set-pieces has improved in recent years. What was once a chronic issue isn’t much of an issue anymore. We’ve have been using zonal-marking the whole team.
We all hope our set-piece defending improves for the game against Stoke, but whether it’s a zonal or man marking system makes little difference.