Breakdown: Zonal v man-marking in the A-League

A perennial debate in football is about marking at set-pieces, but increasingly, the same argument can also be applied in the midfield zone

A perennial debate in football is about marking at set-pieces. There’s the zonal camp, where players are designated to an area and marshal that space, or man-marking, where each individual is assigned to an opponent, and primarily responsible for sticking tight to that player.

Melbourne City’s opener on Friday night (the third goal Adelaide have conceded from a set piece this season) was primarily the fault of man marking, as Osama Malik simply lost Patrick Kisnorbo when the City centre-back made a purposeful run to the front post to meet Damien Duff’s superb delivery.

A common feature of modern punditry is for commentators to bemoan zonal marking, with the argument often being that it doesn’t allow players to be proactive enough when opponents move into their zone. This is true, but it seems rather obvious that there are flaws to man-marking too – lose your man, as Malik found out, can prove costly.


By Tim Palmer

Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He is currently Assistant Technical Director, Head of Player Development & Video and a coach at NWSF Spirit, as well as working with the Pararoos. Previously, he has worked as an analyst with the Socceroos, and in the A-League.

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