It doesn't seem to matter how often it is suggested to Rafael Benitez that zonal marking from dead ball situations is 'pants', the 'Stubborn One' continues to implement this outdated, fault-ridden practice and Liverpool continue to suffer the inevitable consequences.
Statistically, up to and including last weekend's fixture with Sunderland, Liverpool stand at the top of a very unenviable Premier League table. That is, of all goals conceded (13), a staggering 77% (10) have been from set pieces.
Compare this with the champions, whose count, so far, is 0%, and you begin to see part of the reason why a seven point gap has opened up at such an early stage in the season.
Pundits and journalists from all corners have been castigating Liverpool's defensive arrangements since last season but, despite all their exhortations to amend his strategy and the increasingly powerful statistical evidence available to him , Rafa has remained stoic; anally retentive of his zonal system.
Maybe, he has observed that the successful Liverpool sides of the late 1980s employed this system with remarkable success.
However, for one reason or another, it doesn't seem to be working for the current Anfield incumbents who appear, at times, worryingly uncertain of their responsibilities.
So what are the main drawbacks of this method of territorial tactic?
Firstly, there will always be a blurring of what constitutes each players 'zone'. If an attacker runs between two defenders, whose responsibility is he?
A 'cute' striker will zig-zag in and out of zones to confuse the defenders. You can also have a scenario wheretwo orthree players all enter one players zone.
Is that defender then responsible for all of them? Secondly, an attacker running on to the ball will always have an advantage, in terms of momentum and surprise, over a fairly static defender.
Thirdly, in a man-to-man system, contact before the kick is taken, in terms of feeling or 'gently' holding an attacker by the defender (illegal of course but apparently now an accepted part of the game) allows the defender to 'sense' when the attacker is going to make his move and he can move with him.
Of course, even a man-to-man set-up is not a foolproof method of defending set pieces, but is a tried and tested formula that has stood the test of time and makes each player personally responsible for a specific opponent.
So, come on Rafa, swallow your pride, look at the figures and change the system before it's too late.
If you had employed a man-to-man system last week, the beach ball could have been carted into row Z by it's marker seconds before it had adroitly deflected Darren Bent's shot into the far corner.
Subsequently, the copious column inches taken up since, discussing the interpretation of Law 5, would have been rendered an irrelevance, and you wouldn't have had to spend the rest of the match with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp!
- The Antagonist
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