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Liverpool's demise against Chelsea the fault of Rafael Benitez's zonal marking
Published : 09 Apr 2009 14:02:30
Chelsea took maximum advantage of the inherent flaws of the defensive system he deployed at Anfield but they helped themselves because Benitez got it wrong on two other counts. Not only did the Spaniard opt for the wrong defensive strategy but also chose the wrong team and failed to properly gee up the ones that played so they failed to rise to the challenge of protecting their early lead. Related ArticlesIvanovic emerges from shadows'Chelsea are team to beat'Benitez: Comeback 'a tough call'Liverpool v Chelsea: Man markingHenry Winter: Liverpool 1 Chelsea 3Terry: 'It wasn't a yellow card'The zonal marking system at corners and free-kicks is a dangerous ploy because it means that the attacking team's command of the situation is strengthened as their players are given the freedom to make runs on goal. The defending team's best headers of the ball will be stationed around the six-yard box but the problem for Liverpool is that Benitez's best headers of the ball - Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger – were on the substitutes' bench when the goals were flying in. They should have been in the thick of it because everyone would have known that Chelsea would have been at their most threatening at set-plays thanks to the aerial power of John Terry, Alex, Didier Drogba and Branislav Ivanovic. The zonal marking system shows that the manager is confident in his team's ability of repel set pieces but it creates too much uncertainty for my liking. Defenders lose their grip on what is already a threatening situation because of a lack of contact with their opponents who are able to use the element of surprise to their own advantage. The opposite is the case with the man-for-man marking system which I favour. When you go man-for-man the responsibilities are crystal clear, confusion minimised and the room for error is reduced. That's because you simply put you best header of the ball against their best header of the ball and so on. It's not rocket science. If your players aren't strong enough or quick enough to get to the ball first then they should do everything in their power to make sure their man doesn't make a clean contact. To do that you've got to show plenty of aggression when you're not up to it and that is a quality that was conspicuous in its absence in the Liverpool defence against Chelsea because the defenders didn't seem determined enough to get their heads to the ball first. They just didn't seem to be in the right frame of mind which is something the manager should take responsibility for. The chemistry was all wrong.