Soccer is a game that is played as much in your head as it is played on the field. It is no more a brawn game than it is a brain game. It takes a good measure of understanding of the proceedings on the field and anticipation of what’s to come before actually executing any sort of move whatsoever.
Marking is a big part of drawing up and implementing these strategies. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to discussing and actually practicing marking methods on field – particularly for amateurs and novices.
In this article, we will try to address some of the most common and most basic of questions that players have about marking.
What exactly is ‘marking’?
Quite understandably, the whole marking fiasco starts from the fact that players aren’t aware of what marking really means and coaches, in many cases, take no efforts to answer such questions.
To put it very, very simply, ‘marking’ is equivalent to shouldering a certain share of field responsibility by yourself – at all times.
It may involve marking a zone or marking a player. Goals conceded through poor marking are generally attributed as the failure of the player on whom the relevant marking responsibility was placed.
What is ‘Zonal Marking’?
The most common form of marking in football is ‘zonal marking’. In zonal marking, players (midfielders and defenders, more commonly) are asked to mark certain zones in their half.
For example, a central midfielder may be asked to mark right wing predominantly because the team has an attacking right winger.
Zonal marking is zone specific, and not man specific.
What is ‘Man Marking’?
Man marking is another popular, albeit more challenging, form of making. In ‘man marking’, players are asked to mark certain opposition players – irrespective of their field positions.
For example, a left back may be asked to mark the right forward of the opposition, even if he moves to the right wing.
Man marking, unlike zonal marking, is man specific.
Why are we not being able to mark properly?
The key to successful marking execution begins right at the drawing board. You need to know what sort of marking you are going to need before actually cooking up any new strategy. You need to have a fool-proof understanding of the opposition players and their possible strategies.
Another thing that most teams ignore while drawing marking strategies is the fact that you need to be flexible in utilising these tactics. You CANNOT start a game with a rigid marking scheme. You need to be able to move around and change things if the situation asks them. If one of your ‘marked’ players goes off the field, you need to come up with a new strategy for the substitute. Similarly, if the original strategy is not working, you need to think up a new impromptu plan.
Can marking be practiced?
Marking is very difficult to practise in non-game situations, unlike most other aspects of football. A simple explanation for this lies in the fact that marking relies heavily on ‘non-familiarity’ among players, and in most cases, practicing players are quite familiar with each other.
However, there are certain marking drills like ‘see-saw marking’ that can help players get more adept at marking. More about these drills will surely be discussed in another article.