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Marking the Posts: A Forgotten Art

Marking the Posts: A Forgotten Art

06/07/16 06 July 2016

It seems to be a staple of defending any corner kick. However in modern football it has become more and more common for teams to leave the posts unmarked. A concept we can’t quite grasp.

A total of 69 goals were scored via corner kicks this Premier League season. While it is a high value, it is still in fact it’s actually the lowest percentage recorded in the past 6 seasons. Facing a corner is a dangerous scenario but it seems managers are using their team’s resources inefficiently, and not treating them as a serious threat.

By the numbers and assessing risk v reward, it should present a clear approach how to defend a set-piece. This past season saw 11.1% of all goals amounting from corners, while counterattacks only made up 6.26% of the total (39 goals). Mind you this figure is inclusive of counterattacks from all scenarios, not just while defending a corner. With that in mind; not conceding should be the only priority on the forefront of your player’s minds, launching an attack should be an afterthought at most. For anyone who suggests these figures are down to the quantity of corner kicks in a match, you’re not wrong – but I can guarantee that the number of goals scored from corners dwarfs the number of goals from counterattacks of the same scenario.

Goals from corners are typically headers that occur from 8 to 12 yards out – these headers aren’t usually powering past the keeper but instead dribble into the net just outside his reach. Very rarely do we witness a powerful header that flies past a helpless keeper. The reason being is that the delivery has to land around the 6-yard box just outside the keeper’s range to collect it – a very small target. Yet in spite of this, it has become more and more common to leave the near and far posts unmarked. Evidence of this can be taken from Juventus’ Champions League campaign. After Fernando Llorente’s header rolled in at the backpost (a very simple clearance had a defender been stationed there; you can judge for yourself in the link below), Juventus finished 2nd in the group despite beating Manchester City home and away. Juventus faced Bayern, albeit unlucky to suffer defeat. An uninspired Manchester City went on to reach the semi-final against Real Madrid, the very side the bianconeri beat at the same stage last season. To think that covering the back post would be the difference between losing in the round of 16 and a spot in the final.

What’s more concerning in the link is the players who are tasked with roles that seem irrelevant – specifically Marchisio. In a defensive setup, quick transition to facing a short and direct corner is crucial and the below roles are the essentials:

- 1x player sitting on the edge of the area at all times,
- 1x player to close down the short corner, however if there is no one presenting for the short option they can sit higher up, a 45 degree angle from the goal. It stationed where defensive, clearing headers and a goalkeepers throw can easily reach,
- 1x player sitting a metre or so outside the 6-yard box, blocking crosses whipped in to the front post. However he should rush out in the event the ball is played short and only after that pass is played.

The primary function of these 3 players is to prevent the opposition recycling possession after a clearance; secondary function is a counterattack. Having players stationed up field means taking an unnecessary risk for what may or may not even create a low-percentage attack – assuming you do not concede from that very corner. With that said; there’s another 7 players to assign positions. Do you ever see 7 players marking attacking threats? Never is the answer. More to the point, the players that would be used to occupy the posts wouldn’t be any with an aerial presence, so their effectiveness in a man-marking role within the box is null.

In conclusion, history is filled with examples of how marking the posts would have altered the outcome of matches and tournaments, and I’m certain we’ll witness many more in these European Championships to come. What is preventing world-class managers and professional players from realizing the blindingly obvious - that I’m not sure.