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[av_heading heading=’Set pieces as determining factors: How the Champions League semi-finalists defend’ tag=’h1′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Francesco Farioli

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In matches that are more and more played at the limit and battled out in episodes, set pieces could be determining factors in shifting balances.
Match analysis has a dual value: on the one hand, understanding what current defensive organisation trends are and on the other, understanding where Real, Atletico, Bayern and Manchester City can try to build their offensive plays.

Goals that originate from set pieces represent about 40% of the total scores in high-level competitions.

In order to defend in these situations, there are three methods.

  • 1) ZONE MARKING
  • 2) MAN TO MAN
  • 3) MIXED (zone and man to man)

It is interesting to note how all four teams use a mixed strategy, although with significant differences.
For example, Guardiola’s Bayern Monaco always uses six-seven zone players plus Neuer to look for the ball, whereas only three (sometimes four) players are busy marking the opponent.
Neuer is also almost always facing the ball and, starting from the centre of the goal, just before the ball is kicked, he usually takes two or three small pre-activation steps toward the near post.
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Pellegrini’s Manchester City uses four zone players to cover the near post area and to prevent short plays.
Hart works for the fast ball on the near post, with a posture completely facing the ball.
The other six players take care of marking the opposing players.
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Zidane’s Real Madrid, on the other hand, sets up two players to look for the ball in the near post area and three players to cover the edge of the penalty area to prevent short and medium-long plays. Also, the three players positioned at the edge are extremely important for working on a second ball or, in the event of repossession (stopped shot by Keylor Navas that comes back out), for a quick counter-attack.
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Simeone’s Atletico Madrid has three men playing zone at the edge of the goal area and a fourth player ready to step up in the event of a short play. The other six players are in charge of marking the opposing players man to man.
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Not all of the Atletico players carry out the same type of man to man marking. There are two types of marking:

  • 1) Traditional Marking
  • 2) Obstructive Marking

In Traditional Marking, the defender places his arm behind the attacker’s back in order to prevent the attacker from slipping behind the defender.
Nevertheless, traditional marking has the limit of conceding space to run up on the ball ahead of the defender.
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With obstructive marking (in the light blue ring), the defender places his arm on the attacker’s chest in order to prevent him from running ahead, which nevertheless concedes more space behind the defender.
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The different type of marking can depend on both the characteristics of the defender and the characteristics of the attacker, although the best concept and mentality would be obstructive marking as it prevents an aggressive move in the situation.
Obviously, these concepts of individual tactic can be strong factors if they are supported by suitable team organisation.

The most logical organisation is the one employed by Real Madrid (under Zidane’s management, only Piqué was able to score against Real’s defensive organisation), because all the markers, using traditional marking, direct the attacker’s path toward the near post area, an area which is covered by two zone players, ready to attack the ball.
Traditional marking is usually less effective than obstructive marking, but in this case the advantage lies in the collective tactical organisation.

This is an area where two Real players have the task of attacking the ball. Therefore, rather than conceding an advantage, Real Madrid directs a type of attack in an area where in any case it can maintain advantages and, therefore benefits.

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Atletico Madrid and Bayern Monaco occupy the near post area and the zone near the goal brilliantly, but they concede the space for a medium-long play at the edge of the area (for an outside shot on the fly) or for a rush toward the far post.
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The way Pellegrini’s Manchester City sets up (who have already conceded 6 goals on corner kicks in 2016) has various spaces that can be attacked directly or, as in the case of the goal conceded against Rabiot’s PSG, on the far post.
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Two semi-finals open to various scenarios, where the tactical balance could be shifted, besides by the mental and physical factors, in set piece situations.
And who knows… perhaps even one of the deciding goals will come from these situations.
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Francesco Farioli
Aspire Academy (Qatar Football Association), Senior Goalkeeper Coach, Video Match & Performance Analysis.
www.francescofarioli.com

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