“Posts do not score goals, players score goals.” – Felipe Scolari, December 28th 2008.
“Our mentality is very good but we are now in trouble because we lost many points in the last games on one situation [i.e. set plays]. When we change this, we change again. The responsibility is for the group. One man wrong [in a man-to-man system], and you are wrong. Now, it’s seven or eight players inside the box.” – Felipe Scolari, January 13th 2009.
As a youth I have vivid memories of marking the posts at both corners and free-kicks. It always seemed like the cop-out option, one which I readily lapped up, as in the majority of cases the ball used to head into the mass of players around theÂ penalty spotÂ rather than aiming at the post I was so diligently marking. Mud rarely touched my hair.
Yet, every so often, marking the wily post proved wise. Those dodgy near post corners or, more rarely, when the opposition actually sent a header or shot goalwards. In such cases, if there was no man on the posts then the keeper will always be second favourite and a goal would usually be conceded.
And so Chelsea have suffered in the past few weeks, with manager Felipe Scolari yesterday throwing the towel in and admitting his mistakes over his zonal-marking tactics, now claiming the Blues will revert back to a man-to-man marking system that should see players return to marking the posts.
The last straw came at Old Trafford on Sunday with both Nemanja Vidic and Dimitar Berbatov scoring goals into unmarked near posts. These were only the latest in a series of goals conceded by the Pensioners from set plays, with Southend’s Peter Clarke and Fulham’s Clint Dempsey (here and here) both exploiting poor Blues’ defending in recent weeks.
Now, while it may have been expected that Scolari’s change of heart would be seen as a positive step forward for Chelsea, in the current over-critical, over-analytical environment in which we live in, the Brazilian Gene Hackman has received little credit for attempting to rectify a wrong, only more criticism.
As explained by David Hytner in today’s Guardian, “Scolari’s honesty might be applauded in most walks of life but Premier League managers inhabit a parallel universe, one in which any admission or U-turn can be interpreted as a sign of weakness. The decision to revert to his own convictions over zonal marking has also laid him open to such conclusions. It is difficult to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, chopping and changing in this fundamental area. It will be fascinating to see if his players are inspired or otherwise.”
Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, Scolari is struggling to do anything right these days.
Footage of Felipe Scolari’s colourful press conference on Tuesday can be seen here.