Zonal marking: It was a problem under Gordon Strachan and it’s a problem now.

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At least we have the defensive side of things correct.Image

 

Or so I thought.

 

Celtic went out of Europe all together on Tuesday night, or 6:30am Korean Standard Time, as I watched following a 4:30am alarm.

 

Neil Lennon opted for an interesting selection which apart from the central midfield pairing of Charlie Mulgrew and Beram Kayal looked very good on paper.

 

Then we started to play. After 12 minutes Celtic conceded as poor a goal as I have ever seen from Ricky Kaka who was unmarked at a corner as Celtic men marked their plots or zones, instead of the men in the box. What was particularly worrying as Kaka nodded home as the ball had come over Virgil Van Dijk’s head, was that his had a team mate behind him ready to do the same thing.

 

The goal was a devastating blow, but made more devastating as it snuck in past Kayal who was daydreaming on the line. But surely the ball shouldn’t have even made it on to the head of Kaka?

 

In the aftermath of Celtic’s colossal win over Barcelona in the 2012/2013 Champions League campaign Fraser Forster was nicknamed La Gran Marula but for the longest of times fans have been asking how a 6 foot 4 inch goal keeper is so poor at coming for crosses?

 

I have found myself asking how could Forster have made it this far in his career not coming off of his goal line. Forster’s opposite number Christian Abbiati was faced with several corners and crosses from Celtic tonight, one in particular was a carbon copy of the ball in that Kaka scored from. Abbiati rose as he has all of his career and collected comfortably, landing on the ball and killing any idea that the chance was anything but dead.

I wonder if Forster’s decisions to remain on his line are in fact instructions from the Celtic management? How else could a keeper that has looked so promising in his young career be so fundamentally lacking in a key requirement of being a keeper.

How can we coach what comes naturally out of players the way we coach defenders not to defend set pieces the way they have been trained to since they were children. We have a lot of pedigree in our team, none less than Virgil Van Dijk. How does he change in the light of instructions contra to the best of coaching he has received from an enviable Dutch set up. In the same way as we defended under Gordon Strachan with the much maligned ‘zonal marking’ when we shipped goals so frequently, but more often than not scored one more than the opposition, we are cutting a sorry excuse for a football team just now in continental competition: five games played, two goals for and eight against.

 

I wonder now if we’ll see Mulgrew appearing back in defence to give Izaguirre a rest he needs. I wonder if we will see a different centre half, perhaps from the youth set up (yeah right!) coming in an giving Ambrose some time to reflect and get his head into the game because so far Van Dijk has been covering for him FAR too much. I think Mario Balotelli was probably quite pleased early on to have been getting so much change out of Efe Ambrose as he was. I must have been so confident once getting past Van Dijk he has simply to wait on Ambrose to stop running before he coolly slotted past Forster.

 

Whatever the outcome the Celtic management need to have a look at how they have set up for this and other games in the Champions league, in the defence, and as I will explore in the next piece I write, across the whole team too.

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