As you may know, Chelsea and Manchester United have battled in the weekend which ended with a 2-2 draw. Despite we already analysed this clash from several angles (or this), there is still have aspects that might be interesting for you. So, Rüdiger had an awesome headed goal which led me to watch their corners closely. Let’s see what I found.
Corners in general
Unfortunately corner situations are still a very underlooked aspect of the game, however, it stated it is a half-goal due to the danger that the situation contains: lots of people in the box and sharp crosses which needs just a little push to land into the net. Therefore defending corner kicks are a quite difficult task and exist variable methods, like zonal-marking or man-marking and the mixed one.
Of course, in a zonal-marking system the players will defend the space in the box. While the man-marking system emphasis on covering all the opponent players, therefore they will not able to attack the ball.
Furthermore, in the mixed system, both manners appear. There are some players who marking the opponents, and others who protect the space.
All the system have the advantages and disadvantages, like the man-to-man marking is easier to learn, but fragile, while the zonal concept much harder to acquire, but can work better.
Corners in the match
First of all, I analysed both teams behaviour during corners because there was a huge difference between the manners that they applied for defending and attacking in these situations. The guests in attacking corners, they mostly stayed in position and tried to fight for the heading opportunity. They use a little movement in these, however truth to be told, the corner kicks were not as good as it should be or planned. On the other hand, Chelsea used lots of movements. Even a group movement as some players moved in one direction while others moved differently. This could create space for one or two teammates.
You might wonder why is this big difference between the two approaches. And the answer hiding in the defending style that the teams took. Chelsea maintaining a numerical superiority in front of their goal, therefore they congested that space. Mostly using zonal defending and just a few players marking the opponent.
Whilst Manchester United used mostly a man-to-man marking and only a little zonal defending.
If you think it through you get the clear picture. This manner invites more movement to disrupt the opponent’s defence which explains not Chelsea’s behaviour in attacking corners, but Rudiger’s behaviour too. Usually, his base position was around the penalty spot, then he got space to runs in.
He used long movements and tried to go between the rest of the players in order to lose his marker due to the nature of reactionary role of man-marking.
Finally, the situation where Chelsea got the lead. Everything started with the position of Rudiger. He cleverly positioned close to a teammate and far the goal. Therefore it gives him space and the opportunity to rush back to the middle when the ball comes in.
When Rudiger started his movement, his marker, Pogba had to go around the pair of David Luiz and his marker, Lindelöf. This gave the advantage to Rudiger to get in position and make that header freely. Also, the rest of the teammates who positioned in the box helped Rudiger with opening space. Two of them moved the direction where the ball comes, whilst Alonso runs to the far-side.
If you watch closely the last image below, you can see the momentum where Rudiger scored. More importantly, you can see the other teammates who got really tight marking and only Rudiger got space between him and his marker. Therefore it shows how important the starting position where Rudiger gained the advantage and how fragile the man-marking system can be.
This analysis will hopefully give a better understanding of the world of corners and why Chelsea’s plan worked better this time. Also, this probably shows that Rudiger’s goal was not a lucky situation that the fortune gives them. Instead of using the weakness of man-marking that Rudiger enjoyed the most.
Also, this proves that man-making is easy to learn, but only one mistake, one-two seconds late enough to broke to the whole system. It the end, it does not matter that other Chelsea players had tight marking because one player was able to get the free position.
In general, corners need more attention in order to defend well or attacking precisely in these situations. Probably, this is the biggest moral of the fable that Jose Mourinho could learn.