Do you have any idea how you should be defending, as a team?  Let me guess – as long as all of your team mates are marking a player then you’re happy? After all, just getting some of your prima donna colleagues to even think about marking is a success.

Well, stop for a second and let’s have a think about this.

Think back to your last game.  You’re on the pitch, the artificial surface under your feet, the sweat pouring off your brow and the opposition attack are bearing down on you. Where are your team mates? Are they all behind the ball, ready to defend? Great, good start.

Now, where are they in relation to the opposition? They’ve all picked out a player and are sticking tight to them – excellent, sounds like you’ve got this sorted. No team is going to break down your impenetrable defensive wall, you’re unbeata…..

Wait! Where the hell did he come from?!!

Oh dear. They’ve just scored.

How did that happen? You were all marking the opposition – all of your team mates had picked up a player, so how did he break through and score?

Looks like one of your players was marking too tightly and the attacker was able to turn them and get a clear run on goal. This is the problem with using a man-to-man marking strategy – one little mistake and you’re screwed.

The man-to-man marking strategy in futsal football is for amateurs.

It will leave you extremely vulnerable at the back. Without a potent attack to counteract this you’re going to lose games, regularly.

“Man-to-man marking can easily lead to you being caught out of position.” – Roy Connolly, Futsal North West

So what should you be doing instead?

Well, before I get to that, let’s take a closer look at the man-marking strategy and I’ll reveal why it is extremely limited if you’re looking to avoid conceding goals.

Why Man-To-Man Marking Sucks

A man-marking system is the standard go-to strategy for futsal football teams. Without a specific defensive plan, your team’s natural instinct is to just line up man-for-man and try to cover runs and prevent passes as they happen. But then why do you concede so many goals? Is it just something to be expected in the short-sided game?

Well, no. Compare a Futsal match, where man-to-man marking is used very little, compared with futsal football. Substantially fewer goals are conceded per game.

So if the man-marking strategy is avoided in Futsal why adopt it for futsal football?

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The problem is that this strategy is too passive. The attacking team gets to dictate the play. They can go where they want and your defenders will just follow, like anxious puppies. This allows the attackers to run your defence ragged, pulling them all over the pitch and creating space wherever they want. If they sit deep enough, they will drag you higher up the pitch, leaving gaping holes in behind that they can exploit until their little hearts are content.

Not to mention how easy it is for the attack to wear you down, tiring you out from all of the running and chasing (remember back when you were a kid at school, playing chase or ‘tag’ with your friends? How much easier and less tiring was it to be chased than it was to do the chasing?)

And do all of your team mates adhere to their defensive duties as well as you do? What about that lazy guy who ‘isn’t really a defender’ and doesn’t track back after an attack? If he’s not marking his man then a significant advantage is handed to the attacking opposition.

As soon the attacker breaks free from his marker there is no one left to stop him – THERE IS NO BACK-UP.

But what if there is a system that you can use that not only allows you to track all of the opposition players but allows you to team up 2 vs. 1 against the opposition when they get into dangerous areas?

Let me introduce the ‘dynamic-marking’ system.

How to Create an Unbeatable Defence

The dynamic-marking system is common in Futsal. Jeff Raymer calls it ‘sagging-marking’ in his book ‘Youth Futsal Skills and Strategies‘. It is a mix of the man-marking system and a more complicated zonal-marking strategy. Raymer refers to it as ‘sagging’ as defenders will loosely mark their opposition but will coordinate their defence to support each other in case an attacker breaks free of their marker. I prefer the term ‘dynamic-marking’, as it emphasises the need to rotate and take up multiple roles and is more akin to zonal-marking.

“Zonal-based marking basically allows you to make mini-mistakes and have team mates help you out. If done properly you will only ever concede ‘worldies’!” – Stuart Cook, Manchester and England Futsal International

The best way to understand it is to look at how this works 1 vs 1, defender vs. attacker, and build it up from there.

1 Vs. 1

Now, in a 1 vs. 1 situation, it is important to remember that you can’t stop a defender completely, but, you should give him what space you want him to have. That is, push him wide, where he is less dangerous, and try not to give up the middle of the pitch.

As I’ve gone to great lengths to point out above though, no matter how good of a defensive player you are, there are going to be times when you’ll get beat by a change of speed or direction. Where the man-marking system fails is that this would mean that the player has a free run on goal.  The dynamic-marking system should provide you with a back-up defender.

2 Vs. 2

Let’s introduce this second defender into the mix, to make this a 1 vs 2 situation. Rather than swarming the ball and double-teaming the attacker, the two defenders will take up the ‘ball’ and ‘help’ positions.

You are the ‘ball’ player (B) and you play aggressively to stop the attacker on the ball, just like the 1 vs 1 defence.  Your team mate, the ‘help’ player (H), will take up a position between you and the goal.  If the attacker beats you, your team mate will race to take up the role as the primary ‘ball’ defender and you will drop back to take up the ‘help’ role.

Done properly, there will always be a player to stop the forward movement of the attacker with the ball.

But how often do you have the luxury of having two defenders to cover one attacker? Rarely.

To make this slightly more realistic, let’s add a second attacker to make it 2 vs 2.  Now this is where it gets complicated – the ‘help’ player must split their attention between covering you and the second attacker. They must position themselves in a support role but not completely leave the other attacker. If help is needed, they will shift their attention solely to the attacker with the ball and leave the second attacker for you to take up a ‘help’ position and cover.

3 Vs. 3

Let’s introduce a 3rd defender, to make it 2 vs. 3.

We have the ‘ball’, the ‘help’ and now a new role – the ‘balance’ player.

As the player closest to the ball, you will take up the ‘ball’ position again. Your team mate closest to the second attacker takes up the ‘balance’ position, protecting against the pass, and the ‘help’ takes up their support position in front of goal. Communication is key, as the roles swap in relation to the movement of the ball.

OK, let’s make this more realistic by adding a 3rd attacker to make it 3 vs. 3.

The key for the defence is to maintain the concepts of ‘ball’, ‘help’ and ‘balance’. With three players to think about, it’s easy for you to get sucked back into a man-marking mind-set, but the two defenders supporting you must be ready to provide ‘help’ or ‘balance’ where appropriate. This is where the concept of ‘dynamic-marking’ comes from.

4 Vs. 4

Once we introduce the 4th attacker and defenders, the concept doesn’t change much but it makes it easier to have a player take up the ‘help’ role, as there are two defenders to offer up ‘balance’.

What you should end up with is a solid defensive line positioned evenly across the pitch, with players stepping up to provide resistance to the attacker with the ball and others to provide direct back-up (‘help’) or ‘balance’ across the pitch.

Still Sceptical?

OK, during your next game I want you to watch your team mates as they defend.  If they’re picking up the opposition man for man, take a look at their positioning.

Are they spread evenly across the pitch or are they loosely following the attacking players all over the place, leaving areas of space on the pitch ‘unguarded’?

I want you to suggest to your team that you ‘stand your ground’ (or even better, share this article by clicking the social media buttons over there to the left) – that is, take up a defensive position spread out across the pitch, with players stepping up to confront the oncoming attack and others providing help or balance.

Drop the basic man-marking strategy – it is for beginners and teams that don’t care about getting beaten.

You, on the other hand, take your football a little more seriously.  Get ahead of these amateur teams and implement some advanced tactics into your play.  Blindly following the opposition around the pitch does not allow you to control the game.  Implement the ‘dynamic-marking’ system, stand your ground and help your team mates – make the opposition find a way through your defensive wall.

Once you start conceding fewer goals and winning more matches, your team mates are going to consider you as some kind of tactical genius.

It’s at that point you can thank me via the comments section below 😉