For my Soccer Blog Review I chose to investigate Zonal Marking (ZM), an online soccer blog that was created in January of 2010. The blog looks to provide soccer fans an in-depth analysis of the tactics and formations utilized by different clubs in modern day soccer. There is only one author on the blog, Michael Cox, and he attempts to post a detailed tactical review of one game per week. During the 2010 World Cup, just a few months after it was started, the blog received roughly 210,000 visitors per week and was recognized by various professional soccer analysts. Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid, was said to be one of its followers and he happened to be the inspiration behind the entire blog in the first place. In all of his posts, Cox dissects the formations of the competing teams, and attempts to show how they may have adjusted as the game progressed. He also examines the movements of specific players to see how they were able to succeed, or fail, in their attempts to either beat the defense or stop the opposing team from attacking and scoring a goal. Cox provides various diagrams that utilize arrows and markers to show where certain players were primarily located throughout the game and to track their movements on certain plays.
One article that particularly grabbed my attention was the analysis of the semi-final match of the 2014 World Cup between Brazil and Germany. Contrary to the expectations entering the match, which saw it as essentially a toss-up, Germany routed Brazil and won the match 7-1. While watching the game all I could really think was that Germany was simply the better team and that everything was falling in their favor. While this may have some merit to it, this article shows that Brazil’s left-back, Marcelo, was frequently found out of position on several occasions within the first 30 minutes of the game, giving rise to various runs by Muller and other German midfielders. Through various diagrams and explanations, the article gave me a better understanding of how exactly the German team came to defeat Brazil so easily.
Aside from analyzing specific matches, both domestic and international, the author also provides insight on how certain time periods featured major changes in tactics and formations. For example, there is a section of the website titled, “Tactics in the 2000s.” I found this section to be particularly interesting and informative, as it dives into the changes that the game experienced in the last decade. To someone who loosely follows the game and simply enjoys the highlights, this section was extremely helpful. It has allowed me to better understand the strategies of many different teams, and has shown me how much the game changes on a year-to-year basis. One article in this section that has both attracted my attention and improved my knowledge of the game was “How the 2000’s Changed Tactics #1: The fall and rise of the passing midfielder.” In this article, the author talks about Barcelona legend Pep Guardiola. It begins with a discussion about his downfall in 2004 because of the transformation going on with the mid-field position at the time. Guardiola was primarily a passer who would look for his more creative teammates around the pitch. However, at this point in time the game was changing. As Guardiola himself says, “It’s just that football is now different…The tactics are different now, you have to be a ball-winner, a tackler…players like me have become extinct.” Although at an age where he was considered to be in prime shape, Guardiola essentially became futile to most teams and had nowhere to go. Six years later, however, Guardiola revived the passing midfielder as the manager of FC Barcelona. He brought back his strategy, and led his team to win the Champions League in 2010. This article enabled me to better understand how various formations can affect the game. I would have never looked for the different roles of midfielders on the pitch before reading this, but now have more knowledge on the matter. For fans that don’t know much about tactics and formations, this article proves to be very effective in showing how so much change can occur in such a short period of time and how important formations can be to a team’s success.
All in all, Zonal Marking provides soccer fans with a new way of watching the game that they love. It allows one to identify closer with the players on the field, as their movements can be followed more intently and their decision-making is made easier to understand. The blog itself was created as a way to fill a void in soccer blogs, as there weren’t many tactical blogs prior to its conception. As stated earlier, it was inspired by Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid, and since then tactical reviews have become exceptionally more popular. The blog continues to impress readers, attracting more and more followers every week. I look forward to reading it in the future and continuing to gain knowledge on the game of soccer.