The Manchester United and England centre-back, Phil Jones, gives FourFourTwo some tips on handling tricky opponents and marking inter-changing forwards.
The opposition’s winger is charging in from the wing and you’re on your own against two of their strikers in the box. What do you do?
“If there were two strikers in the box, I would mark the one closest to the ball, or try to read where the winger is shaping up to cross the ball. By closing down the near post you’re narrowing the angles, making the ball to the back post more difficult. If he takes a bad touch I’ll try to get out to him quickly and stop the cross.
“But if he keeps coming into the box, you can’t keep backing off and backing off; you’ll eventually have to close him down. If he pops it around you and they score, there’s not much you can do as a defender. In this situation you’re not looking to put the blame on someone else, but you’ve got to say we should have stopped the move at the source and not left the defender isolated.”
How do you cope with a striker that keeps playing for fouls?
“I’ll kick him harder [laughs]. I’d have a sensible word with the referee and say, “Listen, you’ve got to watch him. I’m not touching him.”
“I’d also be cute and if the striker keeps buying fouls, and I knew he was purposefully taking a little touch and going over, I would make sure I was standing a metre or two off him when he got the ball. This will make him think he can turn because he can’t feel anyone around him.
“Immediately, as he turned to attack me, I’d get in his face and take the ball off him. It’s also important to stay calm. As soon as he realises he’s getting to you then he knows he’s winning. If everyone in the team can win their individual battles, then nine times out of 10 you’ll win the game.”
Phil Jones wears the Adidas Ace.17.