SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce is contemplating whether to use zonal marking as the solution to Sunderland’s set-piece problems at Everton tomorrow.
Bruce has been working his players hard on defending set plays in training this week after being the root cause of his worst run as Sunderland manager.
The Black Cats have conceded five times from free-kicks and corners over their last three games which have all resulted in defeat to Chelsea, Stoke and Spurs.
Bruce and assistant Eric Black have been experimenting with zonal marking when defending free-kicks on the training ground where players are responsible for marshalling an area of the penalty area rather than a member of the opposition.
“Everyone uses the inswinging free-kick nowadays where basically they’re shooting,” said Bruce.
“When you’re doing that and you are man to man, we’re finding our big headers of the ball are way out on the other side of the penalty area.
“We could possibly go zonal and mark areas.
“That’s one thing we might do from free-kicks.
“When we’ve been man-to-man, there’s been a collection of people not doing their jobs by letting players go.
“We’ve been chewing their heads off in training this week and hopefully they’ll be a little bit more focused tomorrow.”
Despite their set piece woes, Bruce has not been downhearted at Sunderland’s performances over the last three games.
He hopes Sunderland’s players can maintain their confidence and draw on the positives from their defeats.
Bruce added: “The results have been disappointing but the football we’ve played against Chelsea, Stoke and Totenham has been good.
“It’s important we stay confident with it and hope we can keep playing the way we are and pick up a few results. I’m sure we can.
“We’ve got to improve defensively from set pieces.
“It’s been a huge disappointment considering the teams we’ve been playing against. In open play we’re alright.”
Bruce may hand a recall to Ahmed Elmohamady ahead of Steed Malbranque tomorrow while Simon Mignolet is on stand-by to deputise for injury doubt Craig Gordon.
But Fraizer Campbell, Lee Cattermole and Danny Welbeck will not be involved despite edging closer to a return.