Over the past couple of seasons, Arsene has adopted the zonal marking system in dealing with corners and indirect free kicks into the box. This system was imperative when the opponents always seemed to bully their marker in the box. Ever since the days of Adams, Keown, Campbell and co, Arsenal have never really had a strong marker of the ball and thus the zonal marking strategy became the best option for the team, but has it worked?

Zonal marking is the direct opposite of man marking. Zonal marking is mainly about taking responsibilities by the players. The players are not asked to mark players but to mark zones or spaces. He is responsible for that space and is expected to clear the ball if it comes to his zone. This is directly unlike man marking when the player is given an opponent to follow and make sure that he does not have a clear chance at goal.

In this system, the defenders are put in two banks of 3 or 4; one ahead of the other. While the set just ahead of the goal are to handle the space before them, the set ahead of them are to handle the running of the opponents and make sure that they don’t have a clear shot especially with the second ball (if there is a flick on).

The big question: is this system best for the gooners? Gooner of Steel takes a detailed look.

Looking back at the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last season, zonal marking failed to deal with Lescott’s goal. As usual, there were 2 banks of defenders, but still Arsenal failed to deal with the threat of the run that Lescott made into the box.


Again, this season, we have been guilty. In the game against Manchester United, runaway gooner, Robin Van Persie scored because again, zonal marking failed. In the picture below, the gooners still set up shop in the normal way of two banks of defenders but failed to deal with the run that Van Persie made into the box when the ball was delivered into the near post. The rest is history, the ball went in and the gooners lost that game just because of a failed system.


Again, just recently in the defeat to City, we were caught napping. The first goal on 14 minute by Aguero was as a result of poor zonal marking. The ball was played to the near post by Nasri; Demichelis was allowed to run at the defence and flicked the ball, we could not deal with the second ball and the Argentine needed no second invitation. Minutes after, the same scenario came up again, the ball was played to the near post, Demichelis ran unopposed into the box and his header was fractionally wide.

I don’t see Wenger changing systems anytime soon; so what must the gooners do to make this system better?

  • Szczesny should have to dominate his area better especially with corner kicks.
  • Also, Arsene could reshuffle the pack. Put Mertesacker and Koscienly in that first bank of four. They would be able to defend the ball to the near post. In the games against the Manchester twins, it was Ramsey and Monreal that were suspect of not guarding the near post.
  • There should be greater commitment from the players. Due to this system, our defenders find it very difficult to jump once the ball is played and the opponents have a free space.
  • Also, Arsene could spice it up a little. Add a running man to the defending that would always run towards the near post to head clear before the ball comes over to his zonal defenders.

It is very important that we address this problem in our darling team. The title team is bracing to be the tightest in years, what that means is that any slight mistake can take the crown away from you. With Chelsea coming to the Emirates next Monday and the fact that they have many aerially good players like Terry and Cahill, we must use these few days to correct this mistake or get punished by the Jose Mourinho stalwarts.

This season could be our season, #BELIEVE #GTID #COYG




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