Since the game on Sunday, everyone has been having a go at Arsenal’s zonal marking at set-pieces. From soccer pundits to fans, almost everyone has been saying how we should not be using zonal marking at set pieces, how it is ineffective against opposition’s run in the box… basically thrashing the defensive system that is still the meanest in the Premiership this season.
I don’t know about you but I think the zonal system works very well for Arsenal this year. If you look at the match statistics against Manchester City, the home team had 9 corners and they only converted one. Even that came from a defensive mistake from the goalkeeper. If the system didn’t work, wouldn’t we have conceded more goals from the corners? In fact, I don’t think the Citizens troubled Mannone any other time during the corners except for one Sergio Aguero shot which the goalkeeper had covered. So far this season, we have conceded 22 corners and from that we have only let in 1 goal. I think that says a lot about the success of Arsenal zonal marking system.
Of course, there are good and bad things about the zonal marking system. We have used it over 2 to 3 years now and it is only this year that we are finding more success. It calls for a lot of discipline from all the players defending the set piece. Previously, we would have players losing focus at certain times and we would concede a goal. From what I see, this year, the players have much better concentration and the discipline in taking care of their assigned areas.
I think there is a tendency to move into zonal marking these days because teams like to defend more as a team nowadays are set-pieces. When it works, it can provide more cover in the box compared to man to man marking. In the later, if the defender is beaten, the attacker would have a free shot at goal. In a zonal marking system, there would usually be more than one defender in a specific area in the penalty box. Therefore, even if one player is beaten, there should be a cover in that area. If you look at Lescott’s goal, Arsenal had two defenders in the vicinity but didn’t timed their jump right to block the opponent. It was a defensive mistake, not a breakdown of the system.
The problem with these so-called experts is that they have not progressed to a more modern system of play. They probably only know one footballing system and everything else is not working. So no matter what the experts, zonal defending is here to stay.