Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he has implemented a tactical change in the way his side defend corners and set pieces.
For much of his time in charge in North London, Arsenal have adopted a man-marking philosophy when defending inside their own penalty box. However, recognising in recent seasons that the Gunners have struggled to match opponents using the system, the club have decided to test a zonal marking philosophy in the hope it will cut down the number of goals conceded from such scenarios.
Speaking to Arsenal Player about the shift in defensive strategy, Wenger explained:
“We have changed our system a little bit. We’re testing it at the moment. It’s too early to say that it works, but the signs are positive.
“The authority of Wojciech [Szczesny] is stronger and bigger as well, and his presence at crosses is better than at the end of last season, which helps as well.
Asked why the decision had been taken and why he felt it necessary to abandon the club’s traditional man marking philosophy, Wenger continued:
“It looked more rational. You’re less subject to screening, when you run after somebody and they cross each other they can of course stop you from intervening.
“It has advantages and disadvantages. You need a great sense of individual responsibility in zonal marking, the responsibilities are more clear in man marking. You’re initiative for taking responsibility [in the new system] is bigger.”
Although Arsenal indirectly conceded from a cleared free-kick in Dortmund, Wenger stressed that he was pleased with the overall performance of his back-line.
“If you want success, ideally you want to dominate every game from the first to the last minute. I liked the fact that we were quite solid in our defending and calm under pressure.
“At some stage you accepted in the second half that it would be difficult to combine and get out [of defence] and that you will be tested defensively. That we came out with some credit is for me a positive for the season.”
One player who earned particular plaudits for his all-action display in the Westfalenstadion was uncapped Frenchman Laurent Koscielny. Signed from Lorient ahead of last season, the 26-year-old appears to have consolidated his burgeoning reputation in the eyes of his boss, with Wenger tipping him to be a star of the future.
“People forget that Laurent has had two seasons at the top level; one in France, one in England,” stressed the coach.
“The fact that he has such a short experience at the top level makes his improvement potential bigger. I believe he will be a great central defender.
“I have always thought there is a massive potential in this player. That is why he has already grown this season and I felt in the last 20 minutes he was immense against Dortmund.
“He keeps things simple, he is quick and he reads [the game] well. Like every central defender who comes to England, he was surprised by the intensity of the game but he has adjusted now and adapted.”