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Adams - Familiarity key for centre backs

Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker

Familiarity is the key to a successful centre-back partnership, according to Tony Adams.

The former Arsenal captain was the bedrock of championship-winning sides in three decades and built valuable relationships with Steve Bould and then Martin Keown under George Graham and Arsene Wenger.

Adams watched with interest as Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker's partnership blossomed towards the end of last season with just four goals conceded in the 10 games they started together from March until May.

"Steve [Bould] was a zonal defender and he knew how that system worked. Playing with Martin Keown was different. He was a man-to-man marker and when I used to play with Martin, I used to play differently alongside him"

Tony Adams

That helped Arsenal end the campaign with the second best defensive record - shipping six goals fewer than champions Manchester United - and Adams thinks continuity played a part.

"It's the only position where you need familiarity," said Adams, speaking at the World Refugee Day charity match.

"You need to play with your mate on a regular basis to gain confidence and I think that really worked for Arsenal defensively. [Arsene Wenger] left that alone and they gained confidence. It's the fact that they play regularly with each other that they've learnt [about] each other's game.

"I used to play with Steve Bould. We used to play zonal defence. Steve was a zonal defender and he knew how that system worked. Playing with Martin Keown was different. He was a man-to-man marker and when I used to play with Martin, I used to play differently alongside him.

"To keep changing that scenario is very difficult. If I was playing with Bouldy one week and then Martin the next, it would have been very difficult for me to go from one to the other.

"I think that's what really helped Koscielny and Mertesacker - that they got to know each other's game. For me, Mertesacker is a zonal defender and Koscielny is a man-to-man marker. They got to know each other's game because they played with each other week in, week out."

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