James Dodd offers our centre-half an apology
6 onlinegooner.com he day that Arsenal signed Laurent Koscielny was the day that I, along with many Arsenal fans, hoped that the club had finally signed a centre-half capable of bolstering a defensive backline that in previous seasons had been nothing short of shambolic. As always when Arsène Wenger opts to splash his cash on a relative unknown from France, it is greeted with pessimism from all angles but Arsenal fans always rally round our latest signing with great optimism, confident that the player will go on to take the Premier League by storm.
After watching him in his first game against Liverpool my initial assessment, albeit a very early one, was that our new man was very similar to Thomas Vermaelen in the sense that he was a ball-playing centre-half who might not be the most physical of defenders but that we might have something in our new number six.
Unfortunately for Laurent, the remainder of the 2010/11 season would go on to be a disappointing one but Arsenal’s defensive failings were not all down to a rookie centre-half signed from Ligue 1. The injury to Vermaelen in early September, the inadequacy of fellow summer signing Sebastian Squillaci and the fact that Arsenal’s number one at the time couldn’t organise a trip to the toilet all contributed to Laurent having a difficult first season at Arsenal but my mind was made up. Laurent Koscielny was not going to cut it in English football.
Fast forward a year and how things have changed. Koscielny has been the stalwart of an Arsenal defence that, despite the odd hammering, appears to be growing in confidence with every game. The player who was at times so naive appears to have grown in stature in more ways than just physically. I now look at Koscielny and see not just any Premier League Koscielny’s game is all about instinct and when Arsenal drew 1-1 away in Dortmund, he was brilliant
It has been a joy to watch Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the defence this season and long may it continue. Coupled with Vermaelen and flanked by the returning Bacary Sagna and the ever improving Andre Santos (or the ever injured Kieran Gibbs) I actually have hope that Arsenal may be able to achieve something this season, despite what others think. Well done Laurent, you have proved me wrong. Now let’s go and win a trophy. T
defender, but one who is rapidly on the rise. Sure, he will have his moments - the own goal at Blackburn being one of them - but Arsenal now have a defender who shows no fear and is proving to be the perfect partner for the already exceptional Vermaelen. Koscielny’s game is all about instinct and when Arsenal drew 1-1 away in Dortmund, he was brilliant. The defence had to adopt a siege mentality for the majority of that game and a stand-out performance from Laurent was one of the reasons why Arsenal came away with a point.
Though Koscielny is due praise for the way in which he appears to have learnt from his debut season in the Premier League, a lot of the credit has to go to Arsène Wenger and the three changes he has made to bolster Arsenal’s defensive unit. Making Wojciech Szczesny the club’s undisputed goalkeeper means that the centre-halves now have a keeper behind them whom they trust. The addition of Per Mertesacker at centre-back means that Koscielny has a player capable of challenging him for the right to partner Thomas Vermaelen and, finally, the maturing of Alex Song in the “Claude Makelele” role means that Arsenal’s centre-backs finally have the protection in front of them that has been missing since the days of Patrick Vieira bossing the Highbury turf.