Arsenal failed to strengthen their defence after the disastrous performance against Liverpool last weekend, and justifiably so, there were worries that they would struggle against the pace that Leicester have in attack. However, the return of Laurent Koscielny helped the Gunners to a clean sheet. Although they failed to win the match, Arsenal were a lot better at the back and that was mainly due to the Frenchman. Many criticised Arsene Wenger for not rushing Koscielny back for the opening match and on the evidence of this match, maybe he should have.
He played alongside Rob Holding and the Arsenal back four were far more organised as a result of Koscielny’s return. Leicester struggled to create many clear-cut chances and The Gunners can take confidence of their collective defensive display. They still need to sign at least one centre-back before the transfer window closes, but Koscielny’s performance on Saturday was a timely reminder that Arsenal already have one of the best defenders in the league.
It was his reading of the game that stood out on Saturday, as he was always in the right place at the right time. During the match, he made three interceptions and an excellent block to deny Andy King. He stopped several Leicester attacks and played a risk-averse game. At the KP Stadium, the Frenchman made seven clearances to relieve the pressure on his side and this is exactly what was missing against Liverpool.
It must be said that both Rob Holding and Calum Chambers have the potential to grow into good centre-halves. However, they are too inexperienced to play together at the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Koscielny has plenty of footballing wisdom at the top level and knows what to do in every situation. That is invaluable and has a calming influence on the side as a whole. At times last week, Arsenal were panicked and it was clear that the rest of the team didn’t have total confidence in their centre back pairing. Koscielny looked assured in everything that he did on Saturday and that had a positive influence on the rest of the team.
Leicester’s best chance of the game arrived when Jamie Vardy got in behind the Arsenal back four, but Koscielny produced a superb piece of defending to prevent the England international from scoring. The Frenchman is quick and managed to get back just in time to put Vardy under pressure. This caused Vardy to rush his effort and he didn’t find the target. It won’t be added to any of his stats, but it showed his ability to recover and arguably earned Arsenal a point.
Arsenal lack leaders in their squad and that was evident last weekend. The side crumbled after half-time and there was nobody on the pitch to offer guidance during that tricky period. Although Koscielny isn’t the old-fashioned leader that many believe Arsenal need, he does lead by example with his performances. He is consistent and intelligent on the pitch, in terms of his positioning and helping organise the back four. That was noticeable on Saturday and if Arsenal can bring in a quality centre back to play alongside him, they will have strong foundations to build on this season.
The Frenchman also impressed with his on-the-ball contributions. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet and can launch attacks from deep. Arsenal look to play a free-flowing passing game from back-to-front and that requires ball-playing centre backs. Koscielny certainly fits that description and on Saturday, he made 44 passes with an accuracy of 93.2. He rarely loses possession and that is why Arsene Wenger rates him so highly.
It will be seen as another disappointing result because Arsenal didn’t take the three points against Leicester and Koscielny couldn’t help them win the match. However, his contribution did prevent them from losing the match and this point could prove to be crucial at the end of the campaign. The club need to bring in one or two players before the transfer window closes, despite the fact that Koscielny is an excellent defender; and he proved that on Saturday, but he cannot be expected to do it on his own.
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