July 7th 2010. Arsene Wenger and Arsenal had just completed the transfer of young French centre-back Laurent Koscielny for £8.5 million pounds. Many Arsenal fans were unsure who this unknown Frenchman was and whether he could cut it in the Premier League. Five and a half years later and Koscielny has more than proved he can play, he’s established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League.
So far this season Arsenal has looked stronger than usual and players such as Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud have stolen the headlines with their impressive performances. What is less heralded is the solid defensive display Arsenal has been showing so far this season. They currently rank third in the league for goals conceded, and a lot of this is down to the excellent performances of centre backs Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
With the likes of John Terry at Chelsea faltering and Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany out injured, Koscielny can be considered alongside Chris Smalling as the Premier League’s best centre back this season . What is also apparent is that Koscielny is the most complete centre half in the league right now. Koscielny is a ball playing central defender who is equally comfortable passing the ball around the pitch as he is putting in tackles and intercepting the ball.
He perfectly fits the Arsenal mould of passing football, and this is important as the perfect partnership between him and Mertesacker allows Koscielny the freedom to use his strengths going forward and passing the ball whilst Mertesacker is more adept at the physical side of tackling and staying back. His freedom to go forward has so far resulted in three league goals this season, including a crucial winner last weekend against Newcastle when Arsenal were struggling to find a winner in a lackluster performance.
Koscielny has been very good since he joined the team in 2010, and has been playing at this high level for a number of years. This is exactly why he is now considered one of the best all round centre backs in the league, alongside Man City’s Vincent Kompany. It’s no surprises therefore that Koscielny has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in the world, having been linked with moves to Bayern Munich, Real Madrid Barcelona in the past few years.
Luckily for Arsenal fans Koscielny is very reluctant to move on from the Emirates stadium, as he signed a new long term deal in May 2014, and has publicly stated that he would like to remain with Arsenal beyond his current deal as he would like to have earnt a testimonial match with Arsenal.
With the emergence of Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin over the past few years and now with the experienced Petr Cech in goal, Arsenal have the most solid defensive back five they have had since the days of the invincible’s over ten years ago now. It’s clear from watching Arsenal play that it’s Koscielny that leads this back five, something he has done since he joined the club.
With current captain Mikel Arteta struggling to get game time at Arsenal, many fans would argue Koscielny is the perfect person to take over from Arteta as captain in the next few years. He has also developed a leadership role within the French national side, as he looks to lead them at the upcoming European Championships in his home nation this summer.
Although Chris Smalling has also excelled for Manchester United this season, he is not as technically adept with the ball as Koscielny, which is why many pundits are calling him the most complete centre back in the league right now. If Vincent Kompany had remained fit all season he could lay claim to this accolade, although his lay-off from injury has negated his impact as Man City have struggled without him.
Koscielny has been in the discussion for the league’s best centre back for several years now, however with others faltering and Arsenal flying high he’s earning the title of the league’s best centre back, if not defender. From now until the rest of the season Arsenal will need him at his best if they are to win a first Premier League title since the 2003-04 season. For Koscielny, he is enjoying the best years of his career leading Arsenal.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Kieran Clarke.