Why Laurent Koscielny is the best Arsenal defender of the Emirates era
By Rob Worthington
Hello Koscielny haters! You’ll be glad to hear that it’s me again, one week later, throwing some more Laurent Koscielny propaganda at you. However, this week’s article has a slight twist. Instead of providing you with a nice balanced argument to debate within the @we.love.love.u.arsenal comment section on the Instagram post promoting this piece, this time round, it’s going to be an incredibly one-sided article with outright flattery of our former club captain. That’s right, some of your comments triggered me. Now, I’m here to prove all of those who trigged me, wrong. Yes, Koscielny had some rocky moments right at the beginning of his Arsenal career, namely Arsenal’s disastrous 2011 Carling Cup Final loss. Nonetheless, since then, Koscielny matured and instead of stuttering when we needed him most, he began to deliver. Two moments spring to mind when thinking about Koscielny and the big occasion. Firstly, on 2013’s St. Totteringham’s Day. The Frenchman scissor-kicked the ball home to give Arsenal a 1-0 at St. James’ Park to secure us a Champions League spot. Perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to attract Mesut Özil to the club a few months later if Koscielny didn’t score that vital goal. Then, almost a year to the day after the win at St. James’ Park, Koscielny scored another incredibly important volley to draw Arsenal level in the 2014 FA Cup final. For all we know, without Koscielny, it’s possible that our decline with regard to missing out on Champions League football could’ve began two years earlier and our trophy drought could’ve carried on for years to come. And it’s not as if all Koscielny did was score goals when it mattered, he was a brilliant defender. As he learnt to deal with the pressure of playing for a massive club, his defensive ability strengthened tenfold. Between 2013 and 2017, the Frenchman’s interceptions per game never dropped below 2.5. This exemplified Koscielny’s greatest strength; his game-reading abilities.
The 34-year-old was an expert at sniffing out danger. This also put him in good stead with regard to avoiding making silly fouls as his fouls per game throughout his Arsenal career never even soared higher than 1. While centre-back stats are often misleading, these stats perfectly represent the sort of defender Koscielny was. Astute is the world which best describes the veteran’s tenure at the club. It's not surprising that during the campaign in which Koscielny developed his most consistent partnership at the club, alongside Per Mertescker, that he revelled. The pair led Arsenal to 18 clean sheets in the 2015/16 campaign, the most in the Premier League that season. The pair complimented each other brilliantly and were undoubtedly Arsenal’s best defensive duo of the 2010s. Their performances together during Arsenal’s 2-0 wins against Bayern Munich at The Emirates and Manchester City at The Etihad in 2015 were just magnificent. They showed exactly what the Frenchman could do when he had a proper centre-back partner next to him. His development into one of Europe’s most consistent defenders led to interest from Europe’s elite. For those of you who don’t believe me about this, this is what Koscielny had to say about interest from Barcelona in 2012. When asked if he knew about interest from the Catalan Giants, Koscielny told L'Equipe: "Yes of course and frankly it is flattering. But at Arsenal I have everything; I have a great training centre, a wonderful stadium and an amazing group.” Now, why would the best team in world football at the time want this man if he was simply ‘the best out of a bad bunch’? Anyway, if Koscielny was truly the ‘best out a bad bunch’, why would Wenger have stuck by him for so long? During Koscielny’s time at the club, a number of centre-backs came and went- Johan Djourou, Thomas Vermaelen and Gabriel Paulista to name a few. However, the Bordeaux centre-half was an ever-present member between 2010 and 2019. For such an ‘injury prone’ centre-back, it’s incredible to think that he made a whopping 353 appearances for Arsenal. Only two centre-backs have played more games for us in our club’s history. Respect Koscielny. I’ve purposely ignored talking about Koscielny’s exit during this article. Yes, he made a massive error of judgement, but this is not what this piece is about. This piece is designed to exemplify Koscielny’s golden years at Arsenal. This piece intended to show you that Koscielny was so much more than ‘the best out of a bad bunch’. This piece is about encouraging you to respect the best defender of the Emirates era. Thank you for 9 years of brilliant work Laurent.