Position : Centre-Back
Nation : France
2011/2012 Appearances : 42
That moment is still vivid in my mind. I still have nightmares of it. 89th minute of the Carling Cup final, and the some hesitation from Koscielny and Szczesny allows Obafemi Martins to score the winner for Birmingham City, to cause more heartbreak for me and millions of Gooners around the world.
Has Koscielny made up for it? The answer is a pretty obvious and resounding ‘Yes’, and how. Transferred from Lorient, last season, for a reported £8.5 million, he received a red card in his very first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, a 1-1 draw at Anfield. The injury to key defender Thomas Vermaelen, meant Koscielny was a regular starter for the Gunners. Blamed for not having the right skill to face the strikers in this competitive league, coupled with his skinny frame, Koscielny had a pretty good first season. The highlight was when he effectively shut out Lionel Messi and David Villa, in an exhilarating Champions League tie at the Emirates. The season ended disappointingly for Koscielny and the club, but this season has been a resurgent one for the defender.
Here’s a look at Koscielny’s season.
A nervy display against Udinese, and an early injury against Liverpool, a mauling at Old Trafford, was followed by a disastrous display at Blackburn. This was about the same time Thomas Vermaelen got injured and faced a stint on the sidelines. On the pitch, Mertesacker and Koscielny were builiding a strong defensive partnership.
Good displays against Sunderland and Stoke were followed by outstanding second halves for both the centre-backs in the 5-3 beating of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He also was the man of the match, in the Champions League game against Marseille, which the Gunners sneaked right at the end. The improvement of Koscielny was clear to see. He looked more decisive in the tackle, and his composure too was a sign of positivity.
However, injuries to right-backs Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson meant a tweak in the positions. Thomas Vermaelen was restored to centre-back while Koscielny played as makeshift right-back in games against Norwich, Dortmund, Fulham and Wigan. Yet, he fulfilled his duty, with aplomb. He seemed comfortable anywhere across the defence.
He became centre-back again, when both left-backs Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos were injured, and Vermaelen was opted as left-back. He put in strong performances in games against Manchester City, both of which Arsenal lost narrowly 1-0.
Koscielny, and Arsenal, in general had a poor January. He opened the scoring against Fulham, but 10 man Arsenal lost to the industrious Cottagers. More injuries to Coquelin, Vermaelen, and a red card to Djourou meant Arsenal were well short in defence, in their game against Swansea, which was lost 3-2, and contained more poor defending. Koscielny and Mertesacker put in a good game against Manchester United, as they kept out Wellbeck and Rooney for large parts.
Koscielny was arguably Arsenal’s best player in Milan, defensively. He managed to keep Ibrahimovic quiet a few times, before, of course, the Swede marauded the Gunners’ defence, after Koscielny left injured at the end of the first half.
Some more defensive frailties were on display against Sp*rs, when the Gunners gave away too much space, allowing counters, and two goals, inside 35 minutes. Koscielny was caught completely out of position for the first, but the defence was unflinching for the rest of the afternoon.
Another tough afternoon awaited at the home of the newly crowned League Cup winners, Liverpool. In a match dominated by the Reds, he scored a rather unfortunate own goal, off a Henderson cross. Koscielny and Co., however, managed to keep out the attack-minded Liverpool for the rest of the game, despite some moments of brilliance from Luis Suarez. Koscielny himself put in a commanding display, winning almost every header.
This momentum was maintained, in the second leg of the Champions League, when Milan were at the end of a trouncing. Koscielny even scored the opening goal in the 7th minute to set the tone, and rarely put a foot wrong, thereafter, defensively, as he pocketed Ibrahimovic.
After Ibrahimovic, the next victim was Demba Ba. The in form Senegalese striker never came into his stride. Despite some nervous moments against Everton, a clean sheet was kept. A late injury kept him out for the visit of Villa, but a week later, he was undone by the physicality of QPR’s attackers, Zamora, Taarabt and Mackie.
A fine defensive display against Manchester City followed, and the Sky Blues weren’t afforded a single shot n target. After missing the games against Wolves and Wigan he put in a man of the match performance against Chelsea. Several last ditch tackles were made, to save Arsenal’s blushes. He rarely put a foot wrong against Stoke City.
Though Arsenal concede 3 against Norwich, it could’ve been a rout, without Koscielny. He ended the season on a high note, with the winning goal against West Brom, in the final game of the season.
Here is a look at the key features of Laurent Koscielny‘s season.
1. Tackling and defensive play
There is no doubt that Koscielny is one of the best defenders in the league, and probably as good as Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany. His tackling has improved a great deal, and rarely can you see a tackle end up in a free-kick. His ability to shift his weight instantly and his nimbleness has enabled him to deal with the pacier strikers of the league such as Sturridge, Suarez, Aguero and Adebayor. His heading has been near clinical.
Despite a slim frame, Koscielny has rarely been intimidated bu the more physical strikers in the league. He came stuck against Ba, Modeste and Ibrahimovic and Remy in the Champions League. However, he did struggle against Zamora, who tormented the Frenchman. There is still room for improvement here.
3. Other Defensive Aspects
Koscielny and Vermaelen play more as sweepers, or liberos if you like. Both like going forward, the latter in particular. This has meant a lot of room for teams to attack on the counter. Koscielny has done a lot of cleaning up this campaign, and luckily for Vermaelen, he has a partner, who can do most of the dirty work. However, this has worked against Arsenal’s favour, goals conceded against Wigan and Norwich stand testament.
SUMMARY AND RATING
Without a shadow of a doubt, the French defender is one of Arsenal’s best players. Out-shined, only by a certain Dutchman, Laurent Koscielny has shown massive improvements, and a willingness to learn and improve in his game. He has come a long way from French second division side Tours FC, to be one of the premier defenders in the English league. He gets a rating of 8.5.