New Season’s Key Players: Laurent Koscielny
Yeah, Savage is still
dead on holiday, so you’re only going to get me for the next few days in all honesty. But, on a Tuesday which signals the first day of August 2012, I aim to write an article (nearly) every day until the opening Premier League game of the season against Sunderland on August 18.
Today’s key player is Laurent Koscielny. It could be argued that ever since that forgettable evening at Wembley against Birmingham for the Carling Cup, Koscielny has taken huge strides towards becoming a world-class defender.
At the very beginning when Wenger signed this relatively unknown player from FC Lorient, it seemed Koscielny was doomed. As is the case with most signings of this stature, the fans started asking questions. Who is this Laurent fella? Why is Wenger signing such an unknown? Is Wenger signing another player just because he’s French?
And, at first, Koscielny was proving the doubters right. Inexperience at the top-level let him down heavily. He gave away a number of penalties in his first season. Inconsistency was also a problem, amongst some great moments for him like this tackle on Lennon, and this performance against Barcelona, he was prone to the odd mistake. And, at the very pinnacle of big mistakes, there was the Carling Cup final mistake.
Since then, Koscielny has rarely looked back. His performances have improved dramatically. He’s easily become our most consistent defender – a rock in the heart of our defence.
Stats show that Koscielny is arguably the second best defender in the league, second only to Vincent Kompany, captain of the Premier League champions Manchester City. Koscielny won 65% of all ground duels and 61% of all aerial duels. Testament to both his prowess in the air and on the ground, these stats are only second to Kompany’s. Koscielny also made 85 tackles, 20 more than Kompany and 17 more than closest rival Fabricio Coloccini. Furthermore, Koscielny made 104 interceptions and 9 last man tackles during the course of last season.
It sounds to good to be true, doesn’t it? I assure you, it is true. He made more tackles and interceptions than any other defender in the Premier League.
If all these defensive stats aren’t enough, Koscielny had an 85% passing accuracy last season, pretty decent reading for a defender. Moreover, Koscielny provided one goal assist and scored 3 goals. Equal to the amount of goals scored and assists provided last season by Vincent Kompany.
What makes him such a good defender? He’s quick-witted. And as a quick-witted individual, he carefully analyses and understands where the danger may be coming from and in so doing, positions himself correctly. At 6’1″, Koscielny may not be the tallest defender on the planet, but he’s shown very good aerial presence in the past few years, as shown by his winning of 61% of all aerial duels.
If he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past season, what will he be like next season? Well, obviously we won’t know until the season starts, but if he continues in the way he has been performing in the last year, he has potential to be the best defender and not the second best defender in the Premier League.
Of course, at 26, Koscielny is nearing his peak at the moment and could very well establish himself as one of the best defenders in the world. But if he does that, he will do it in an Arsenal shirt. And it makes me proud to say that, as you may already know, Koscielny has signed a new deal at Arsenal, thought to be 5 years.
As our first choice centre-back and as one of the best defenders in Europe at the moment, he will be a key player for us next season. But only time will tell. It is important that, as of next season, we continue to do better next season defensively. The 49 goals we conceded last season is a poor amount to concede for a club of our level and if we want to have a title challenge next season, we will have to improve on that dramatically.
Obviously, Koscielny is just an individual and as a defensive unit we will have to improve but I’m sure that with either a bit more organisation between the defenders or a bit of protection from a holding midfield player, we’ll be able to improve on our defensive stats as a unit.
Thanks again for reading. Hope you enjoyed my writing. Once again, you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim.