One of the biggest positives of this season has been the continued development of Laurent Koscielny. Arsène Wenger and Arsenal confirmed the signing on 7 July 2010 and Koscielny was handed the club’s number 6 shirt. Since then, the efficiency of his game has, in combination with his bravery and technical talent, grown steadily.
Often playing against taller or similar sized centre forwards, he has great dynamic power to win the ball aerially. I am reminded of him jumping against, and beating, players such as Christopher Samba and Kenwyne Jones in matches. Samba is a dominant, huge man who could be a rugby flanker in terms of size. That the player Arsenal signed from Lorient, who looked around 70 kilograms (a light weight for someone supposedly 6 foot 1 inches tall) now weighs between 75 and 76 kilograms, has allowed him to match players naturally bigger than him. He looks noticeable thicker in his shoulder girdle area, having undergone an intensive weight training program since his arrival. A popular exercise among sportsmen is Power Cleans, and Koscielny certainly looks stronger in the muscle groups that movement strengthens.
In his natural position of central defence, Koscielny gave one of the most complete individual performances against Lionel Messi at the Emirates Stadium last season. A modern and quick footed ball playing defender, Koscielny had the focus to match the Argentine and the speed to run against him. However, this year injuries to Carl Jenkinson and Bakary Sagna have seen Koscielny play at right back – at, not surprisingly, a high standard. His recovery speed and tackling skill not only lend themselves to playing in central defence or defensive midfield but also at full back. He may not have the mobility of Sagna or the crossing skill of Jenkinson, but he matches the popular trend of deploying an imposing fullback on one flank. Barcelona’s use of Eric Abidal, Ramos at Real Madrid, Ivanovic at Chelsea, Smalling and Jones at Manchester United are examples. A third central defender in the back four arguable provides naturally greater defensive acumen and adds an additional presence to make use of at set piece plays.
George Graham and José Mourinho would probably look to take advantage of his technical skill combined with his defensive nature. As Graham once said ‘A lot of Arsenal’s defenders, they could be midfielders. They do not have the old fashioned build of a centre back.’ Graham achieved excellent results using a young Martin Keown in central midfield. Keown marked Matt Le Tissier out of games when the Southampton playmaker was at the peak of his powers. Mourinho found a winning formula using Pepe in much the same fashion last season. I would love to see Arsenal play under a more counter-attacking version of their current formula away from home, with Alex Song alongside Koscielny in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Wilshere or Ramsey have the pace and passing ability to get on the end of fast pace counters started by a tackle in midfield by Koscielny. He and Song in front of Vermaelen and Mertesacker also create a superb look of spinal power. What the team might lose in craft and style, it would gain in athleticism, bravery and muscle.
In Koscielny, Arsenal have a motivated and aggressive defender that can play the tactical, European chess match games as comfortably as he can compete on the windy, northern football pitches away from home in the Premier League. Being multi-positional and having such a duality to his game, I anticipate he is readily adaptable to whatever style is employed by his manager for club or country. What does this mean for Arsenal and Koscielny? Clean sheets, good possession, caps and many appearances.
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