I’m sure I wasn’t alone in expecting Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny to nail down his role in the first team over the course of this season.
He spent the majority of last season re-building the bridges he had burned in February when a mix-up with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saw Arsenal hand over the League Cup to Birmingham City.
Arsenal’s first real shot at a trophy gone in the blink of an eye. Understandably, fans were furious and many began to write off the Frenchman.
But a lot has changed over the last year. Indeed, the 27-year-old French man even managed to establish himself as a firm first choice at Arsenal. He was eventually voted Arsene Wenger’s most effective signing of 2010-11 and soon earned call-ups to the French national team.
Great performances against Newcastle (goal-line clearance and an assist) and Tottenham in the League club stand out that season. But his best ever performance must surely have been against Barcelona in the first leg of the round of sixteen Champions League-match in the 2010-11 season. He marshaled Messi and the other Barca denizens with aplomb, worked hard, appeared to be everywhere all at once and deserved all the plaudits he got.
Last season he solidified his position in the team with good performances against Marseille, Chelsea (5-3) and AC Milan (3-0).
Based on that, I expected him to take it up another notch this season, especially since he had just signed a new long term contract tying him down for another five years. Unfortunately for him, he’s found his place in the side usurped by lanky German Per Mertesacker. From what we’ve seen this season – the decision was a correct one. He was dreadful against Chelsea (where it could be argued he was accountable for Arsenal conceding twice).
And his performance against Reading last Tuesday was arguably the worst I’ve ever seen him play. He needed to lead his young defence, but instead allowed it to get overwhelmed by a workaday Reading attack. Jason Roberts schooled him all night and he was lucky to still be on the pitch at the end of the game. At one stage he seemed to have forgotten how to tackle and favoured simply dragging Reading strikers to the floor by their shirt, or straight-up tossing them aside.
But I have to admit he has character. His goals against Manchester City and, yes, against Reading, testify to that.
But he’s not a leader. He’s not an Adams or a Bould. Play him alongside Mertesacker or Vermaelen and he’ll be fine. Just don’t expect too much more from him.
What’s your take? What does the future hold for Laurent Koscielny?
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