It is fair to say that Arsenal have not had the most straightforward of summers so far. Defeat by Chelsea in the Europa League final and a failure to finish in the top four in the Premier League last term did not only deny the Gunners Champions League football in 2019/20, but it also further restricted their transfer budget ahead of next season. The fact that Aaron Ramsey’s contract had expired by the time of his official move to Juventus means that the north Londoners were unable to recoup any funds to lessen the blow of losing their star midfielder, while the chances of getting Mesut Ozil’s sizeable wages off the payroll are slim to nil.
He couldn’t keep the smile from his face. Back involved as a first team player after a length spell on the sidelines, Laurent Koscielny was beaming after Arsenal’s win over Qarabag during the week. Here was a man simply pleased to be back playing football again.
Koscielny’s achilles injury came at the worst possible time for him last season. Suffered in May, it ended the defender’s hopes of playing for France at the World. Les Blues went on to win the tournament, with Koscielny watching at home. It was something that made him question a lot.
“The World Cup will remain a dark spot of my career,” he said in a recent interview. “The injury was hard to accept. The result was even harder because they won the World Cup. I have a selfish side. I tell myself that I could have been part of the adventure and won the Cup. And I would have it in a corner of my head for the rest my life. It’s difficult and no one can put themselves in my shoes.”
Now, at 33 years old it’s important that Koscielny moves into a new phase of his career, putting the troubles of 2018 behind him. He remains one of the best centre backs in the Premier League and can play an important role in the renaissance of Arsenal that was kick-started in his absence through injury. He is the club captain, but his role can be more than just a ceremonial one.
Arsenal are struggling for defensive bodies at the moment. Rob Holding is expected to be out for the rest of the season through injury, Konstantinos Mavropanos also struggling with a groin injury, Skodran Mustafi toiling with a troublesome hamstring and Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended for the weekend’s game against Southampton.
Koscielny’s return to action from injury comes at just the right time for the Gunners. The next few weeks will be a defining stage of their season, with the fixtures coming thick and fast over the winter. Next week, Arsenal face Spurs in the quarter finals of the League Cup. Then they have Liverpool away from home on December 29.
Arsenal’s squad depth will be tested, particularly at the back where Unai Emery is still looking to impose his methods and ideas on a stubborn backline. Koscielny will be required to get up to speed quickly. His team will need him over Christmas.
With this expectation comes pressure, but this is the sort of pressure that Koscielny has missed so much since suffering his injury in May. This is the sort of thing he wanted. Fans mustn’t be too demanding off the 33-year-old right from the start, but it’s time for Koscielny to put the past year behind him and become a part of Emery’s Arsenal resurgence. It’s for him to enjoy his football again.
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On 53 minutes against Qarabag in the Europa League, teenager Emile Smith Rowe scored his first competitive goal for Arsenal. With Alex Iwobi drawing four defending Qarabag players out before releasing the ball, the 18-year-old slotted home Arsenal’s second of the night following a well-timed overlapping run. The goal proved Arsenal’s second string is also capable of quick transitions and counter-attacking goals. Continue reading
Arsenal looked to overturn their poor recent run when Crystal Palace arrived in north London. Continue reading
Arsenal’s record-breaking 13th FA Cup trophy may have delighted the club’s fans, but it could scarcely offset the disappointment of their performance in the Premier League this season. Continue reading
We all know the Premier League stars that have stood out this year – the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Mesut Ozil and Dimitri Payet have excelled hugely this season.
But what about those players who go under the radar a bit: it’s about time they got the credit they deserve.
He may have been part of a beleaguered Aston Villa side, but statistically Idrissa Gueye has outperformed his colleagues and could easily demand a place in a top ten Premier League side.
With an average of 3.9 successful tackles and four interceptions per game, Gueye has comfortably outperformed the likes of Nemanja Matic, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Yaya Toure.
The Stoke City left back might not be the first name that springs to mind when discussing defensive excellence, but perhaps he should be. Pound for pound, Pieters has been the most exceptional full back in the Premier League this term.
With 3.6 tackles, 2.8 interceptions, 2.4 clearances and 0.6 successful blocks on average per game, it’s fair to say that Pieters has significantly contributed to Stoke’s cause and far outweighed his £3 million transfer fee.
The archetypal defensive midfielder has a number of roles to fulfil, but the main one of course is to protect the back four.
It’s fair to say that Yacob has gone above and beyond in this are for West Brom so far this season. With 3.5 interceptions, 3.2 tackles and 2.1 clearances per game on average, the Argentine is adding a huge amount of value to the Baggies’ cause.
While you might not consider Laurent Koscielny underrated as such, it is the creative talents at Arsenal that tend to take the plaudits.
But in truth, this centre half should get a good pat on the back for his efforts too: with 1.6 tackles, 3.8 interceptions, 5.9 clearances and 0.9 blocks per game on average, he is providing the platform on which the likes of Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez can build.
Koscielny is into his sixth season as an Arsenal player now, and having signed for £8 million he represents fantastic value for money.
Another player who enjoyed a flying start to the campaign was Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu, who was involved in much of the good stuff that the Toffees produced.
Having contributed eight assists, 1.4 key passes and two successful dribbles per game this term, it’s no wonder that Barcelona are keeping close tabs on the 23-year-old.
Nobody has scored more Premier League goals in the six yard box this season than this youngster; Manchester City might have a real ‘fox in the box’ on their hands.
Iheanacho plays second fiddle to Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony of course, but the 20-year-old is ranked ninth this term for ‘goals per 90 minutes’. He is surely one to watch in the coming months.