Arsenal Popularity Stakes – Koscielny Comes In Fourth
So Laurent Koscielny is Arsenal’s fourth-best player this season – or so the fans say. The Frenchman came in one place ahead of Mikel Arteta. Echoing the thoughts of one commenter yesterday, if those two are our fourth and fifth best players then we must have one helluva team.
Without doubt, Koscielny’s been one of the Premier League’s best defenders this season. While the Frenchman’s ability to intercept and his tackling skills are well acknowleged, the 26-year old also won a league high 1.5 offsides per game (stat courtesy WhoScored.com), which indicates better concentration and decision making. He was also more competitive in duels and read danger much faster.
On Arsenal.com, Laurent spoke about some of the reasons for his improvement this season.
I was in the gym more, that is the first reason [I have been stronger].
I feel better than last year. I know the league, my team and the Club. I think I am better on and off the pitch so for a player, when you feel good with your team-mates, the Club and his family, it is better. I feel very good to help my team and to qualify for the Champions League. I just wanted that for the end of this season.
Following the Carling Cup defeat last year, the former Lorient man was criticized in many quarters and questions were asked if he was good enough for Arsenal. His excellent showing this season is proof that sometimes players just need time to adjust, especially if they are moving from another league. Hopefully, Per Mertesacker can muster a similar advancement next season.
There is still room for improvement for Koscielny though. In my season review of the defense, I highlighted the defender’s weakness in making clearances with his left foot. He conceded a couple of own goals as a result and a bit of work will help the Frenchman become even more formidable. And while different players have different personalities, I also feel he can be a little more vocal on the pitch considering he’s our best defender at present.
In my opinion, Laurent was Arsenal’s second best player this season. Besides my obvious disappointment that he’s come in fourth, I am even more surprised that only 4.3% voted for him. Koscielny narrowly missed out on being named in the PFA team of the year but still features in WhoScored.com’s best eleven of 2011-12 while he’s also been named in France’s Euro squad. His fourth place finish is a clear indication of how defenders get overlooked by fans in the popularity stakes. While the management and coaching staff are derided for not placing enough emphasis on defending, we are equally guilty of overlooking stand-out performers in that area when nominating the season’s best.
I expect two of Alex Song, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky to come in ahead of Robin van Persie. While I think very highly of the Cameroonian and he’s contributed immensely going forward, I am not convinced he had a better all-round season than Arteta and Koscielny. Bacary Sagna was Mr. Consistent once again but the two broken legs did not allow him to have as much influence on our season as his compatriot. And while Little Mozart has been in great form post-February, he was poor in the first half of the season and hence second choice to Aaron Ramsey for most of the campaign. At this rate though, I would not be surprised if the rookie Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was deemed to be Arsenal’s best player above Robin Van Persie. Stranger things have happened this season.
I guess individual performances in defense will always be overlooked when the team does not perform well as a unit. Hopefully we can sort that out next season and tighten the ship which would aid our back line in getting their due credit.
Elsewhere, transfer rumours dominate, with Nigel de Jong of Manchester City being the latest player linked to us along with another 18-year old wonderkid. Amidst all the speculation, there is a story about Eduardo da Silva not ruling out a move back to the Premier League. While it doesn’t specifically link him to Arsenal and the Croat certainly won’t be a first or even second choice starter at the Emirates, could he, in the twilight of his career, provide the depth in squad we seem to lack? His love for Arsenal is unquestioned and he certainly has unfinished business at the Grove.
I guess the prospect of not playing regularly would weigh heavily on Eduardo’s decision. Still, this is one transfer speculation I am happy to indulge in regardless of the unlikeliness of the outcome.