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Vital Arsenal Player of the Season: 2nd Place

Arteta`s action man looks; ceaseless ball retention and team ethic was enough for him to chisel his way into your affections for 3rd place in the Vital Arsenal Player of the Season poll. Whilst Arteta`s tireless work probably appealed to the studious, aesthetic football fan in us, the man in 2nd place tackled, blocked, intercepted and headed his way into your hearts. Laurent Koscielny`s first season at Arsenal showed great potential, but the leap from Ligue 2 to Premier League in 2 years was a steep learning curve for the man with the early era Bart Simpson hairdo.

A couple of (harsh) red cards against Liverpool and Newcastle hastened his acclimatisation into the fire and brimstone of Premier League football. He suffered some reputational damage by having to spend much of his season playing alongside Sebastien Squillaci- a defender who clearly didn`t compliment his style. A run in the side alongside Djourou saw Arsenal put together a run of seven clean sheets in ten games, before Djourou dislocated his shoulder at Old Trafford. February 2011 kind of summed up his season. An absolute master class in defending saw him keep Lionel Messi at bay in a 2-1 home win over Barcelona. His snappy, persistent interceptions helped him perform a better job reducing the Argentine`s influence than probably any defender in Europe has managed for the last three years. But then came the Carling Cup Final.

An 89th minute mix up between him and Szczesny gifted the Carling Cup to Birmingham in heartbreaking circumstances. That week in training, Wenger told the press Szczesny`s cast iron self belief saw him forget the error within 24 hours. Koscielny, the manager said, had taken it a little harder. I began to wonder if we had another Senderos on our hands. A talented centre half that would wilt under the lights. His response has been exemplary. Last summer the talk was all of Vermaelen`s return from injury. As with most injured players, Vermaelen`s reputation grew simply by not being around. Though doubtless the Belgian is a good defender, if you ask Arsenal fans now as to who the centre half partnership should be with Mertesacker now in the frame, the question has tilted more as to who should partner Koscielny.

Koscielny has learned quickly and applied every blow from the school of hard knocks into his game. Distribution is an important facet for an Arsenal centre half and his has improved markedly since his signing. We rarely see the aimless hacks down field under pressure. What makes his defending so eye catching is his determination. Possibly his biggest attribute is his ability to step in front of strikers and intercept passes along the ground. It`s a combination of tenacity and quick thinking. Aerially he has become very dominant. His standing leap is a sight to behold and, again, it`s his determination that wins him so many aerial challenges. Ruthlessly spotting a high ball to his attacker before hurling himself at the ball.

Part of the reason I believe Arsenal fans have begun to take to him so much is that he`s probably the purest defender we`ve had since Sol Campbell. Gallas, Toure and Vermaelen are all good centre halves. But you got the impression they`d rather be further forward given the chance. Koscielny loves to defend. Throwing himself into a block, hurtling himself at an aerial ball, bustling his way ahead of opposing strikers. He likes getting his shorts dirty. What`s impressed me the most I think is the tangible evidence of how much work he`s put in on the training ground. He appears to be faster along the ground now. He was already adept at spotting danger, but I can only guess that he feels comfortable enough as an Arsenal player to take the responsibility to cover a wandering teammate (a regular occurrence at Arsenal).

As I pointed out in the April Player of the Month article, Koscielny seems equipped to deal with all sorts of strikers. He sticks like glue to nippy forwards that like to knock the ball past you or beguile with trickery. He has the determination to deal with physical, bullying strikers. He reads the game well enough to snuff out poachers. 54% of Arsenal`s goal concession last season emanated from set pieces. That`s down to 27% this year. Rice`s more hands on role in coaching there along with Szczesny`s greater command of his area are two big factors. But I think the assertiveness Koscielny has added to his game this season

I think the next step for Koscielny next season is to become a real leader of the defence. He plays by example, but seems a quiet, yet reliable character. It will be interesting to see if he can now grow even more assertive and begin to become an organiser. Not just of his defence, but of his team. Too often last season Arsenal`s centre halves were exposed by their midfield and I think Koscielny can start communicating with them a bit more. If Vermaelen wanders forward, tell either Arteta or Song (presuming the latter listens) to sit in. In fact, don`t tell them, demand they do it. Koscielny is an excellent sweeper defender, often sprinting over to cover Vermaelen. The next progression is for him to order his teammates around so that he doesn`t have to cover. If he improves at the same rate that he has since this time last year, it won`t be too tall an order for one of Arsenal`s best, most reliable and consistent performers of 2011-12. Bon faire Laurent. LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday May 23 2012

Time: 9:16AM

Your Comments

I'm so pleased for him, he was slated by the press and other fans. Indeed in the pre-NLD with Vital Spurs I was asked which Arsenal players would make it into an Arsenal/Spurs mix team, and Kos was my first name on the sheet and they all said I was talking s***. Who's talking s*** now? Lol. Alongside Kompany, Koscielny is, on current form, the best centre back in the league right now. At the risk of sounding like old twitchy ********* ... he's a top top player.
Excellently written and succintly analysed. Hope Bosscielny improves even further with the experience of this season behind him.
Shame his excellence isn't recognised elsewhere. Fantastic, consistant player.
Dberg, it's probably for the best that his excellence isn't recognised elsewhere, otherwise some financially doped bunch of douchebags will try and poach him. If he can show true leadership qualities then he can become a true Arsenal great. Excellent article on the lad, thanks.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Good spot on his standing leap btw, it's easily on par with players like Tim Cahill, more often than not outjumping strikers half a foot taller than him.
Scotch Eggs Rule
He's had a great season and deserved a lot of credit. I think the defence in the earlier part of the season (with Per & Kosc) had some flaws, but its difficult to judge our defensive team since they played together so rarely. Per & Kosc did combine well together, Per with his excellent positioning sense, and Kosc with his speed (in addition to all that LD listed above). I think Vermaelen could do with a kick up the backside, losing his starting place to Mertescker, to partner Kosc as 1st choice for the start of next season. It's always good to have some competition.
Prits - Personally I don't think Vermaelen needs a kick up the backside ala Song or Walcott who just appear not bothered. Vermaelen is all about the hustle (Do the hustle, der, der, der, dah der, der, der der, dah!). If the club can curb his natural attacking instinct he'll become a legend, although a kick up the bum's a bit harsh.
Scotch Eggs Rule
True SER but I seriously think regardless of how good he is or becomes he will largely stay under th radar but he's not that in your face type of player overly aggressive type of player.
Vermaelen going forward is fine so long as someone (ahem, Song) learns to sit back and fill in for him and also the ball gets to our centre backs so easily due to a lack of challenge from midfield. It'll be interesting, I like the organisation and calmness Mertesacker brings us. I think it's the first time since Adams, Keown and Bould were all in their prime that we've had genuine competition at centre half. Good to see.
Little Dutch
Oh my God! I have never been this echoed before. Your article is 200% right. The only problem he has his speaking english in a way to order the likes of Vermaelen, Song and Arteta while on the field. He is also seen as "Class B" player among his mates. Only on 40k/wk while the likes of TV5 and Per are on 70k/wk. Almost everyone on the starting 11 gets paid more than him, so i don't see how he will be that commading knowing his class isn't there yet.
*is and not his
Quick question, What is the difference btw going for your plan B instead of your Plan A player in signings? If plan A is the only way you can guarantee winning, why not pay up rather than going for plan B and all remain the same or you are likely to get a player that might not pan out. Example Yann M'Villa Vs Capoune
The boss. What a player. Totally underrated by opposition fans because of some red cards and high profile mistakes (which were not his fault). And as for Vermaelen, I really htink he needs to pick himself up and get back to being a top defender. He along with JD has regressed - or maybe I was just hyping up Vermaelen pre-injury. As for Kos, will be crucial to tie him down to a longer contract. I believe he his contract runs out in 2014.
Still annoys the hell out of me when I see some idiot pundit or journo or fan of another club mindlessly casually dismiss the Kos. They immediately expose themselves as utterly ignorant about AFC and the player. Just an awesome signing-AW still can pick 'em.
The longer people underrate Kos the longer the rich b***ds will leave him alone. I'm happy with that, Kos knows Gooners love him, that's all that matters!
Very well said LD. This article does justice to the abilities of Koscielny. He can only get better and then maybe he will start to get noticed and come under the radar of the "rich" sides. Wenger needs to tie him to a new contract early enough.
Hope he gets picked in the final 23 for the French Euros team. Look forward to seeing him get a run-out. Pity Sagna won't be there to make it an Arsenal RB and CB for France.
Its not only about Verm's forays forward but his positioning sense was flawed a few times (3rd goal in Norwich game, goal against WBA etc). I don't know why that happens so often with Verm but a kick up the back side is a good prescription for me. Or Bould can come in and iron out those flaws in a more subtle manner. I don't care, but there are some things in his game that need fixing.
Poor old Vermaelen is getting a right old kicking on here lol He is still a very good defender, leader and motivator. His decision making radar does seem to be a bit off recently but don't forget he's also missed 18 of the last 24 months worth of football (or something stupid). It probably looks even worse with someone like Song not bothering to cover or that Koscielny is looking so immaculate. He'll be back to his best next season giving opposition strikers his patented "death stare".
Scotch Eggs Rule
i think vermaelen & song rotated very well in our second game against milan in the cl. i have no problem with vermaelen venturing forward because his killer instinct in front of goal is even better than most strikers in epl and our opponents always got disoriented having an extra man ghosting in from nowhere. how often we see a prolific goal scoring defender, nevermind having one playing for us? in his 2 injury free seasons, he scored 14 goals and provided 4 assist. most of his goals were crucial too. if song decided to play as an attacking midfielder next season, then we should get m'vila to rotate with arteta
I cannot wait to see Koscielny and Mertesacker playing together with steady full back options week in week out. Those two are magnificent defenders. I do thinkl the flack Song is receiving is unwarranted. He is clearly not in our team to defend that much. Arteta is the man who sweeps up when Vermaelen goes forward, and that is why we look so open without him.
Jury still out on Mertesacker for me, definitely. Lampard's first at the bridge for a classic example of this.
Our only center back that isn't in question is Koscielny, but Mertesacker has been far superior to Vermaelen since joining, so it's obvious that they should be the first choice partnership for me.
Goofle11 - Really? Mertseacker has played only a handful of games since joining Arsenal where as (despite recent lapses) Vermaelen has single-handedly dragged us kicking and screaming out of games wee looked to be losing on numerous occasions over the last 3 years as well as putting in some great defensive shifts. Your opinion IS your opinion, but you couldn't be more wrong if you tried as it currently stands.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Vermaelen probably cost us the goal in those games where he had to score a winner in the 90th XD
"Probably"? How about dealing in facts not guess work.....
Scotch Eggs Rule
Veramaelen defo has his faults, but as Tom don't even have Van Persie in the top 2 Arsenal players this season you gotta take his opinions with pinch of salt
Whose Tom mate?
Scotch Eggs Rule
Ah, always the last to catch on, goofle11 I take it.
Scotch Eggs Rule
The guy questioning my facts claimed that Mertesacker only played a "handful" of games haha
Mertesacker played 27 matches in total of a season where we played 50 games that is half the amount and yes a handful of games. You claimed "Vermaelen probably cost us the goal in those games where he had to score a winner in the 90th XD". The words probably does is not indicative of fact and only an idiot would claim so without doing his homework or checking that match. Your attempt to paint opinion as fact is poor, your attempt to deflect that by highlighting that I think Mertesacker only played a handful of games (which he did) is even more weak. C- must try harder.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Goofle11, coming from someone who didn't believe RVP was one of our top 2 players this season (really?) I think we can happily take every comment of yours with a huge pinch of salt. As advised by other posters.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Sorry guys as a defender I cannot agree. 49 goals against this season. If we could defend we wouldnt be losing to lower rated sides so easily. Own goal at Anfield in pure panic. Cost us the Carling cup 2 seasons ago in pure panic. The going behind to Wigan at home 0-0 with 11 minutes on the clock was some of the poorest defending I had seen this season? What happened to keep it tight early on? This guy would be brushing the dirt off the boots of Keown, Adams, Dixon, Winterburn and Campbell. Even those of Kolo.
So you're talking about organisation not individual quality then? Because there is a big difference between the two. Sagna is one of the finest RB's in Europe currently yet is part of a defence that didn't do well, this would indicate it IS organisation that is the issue. Hopefully Bould will be able to tighten things up at the back and get the MF to share the responsibility of covering the holes left by the defenders forays up field.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Scotch needs to calm down and sort his fingers out.
Why? I'm fed up of people presenting opinion as fact, then when called on it just ignoring it.....
Scotch Eggs Rule
I think presenting a joke as an opinion is different.
Will-i-am, probably not as simple as that. If you're forced into panic defending in your own area, suggests the guys in front of you aren't doing their job. Explained in more detail here
Little Dutch
As an example Will, that own goal at Anfield. Gibbs had gone forward and not got back in time, Song was caught ball watching and didn't cover him so the ball travelled to Liverpool's right absolutely 100% uncontested by anyone. So the cross comes in and Koscielny has to deal with it on the front post. What else is he to do? He's been let down by slack play by those further up the pitch. Defending is about more than the defence and that's something this Arsenal team really has to learn. I'll also point out that Koscielny didn't play against Wigan. But in any case, both of their goals were, again, down to completely uncontested passes through our midfield in the first place.
Little Dutch
Goofle11 - It wasn't funny and it certainly didn't come across as a joke. Please don't consider a career in stand up.
Scotch Eggs Rule
Too high brow for you, I reckon.

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