Is Laurent Koscielny now Arsenal's best defender?

Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny was regarded as something of a liability on his first couple of season at the Emirates.

There was the League Cup final incident against Birmingham in which Koscielny managed to scupper the Gunners best hope of a trophy in the last 8 years.

Then there’s his sensational own-goal scoring record along with his penalty-conceding record. He made a great start, for those who will remember him being sent off on his full debut for Arsenal against Liverpool in added time.

However, this term, credit where it’s due – he’s been Arsenal’s most efficient and reliable centre-back. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s been Arsenal best defender overall.

Admittedly, that has been due to the poor form of captain Thomas Vermaelen but Per Mertesacker has had a decent second term with the North Londoners and between Koscielny and the big friendly German giant, Arsenal have found in the latter stages the defensive stability and consistency they’ve lacked for many years.

The Gunners are now on an unbeaten run in the Premier League of 7 games and have conceded just 3 goals in their last 5 games. Thomas Vermaelen has effectively been demoted to the bench such has been the form of Koscielny recently.

Arsenal have kept 12 clean sheets in the league so far this term and that has been largely due to the improvement and development of Koscielny.

Where he was naïve, he is now astute in his anticipation and handling of dangerous situations. Where he was clumsy and reckless with his challenges, he is now composed and intelligent – he’ll try to nick the ball first, and only slides in when it’s absolutely necessary.

His positioning and awareness of his responsibility has greatly improved – he rarely gets caught out these days and, between him and Mertesacker, they keep their high line very well ordered and organized.

In the box, Arsenal have looked far more durable and dominant aerially – their concession of soft-goals from free kicks and corners to oftentimes much lesser opposition has been less prevalent of late and the Gunners haven’t looked as shaky under pressure form long-balls over the top.

Mertesacker has been better this term and credit must also go to him but Koscielny has been Arsenal’s best defender by a long mile this term. Bacary Sagna’s been poor by his own high standards, Carl Jenkinson is still learning his craft, Nacho Monreal’s just arrived, and Kieran Gibbs has been on and off the sidelines.

In the absence of their formerly dominant leader in at the back, Thomas Vermaelen, Koscielny has really stepped up to the plate and has certainly learned his lessons from seasons passed.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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