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The Arsenal debate: Was Laurent Kosicelny right?

Arsenal star Laurent Koscielny made some controversial comments earlier this week, included a 'threat' to quit the club if they did not compete for titles.

The transfer season usually has several components. Managers, players, agents – particularly agents – fans and the press all have views about close season activity and the effect on the ambitions of players as well as teams for the forthcoming season.

Arsenal is no exception and this has been particularly so in the last few seasons. Laurent Koscielny – affectionately called Kos – by all those fondly associated with Arsenal, gave an interview, airing some of his own views.

Speaking to French Euro Sport on 4 June 2013 TV and in French, he said He said, "I feel good at Arsenal, if we have ambition to fight against the other teams of course I want to stay here.

"It’s hard, psychologically. We are constantly pressured because if Arsenal is not in the Champions League, it would be a catastrophe. “t is hard not to win titles year after year.

"We are competitors, professionals, we want to win. “I want to add to my list of achievements. If Arsenal cannot allow me that, I’ll seek a move elsewhere."

First, the all-important caveat. There seems to be some dispute as to what he did, in fact, say and, doubtless, there will be the traditional follow up testing the veracity of those comments.

This usually takes the form of someone on the player’s side suggesting that comments have been taken out of context or that the true meaning has been lost in translation.

No matter. The short “facts” appear to suggest that he indicated that failure – either in the short or immediate term – to arrest the absence of silverware that will not permit him to add to his accomplishments as a player will see him seek pastures where this will happen in his career.

Second, it is important to consider the sporting entitlement of the player to these quite audacious comments. In other words, the first port of call is to establish whether, in a seemingly “non-performing side”, he has “earned the right” to those views.

Kos joined Arsenal on 7 July 2010 on a 4-year contract, adding height and steel to an Arsenal defence that was vital at the time. After a fairly difficult start including a home debut dismissal against Liverpool, he recovered to make 43 appearances that term, scoring 3 goals.

The quite significant leap in his performance earned him a French National team call up in February 2011. Despite the assurances of his performances that made him both crowd and manager’s favourite at the time, he is probably best remembered for his unfortunate role in the Birmingham goal scored by Obafemi Martins that cost Arsenal its closest prospect of a trophy since 2005.

In the following season, he made 42 appearances, again scoring 3 goals. This season, he played 34 times. Injury and poor form cost him his place in the team for long periods until this misfortune moved to team captain Vermaelen, at the expense of whom he regained his place.

Finishing the season strongly, like the rest of the team, he scored the vital goal against Newcastle that secured fourth place and Champions League football for Arsenal next season. These antecedents answer the question of his entitlement to speak up very much in the affirmative.

But the analysis does not end there. To club management and fans, player criticism by themselves are almost an anathema. Players are at the end of the production line of effort, commitment, passion and execution of football dreams.

They are the main beneficiaries of a process that causes pleasure, angst and anxiety for so many others because, usually, they love the game and are paid to play it. Often, therefore, especially in a team sport, it seems that where success is not achieved, individuals are not at liberty to criticize the lack of “end product” as they are just as culpable in not achieving those results.

In this case, the deep-seated criticism has always been about not assembling individuals with the same levels of skill, commitment and professionalism to compete at the highest level.

When an individual sportsman speaks in this way, he believes that although he “puts in a decent shift”, others around, in the same team, either lack the ability to or will not.

This speaks volumes about collective ambition, all through the spine of the club. What Kos is saying is that team building is key and that those responsible are obliged to use the team’s resources to do so – Period!

The flip side of the coin is that he is responsible – as a defender, even more than others – for that failure and is best advised to keep his thoughts and counsel personal.

The comments are, in general, justifiable and express the thoughts of so many associated with Arsenal. What is not is acceptable is the threat to leave.

He is on a long-term contract and it was, regretfully, an irresponsible conclusion to a widely held, publicly supported view. Players and their handlers must be alive to this situation and work hard to prevent careers that have been built on sweat being trivialized.

What do you think of Koscielny's comments? Let us know...

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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