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Koscielny- the right man for the job?


By Basil James.

Arsenal and its fans are pretty euphoric after Laurent Koscielny joined the Gunners roster for £10 million. After a massive exodus of central defenders, the club badly needed a couple of able players to play in that position. Laurent Koscielny is supposed to be a step in that direction.

Koscielny’s arrival has been compared to that of Thomas Vermaelen’s last season. A relatively unknown player with loads of talent from one of the so called lesser leagues. If Koscielny can impress in his first season at the Emirates, the resemblance would be complete. But can Koscielny come up to the Premier League standards? Will he be able to match up to the frantic pace of the most competitive league in Europe? These are questions I feel Gooners should ask more often than they are doing right now.

Koscielny’s talent is undoubted. The very fact that he has risen from relative obscurity of a Ligue 2 team to a £10 million transfer to Arsenal in just about three years indicates the vast amount of talent and quality he possesses. He has already been training with the Arsenal squad for quite some time now and must be familiar with the team and the Arsenal style of play. Undoubtedly, a good prospect. However, I still harbour a few reservations against the player.

Koscielny can’t, by any standards, be described as experienced. In a  squad of bustling youngsters with fine technique, an experienced and mature head would have gone a long way in strengthening the squad. Right now, Laurent stands out like hay in a haystack. Old argument, I know. But nevertheless a valid one. The experience I am talking about is not merely that of age and matches played. Look at Vermaelen. A product of the famed Ajax academy, he travelled the regular path of being loaned out before cementing his place as a regular first team player at Ajax. He won four trophies in the space of two years as a regular player at Ajax and was even the captain for a significant part of the 2008-09 season.

When he came to Arsenal, people like me wondered whether he would be up to the Premier League standards. One area where Vermaelen got lucky was the presence of William Gallas. Gallas may not be the easiest person to get along with, but what he certainly has is a wealth of experience and talent. Partnering Gallas in center of the defence, Vermaelen had a model and a mentor he could look up to. Vermaelen certainly learned a lot of lessons from Gallas and credit to him, he was a quick learner. Thus we had a phenomenal success story in Thomas Vermaelen.

Vermaelen is currently our only tried and tested center back. If Koscielny is to partner him in defence, I wonder whether Koscielny would have the same advantages Vermaelen had. Is Vermaelen experienced enough to guide Koscielny through the rigours of the league while maintaining the same standard of play he exhibited last season? Would Koscielny be suddenly thrust out in to the rough sea of Premier League football? How would his lack of big frame affect his performance in the League? These are questions that would be only be answered once the season has started and progressed for a few months.

Meanwhile, Wenger is in the market for one more center back. I chanced upon a report that Wenger was in talks with the Algerian defender Rafik Halliche. Seriously Arsene, is he the man for you? He had an ordinary World Cup, a decent showing in the Algerian defence, but nothing spectacular to effect a transfer based on the Cup performance alone. If we are to look at the World Cup alone, one would chance upon many defenders who are better than Halliche. Offhand, I can think of John Mensah, the Rock of Gibraltar, who plies his trade with Lyon and Diego Lugano, who plays for Fenerbahce.

Do you think Koscielny can be an impressive player for Arsenal in his first season?

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