Arsenal: Best defensive partnership?
Thomas Vermaelen & Laurent Koscielny could be Arsenal's best centre-back partnership
Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have all had ups and downs, but the best centre-back partnership is still being questioned.
Mertesacker played the most games out of the three centre-backs last season, starting 33 Premier League games and acting as the glue between him and his partner.
After a shaky first season in the Premier League, Mertesacker improved his positioning allowing him to break down opposition attacks and have the ability to close down opponents in the box. The communication between himself and his partner, whether it was Vermaelen or Koscielny, was greatly improved.
This communication that the Giant German showed allowed the two centre-backs to work well as a unit and position themselves better so enemy attacks could not develop as easily.
However, Mertesacker is not very authoritative in the air and gets pushed out of duels too easily when you consider his size and stature. Also the German also has a severe lack of pace, which is unacceptable with the ever-growing intensity of the Premier League.
Koscielny was arguablyArsenal’s best defender in the 2012/13 season. Terrifically timed tackles, acrobatic ariel ability and an excellent eye for goal made Koscielny a centre-back with true quality.
Scoring the vital goal to drive Arsenal into the crucial Champions League position on the final day of the season and defiant defending in the final third of the season showcased his best qualities.
Similar to Vermaelen in previous seasons, Koscielny, after retrieving possession, likes to push up the pitch and put pressure on opponents. Having this drive within a centre-back demonstrates his desire to win and confidence on the ball.
At the start of the season, Vermaelen was expected to continue the outstanding quality that he had shown since he arrived at Arsenal.
However, he did not live up to expectations and made several mistakes which, potentially, were the difference between a win and a loss. Vermaelen has fantastic talent attacking and defending from which he earned a deserved high reputation in the Premier League and among Arsenal fans.
Also Vermaelen is a commanding figure in the air where he won many headers against opponents whether it was to score or to stop an attack. Last season should be a lesson for Vermaelen and be seen as a blip in form. This will allow him to recapture the fantastic qualities which allowed him to be seen as one of the Premier League’s finest defenders.
With three options analysed here, it seems that the best suited partnership would be Koscielny and Vermaelen as they can operate across the whole pitch, get on the scoresheet and constantly steal the ball from opponents to regain possession.
However, this does not mean Mertesacker should leave Arsenal; he could still fight a place and act as a reliable back-up should injury occur or a dip in form is noticeable.
All three centre-backs will have a role to play.
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