For many fans of English football, the Carling Cup final in 2011 between Arsenal and Birmingham City will be enough proof that Laurent Koscielny isn't a world-class defender.
The catastrophic mix up between the French defender and Wojciech Szczesny which allowed Obafemi Martins to score the winner that night would have left a mental scar on Koscielny. However, not to be distracted from his desire to be a top level player, Arsenals number six put the nightmare moment behind him to become the clubs number one centre-back.
It's hard to believe that as recently as 2009, Koscielny was playing for French side Tours, in France's second division. Already in his mid 20's the French international of Polish descent had not made any huge impression in the French game and nobody could have predicted his meteoric rise to top level football.
After spending a year at Lorient, eyebrows were raised at the Emirates stadium in the summer of 2010, when it was announced that Arsene Wenger had signed the unknown defender.
After a relatively mixed start to his Arsenal career, Koscielny was sent off in his first league appearance versus Liverpool, the 27-year-old grew in confidence as he adjusted to the rigours of the English game and installed himself as an integral part of the Gunners back four. His importance for Arsenal was further underlined last season when he kept club captain and fan favourite Thomas Vermaelen out of the starting line up, with Wenger preferring to partner Per Mertesacker with Koscielny ahead of the Belgian defender.
Arsenal's 2-1 win over Barcelona at the Emirates in 2011 is undoubtedly one of the Frenchman's greatest nights in an Arsenal shirt. Playing against a Catalan team boasting the talents of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Andres Iniesta, Koscielny rose to the occasion and was magnificent throughout, keeping the World's best player at bay with his ability to read the game and perfect timed tackles.
Timing of the tackle and the ability to predict opposition passes aren't Koscielny's only attributes. The Frenchman is equally comfortable with the ball at his feet, has a great leap but his speed is one of his most important assets. Per Mertesacker may have 90 international caps but the towering German isn't blessed with a great amount of pace. Koscielny's speed on the cover has been one of the key ingredients for the pairs blossoming partnership at the heart of Arsenals defence.
The defender, who has been capped 10 times by France, also rises to the occasion on the offensive front when his team need a goal. Six goals in 88 appearances for the Gunners may not sound impressive, however, the importance of Koscielny's goals cannot be ignored.
For the past two seasons, he has scored the winner on the last day of the season to ensure victory for Arsenal in their battle for Champions league qualification. The volley he scored on the last day of last season at Newcastle allowed the Gunners to qualify for the biggest European club competition for the 17th consecutive time and ensured that Tottenham Hotspur would spend another year in the Europa League.
Koscielny's performances last season have led to growing interest from major European teams including the likes of Barcelona and Champions League winners Bayern Munich, confirming the defenders status as one of the best in the world in his position. With Vincent Kompany having a relatively quiet season at Manchester City last season and Nemanja Vidic blighted by injuries, it can be argued that on current form Koscielny is the best centre-back in the Premier league. John Terry spent the majority of last season in the medical room at Chelsea, whereas Daniel Agger hasn't been able to showcase his talents at the highest level as Liverpool finished last season in seventh.
Whether he is the best or not is debatable, however, following a string of world class performances the Frenchman is now one of the first names on Wenger's team-sheet and one thing is for sure, the majority of Arsenal fans would not swap Koscielny for any other defender in the Premier League.
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