Football

Laurent Koscielny: Premier League's best centre-back?

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Has anybody seen Suarez? (©GettyImages)
Has anybody seen Suarez? (©GettyImages).

After his brilliant performance against Liverpool at the weekend and with his consistency this season, could it be that Laurent Koscielny is becoming the best defender in England?

Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Liverpool on Saturday night, keeping the threat of the dreaded 'SAS' to a minimum. And it is much thanks to the work of Koscielny that Arsenal were able to earn the all valuable clean sheet.

Koscielny arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2010 from Lorient after playing just one season in the top division of French football.

He had a difficult start to life in England, with a red card on his Premier League debut against Liverpool. His first season will also always be remembered for the calamitous mix-up with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the Carling Cup final.

Along with that there has been a few own goals, but over the last season or so, Koscielny has recovered well and has grown as a player, turning into an important man for Arsene Wenger.

Towards the end of the 2011/12 season, Koscielny was Arsenal's best centre-back and he scored the crucial goal which secured a top-four finish, ahead of Tottenham, on the last day of the season against West Bromwich Albion.

The following campaign, injury prevented him starting the season for Arsenal but when he did come back into the side, away at Manchester City, he and Per Mertersacker put on a formidable display in a one-one draw, with the Frenchman scoring the equaliser late on.

And by the end of the season it was that partnership which again guided Arsenal into the top-four. With five clean sheets in the last ten league games-also a clean sheet against Bayern Munich at the Allianz- again a Koscielny goal on the last day of the season, this time against Newcastle keeping the Gunners ahead of Spurs.

And this season Koscielny has been fantastic again, continuing his good form. The way in which he dealt with Luis Suarez at the weekend, one of the in-form strikers in world football and one of the most difficult players to mark was exceptional.

Suarez would drop deep into the number ten role, to collect the ball then turn and run at defences, looking to torment them as he is so used to. But every time he dropped in, Koscielny was there. Many times stepping in ahead of the Uruguayan to intercept the ball.

If not, then he would hassle him until he played it off or lost possession. It was an expert way in which to defend against a player of his quality. And Koscielny has all of the attributes to do that.

The 28-year-old is a well-committed defender whose positioning and anticipation is very good. But it is his athletic ability which is so useful. He is very quick and times his tackles so well, making him very difficult to beat one-on-one, as Suarez is so accustomed to being able to do.

His fine form has seen him pin down a starting position for the French national team while his partnership with German Per Mertersacker continues to grow at the Emirates, under the stewardship of Steve Bould. The pair have found a good balance and look comfortable with one another, keeping club-captain Thomas Vermaelen out of the side.

With the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry ageing and in the decline stages of their careers, it is hard to look beyond Koscielny as the best centre-back in the Premier League currently.

When fit, Vincent Kompany is the strongest all-round defender in terms of leadership and ability and his fellow Belgian, Jan Vertongen has also been strong and consistent.

Phil Jagielka, Ashley Williams and Gary Cahill are all performing at a high level also. But in terms of individually dealing with the most troubling players in the Premier League, Koscielny has certainly displayed that he is the man for the job.


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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Arsenal
Laurent Koscielny
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