Arsenal were last beaten in March 2012 when Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker played a full 90 minutes together in a Premier League match.
That's a total of 20 months since they last lost when playing a match together. So, let's analyse what makes them so special together and how they are managing a defensive record better than most Arsenal teams we have seen.
Here are the main reasons for their fine partnership:
The best centre-backs are the ones who complement their partners well, and Laurent and Per complement each other near perfectly. Mertesacker's ability to act as 'cover' gives Koscielny immense freedom to chase down opposition runners thus stopping innumerable counters.
Similarly, Mertesacker can challenge opposition strikers for long balls in full knowledge that his partner is there to chase down anything and anyone that goes through and make excellent sliding tackles if necessary. Combine that with excellent positioning from both of them which means that possession keepers and through-ballers will have a hard time finding a way to Szczesny.
2) Szczesny's revival:
No centre-backs can act freely without trusting the man behind them in goal and have instructions from him time and again. While his communication has never been in doubt, he has very well improved his concentration and reading of the game.
He still gives us momentary heart-attacks with his risk-taking and arrogant approaches but he has also improved there. His save percentage this season is an impressive 77 percent and at his young age, he is only going to get better.
3) The Bould effect:
His zonal marking system got some time getting used to, and the system sure has its flaws, but it has empowered Mertesacker hugely in the respect that his lack of pace rarely cripples him these days.
Combining that with Bould's experience, specially of playing for Arsenal, and his rapport with Wenger goes a long way towards providing the best possible coaching for defensive duties.
4) Wenger's mentality:
Known famously for his stubbornness towards changing his tactical system and his attacking approach against any team and in front of any scoreline, Wenger has shown real flexibility and sense in substituting defensive players in face of winning scorelines and a balance in the attacking and defensive parts of the team.
Resultant clean-sheets and saved goals have resulted in increased belief and confidence in the defence, something that is essential for a player.
For seasons following the departure of Vieira, we have missed a tough-tackling midfielder who is more concerned with the defence than the attack.
Alex Song, Diaby, etc have all tried to accommodate that position without much success defensively. This season, the genius signing of Flamini has provided reassurance among the back line that there is a sixth person committed to stopping the opposition from scoring.
Though this leads to defensive players forming a bigger part of the team than the offensive ones, it has been necessary to reassure the central defenders in question that the occasional error might go unpunished.
5) Consistency and fitness:
The biggest problems Arsenal's defence has faced in the last 10 years or more are the incessant injuries to the first-choice back-four.
This season we are not only seeing the quintet of Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Sagna and Szczesny fit but also extremely consistent. Also, captain Vermaelen breathing down the necks of Koscielny and Mertesacker has also kept them from slipping up in the first place.
More often than not, you could see Koscielny, Mertesacker and Flamini shouting to each other and to others to keep them concentrated and aware of dangers from the opposition. That is as essential a part of the defensive duties as any other.
Keeping the captain out of the side for about 10 months is no mean feat, but Koscielny and Mertesacker's great form has meant exactly that for Arsenal. Both of them have finally reinforced their positions in the national team too and it is only natural to keep expecting the same from them for the rest of the season.
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