Arsenal defender, Laurent Koscielny has returned to the squad ahead of the match against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. He has been out with an Achilles injury since October, and his return to the team is a major boost to Arsenal’s defensive stability which has been severely shaken in his absence.
The 29 year old is expected to renew his partnership against Per Mertesacker against Jurgen Klopp’s side which has been missing since he last played against Chelsea in the Premier League in October. The French international missed games against Hull City, Anderlecht (Brussels), Sunderland, Burnley, Anderlecht (Emirates), Swansea City, and Manchester United. In those six matches, Arsenal conceded ten goals, and they have looked feeble in defence in Koscielny’s absence.
Although, there was still some element of defensive frailties before he got injured, yet without a shadow of doubt, Arsenal’s defence is much more improved when he is in the team. Unlike Nacho Monreal which deputised for the French defender, the Spaniard, apart from the fact that he is not a central defender, lacks the height to make a difference in aerial duels. Besides, the intelligence and speed of thought to sense danger by cutting it out his not something you would expect from Nacho Monreal.
However, Laurent Koscielny has the pace, and that intelligence about him to cut out any danger. And when he is on top of his game, there is no doubt that he is one of the best defenders in the land.
While it might be disputed, there is no doubt that he would have done much more to cut out some of the dangers that resulted in a goal in the previous matches Arsenal have played. A Koscielny would have probably won the header that Gomis used in scoring the winning goal in the match against Swansea, and his presence against Anderlecht would have prevented a three goal lead from slipping away. The incidence that caused the goal against Manchester United came from a cross from Arsenal’s right, if Wojciech Szczesny was confident in the ability of his defenders to deal with the cross, he would have stayed on his line, as Nacho Monreal was somehow lost, perhaps, the presence of Laurent Koscielny would have increased Szczesny’s confidence that the cross could be dealt with.
As a result of his pace, Laurent Koscielny has that nous of covering the full backs, both the left and right full backs; this is something Per Mertesacker struggles to do, because he is not the fastest of defenders. Little wonder, he was lost when Manchester United went on a counter attack to score their second goal on Saturday.
Despite the fact that Per Mertesacker is revered a lot in the Arsenal set up, his lack of pace has caused Arsenal a lot this season.
Laurent Koscielny’s return should be handled with caution by Arsenal fans, it is not clear whether he is fully fit, and whether there would be reaction from the Achilles, but his return means Arsenal would put out a proper central defensive pairing for the first time in seven games.