Koscielny Departure Raises Plenty Of Questions For Unai To Answer

It’s hardly out of the blue but there is a momentum building behind the tattle in the back pages that Baku will be Laurent Koscielny’s last game for the club. It’s only 12 months later than originally planned; the injury suffered in Madrid put paid to plans to return to France last year.

Milan find themselves cast as suitors. Of course they are, but I’d prefer them to take their original choice of Shkodran Mustafi. Koscielny’s departure may save the hapless German’s Arsenal career; that’s one hell of a leaving present.

More likely is a return to Ligue Un. Mid-table Rennes and relegation-haunted Monaco are the current choices; will either appeal? At 33, does he have that many options? He’s 34 as the new season endures its first international break so finishing in the top flight is a luxury.

The situation, if true, is the first test of Raul’s new ethos. Koscielny is at the end of his career and Arsenal must look to the future. Will we let him go so easily? Is there a role for him in the first team at the Emirates? He saw first-hand how time caught up with Per Mertesacker. The physicality and pace of the Premier League is unforgiving for an ‘old man’ and that may strongly influence the former France international’s thinking.

Reports link us with Samuel Umtiti (€60m) and William Saliba (€30m); guess which one we’ve got the funds for. Unless, of course, Raul can negotiate a deal with his former colleagues. Transfer talk never ceases to amaze me as those who castigate the club for only having £40m to spend this summer then fill column inches with tales of players who smash that budget to pieces.

Kos Making The Right Choice Is Hard

But the question for Unai Emery to answer is whether selling Koscielny is the right decision? There is a place for statistics in measuring player performance; it’s a lot more tangible than the gut feeling of a scout or manager.

However, there is an intangible to take into account: the player’s influence in the dressing room. Koscielny divides opinion as captain. He is a quiet man on the pitch which is no barrier to the job as Bobby Moore proved. Sorry, Laurent, but before we move on, I don’t think anyone can make a case for you being in Moore’s class as a player.

Therein is a perceived problem at Arsenal: we’re all too quiet. Years ago, we were too nice and I suspect the two terms are interchangeable to many people. It strikes me there is a lack of leaders in the dressing room which is nothing new. The previous regime found this a common complaint but a lot depends on how you view leadership.

In a football sense, that may well be driven by age; your age, to be accurate. I’m of a generation where the shoutiest, in your face, kid was deemed to be captain material. Regular shouts from the touchline revolved around “Get into ’em!” and “Clear it!” which in truth meant kick it as hard as you could, as far away as you could. Anything which landed at the centre-forward’s feet definitely wasn’t lauded as a great pass.

And I was raised on a generation of captains who followed that lead, albeit with a little more guile. McLintock, Adams, Vieria; hard men but inspirational captains. A lot has to do with the quality of players around them and in that sense, Koscielny is hampered.

You’ve Got To Be In It To Win It

We’re not a title-winning or even title-chasing side. Not yet, although we could be. The squad has some very good players but those individuals are weighed down by the inept, the average or the needing a good kick up the Arsenal.

Koscielny is a quiet man and those three groups need vocal guidance, maybe even a hint of physical violence if they don’t pull their weight. That isn’t happening but Koscielny, in his personality, is the ideal captain for Arsène Wenger. Neither wants confrontation, preferring persuasion to confrontation.

Compare Koscielny to Vincent Kompany. The City captain balanced the old ways with the new perfectly. Vocal when needed but also a calming influence, leading by example. Kompany’s way is probably what Arsenal need right now.

Part of the answer Emery must find if Koscielny leaves is who takes the armband. Is it that important when you have an animated coach on the touchline constantly barking instructions? I think it is; a captain can galvanise in ways a coach cannot, use different techniques. A coach’s criticism can destroy a player’s confidence; a team-mate wearing an armband can be told to “F-off” in response. Saying that to a coach is a spell on the bench and stories in the back pages; it’s a different relationship.

Ultimately, however, the decision is whether we can replace Koscielny if he goes. Does our budget stretch to buying a good defender? A better than good defender?

I presume that won’t happen unless we have someone lined up. We’re just one injury from Mustafi in the starting line-up; that ought to scare the coaching staff as much as it does me.

When Age Is More Than A Number

Sokratis, 31 in a fortnight’s time, and Monreal, 33, are the experience. I guess the Spaniard is probably in his last season at the club given his age but that’s enough to help others. How injury affects Rob Holding is critical. He was developing into a strong centre-back before misfortune struck at Old Trafford. Can he return to that form which made him a first-choice at the club? I hope so.

Dino Mavropanos, meanwhile, could do with a season on loan. He looked rusty following his spell on the sidelines and regular first-team action will aid his development. The promising start when he joined needs to be resurrected and built upon.

Now, what was it I said the other day? Ah yes. “The transfer window can do one until after the 29th”; that worked out well, didn’t it.

’til Tomorrow.

13 thoughts on “Koscielny Departure Raises Plenty Of Questions For Unai To Answer

  1. For someone who is 95, it seems quite ludicrous to write about professional footballers being too old in their early 30s.
    It seems to me, though, that over the last few Transfer Windows, Arsenal have recruited too many “elderly” new boys. These, coupled with existing players coming to the end of their playing days…..particularly in midfield and defence, may have contributed to our poor GA statistics.
    While I appreciate that Arsenal’s continuing policy of self-sustainability is to be admired, in professional football there is in my view a fine line between youth and experience. Are we recruiting an imbalance? 😎

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  2. Awesome to have you back yogi. Another top post.

    I am not sure what to think about Kos. Obviously he is not the long term answer and given his injury his he might not even be a very good option as a first 11 regular in the short term. I would be happy to have him in the squad but it would be better if he was the 3rd CB rather then one of our regular starters. Unfortunately right we don’t have anyone who is better the Kos. We all hope that Rob holding will return to top form but counting on him is highly risky. He had a great 1/4 season in his first year and then went AWOL the next year. The form he showed for about 1/4 of last year could well have been a player who had a short run of unsustainable good form that he never repeats. There is also the big question of how his knee responds to ACL reconstruction which not a slam dunk certainty. We have the exact same concerns with Hector Bellerin.

    Outside of PEA and Lacazette there are a lot more questions then answers and our front office brain trust has a lot more work then many of us like to believe if they are going rebuild this squad to a title chasing level

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  3. YW
    I quite agree with everything you say here concerning Koscielny (and his defence colleagues.) I also think another season at Emirates should be suggested. It would certainly help the team in its transition, which has been going on for quite some time, it seems. Depends also, of course, on the player’s ambitions.
    Surely, it’s time for Bielik to come back from loan and be thrown into the mix? From all accounts, his current loan term has been quite impressive and he seems to have all the qualities we need and talk about.

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  4. C,

    I’m not sure he was up against much there.

    Chambers is one of our long list of either too old , too inexperienced or not good enough defenders.
    Even if we some how manage to get 3 or 4 off the books & replace to throw so new boys together into a new season can’t help with cohesion.

    Then again , Mustafi has been there ages & plays like he’s only just met his teammates !

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  5. Players like Chambers, Iwobe, Ox, Walcott etc etc etc are examples of why its so difficult to build teams when you are counting on the “potential” of younger players. Just like dozens and dozens of other players like them they were hyped as the next great thing. They seem to hang around somewhere below the cusp of greatness for several years and their ceiling ends up being below what we expected. Unfortunately, we have to hold to on to them for several years and give them high leverage minutes in the hope that may be this will be the year they finally make the big breakthrough and we have to avoid buying experienced players because we don’t want to impede their development. .

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  6. Pauline

    At least we are letting chambers and Bielik go thru their developmental and inconsistency of youth stages on loan rather then counting on them for high leverage minutes with our first 11. I don’t know as much about Bielik but we have seen chambers for several years and 2 different managers didn’t rate him as highly as we do so the likelyhood is his ceiling is somewhere in the championship or at best a relegation threatened team like Fulham.

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  7. It seems like trying to figure out which U21 players are destined to be top players is almost impossible even for the worlds best talent scouts. I don’t think a lot of people believed that Harry Kane would be a superstar and for every Harry Kane there are literally hundreds of Nik Bendtner, Benik Afobe’s and Chuba Akpoms

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