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Koscielny could “vindicate” Wenger’s “philosophy.” August 15, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer.

(Update below the jump)

Perpetually, it seems, people are demanding to know when Arsene Wenger’s “philosophy” will be “vindicated,” or which year will be “Arsenal’s year,” the one where the club “finally gets it right.” Though the underlying premise of these questions is jaw-droppingly stupid when the London club has contended with injuries to centerpiece Cesc Fabregas and having to spend as if it were somehow tied to the real world. However, there is a sense that something was missing from Arsenal in terms of on-field personnel.

In part, Arsene Wenger has found it. Though Marouane Chamakh played a decisive part in the scoring of the goal, and Sky’s atrocious color commentator pronounced his challenge on Pepe Reina something Arsenal wouldn’t have done last season, I don’t think it’s him. He let too many balls bounce off him back to Liverpool players. Flapping, dodgy goalkeepers sometimes blossom spontaneously into glorious confidence and are never again troubled, a la Victor Valdes, but it’s evident Manuel Almunia hasn’t yet and Arsenal can’t wait for that to happen anymore. Theo Walcott had an absolute stinker and Andre Arshavin never got going, and hasn’t for a while.

Wenger’s masterstroke, though, is Laurent Koscielny. Pundits will inevitably shower him with condemnation for having the cheek to be scissored to the ground by England’s Favorite Footballer, Joe Cole, and for being sent off when it essentially no longer mattered. But other than the tackle on Gerrard that earned him his first yellow, I can only remember one error from the Frenchman. He looks like the perfect center half: the sheer pace and strength to catch up to and dispossess Fernando Torres, the aerial power to clear several corners, and such comfort on the ball.

Whenever another member of Arsenal’s back five had the ball, the pass they would invariably look for was Koscielny. This excellent article discusses the role of ball-playing defensive midfielders. Arguably Arsenal didn’t have one today, having started with two attacking midfielders and a box-to-box player in the center, but arguably they didn’t need one, because Koscielny did the same thing when they had the ball: receiving it from other members of the Gunners’ back five with an excellent first touch into space and then playing simple, relatively ambitious passes to more advanced teammates. At one point near the end of the game, one of Arsenal’s attacking midfielders even played a high ball 40 yards back to Koscielny so he could restart the attack.

If Arsenal wins the title, expect the new French center half to have played a key part in it.

Update: Statistics on the Guardian’s Website indicate that Koscielny misplaced only one of the 42 passes he attempted, an attempted cross David N’gog intercepted in minute 73 from a corner.

Other observations from the weekend:

  • Who knew David N’gog had that in him, eh?
  • I’ve always found the hype surrounding Shay Given extremely tiresome. He’s short, flaps at crosses, and doesn’t command his penalty area. He is the Pippo Inzaghi of goalkeeping: possessed of one, headline-grabbing, flashy skill, but deficient in all other areas. Except you can’t bring on a goalkeeper as an impact sub. Joe Hart, though, I do very much like, so it was good to see Roberto Mancini make the right decision and pick Hart in goal, and even better to see Hart beating Given at his own game: a string of ridiculously acrobatic saves. Unlike Given, he also distributed the ball soundly.
  • If Manchester City is relying on Carlos Tevez for creativity, though, that’s a bad decision.
  • Luka Modric and Gareth Bale are probably good enough for any team in the Champions League. Tom Huddlestone is also not a slouch.
  • Would it be crazy to tip Wolves as dark horses? I am biased because my late uncle used to live in Wolverhampton, making it the only city in England to which I have any personal tie, and Wolves by far my favorite English club. However, Steven Fletcher looked like a much better player than I personally anticipated against Stoke, far more skilled than I’d thought. With service from Matt Jarvis, David Jones, Stephen Hunt, and Wolves’ other creative players, he might get quite a few more this season than he did for Burnley. Jelle van Damme also looks a good addition.
  • Not looking good for Wigan.
  • I may have been wrong about Blackpool. I think Liverpool will be more patronized.


1. ESPN too stupid to recognize Laurent Koscielny’s excellence « The Half Volley - August 16, 2010

[…] Koscielny’s excellence August 16, 2010 Posted by atomchak in War on ESPN. trackback As I’ve already written, Laurent Koscielny had an excellent game on Sunday. ESPN, as usual, is too stupid to recognize […]

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