He’s big. He’s French. He’s never on the bench. That is what I’d sing, if asked, in the general direction of Laurent Koscielny. But no one’s ever asked me. Not yet anyway.
I have a particular affinity for Koscielny, largely because I find it odd that not everyone finds him quite as ace as I do. One man’s croissant is another man’s badly toasted muffin from Little Chef, as the saying goes.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be actually very good at something and still received mixed reviews. Actually I can imagine what that’s like. I can imagine it very much, being probably the world’s greatest living thrower of scrunched up paper into bins. Not matter the angle, distance, atmospheric conditions or setting I can crash that little white bundle into the slenderest of waste basket openings as if I were merely flicking pennies into Harry Redknapp’s ample jowls. I once nailed an especially taxing 40 footer in the middle of my annual review, to the (inward) delight of everyone present.
Laur-d of the Interception
But unlike my minor talent, Koscielny finds himself amongst the top defenders in the Premier League and yet is often lumped in with the broadly withering assessment of Arsenal’s collective defensive limitations. Comparisons to his colleagues highlight the disparity, with Koscielny making a fairly whopping 30 more interceptions than any other defender at the club last season.
More tellingly, since Big Loz joined in 2010 he has made more appearances for the team, and played a part in more victories, than any other Gunner – all of which suggests he’s not the kind of monsieur who brings a bloomer to a baguette fight.
Admittedly though the Arsenal defence, and Premier League defences in general, have recently found themselves less a citadel of defensive excellence and more a rag-tag assembly of some of top flight football’s most erratic and uncertain characters.
In Good Kompany
Vincent Kompany, we are routinely told (mostly by overexcited employees of Sky), is the finest defender the world has ever known. So impassable at the back he might as well be made from a fleet of transit vans glued to the face of the Kraken. Kompany is outstanding but move-for-move I doubt there is much of a discernible gap between his and Koscielny’s performances. Kompany, it also must be said, has always had far more to work with than his Arsenal counterpart. Even Martin Dimechelis – a man who could give a goal away in a room filled with nothing but Murray Mints and a dead fox – has turned out, disappointingly, to be rather good.
So while Big Vin enjoys the accolades he mostly deservers (Sky’s frothing exaggerations aside), Koscielny is woefully under-praised outside of the Arsenal fans who recognise and appreciate his role as a dependable leader amongst their sparse collection of defenders.
Two particularly chucklesome Vines of Koscielny probably haven’t helped his reputation too much. The first being him performing a heroic clearance on the line only to clatter awkwardly into the post. The second being him climbing above his marker before, to everyone’s surprise, slapping the ball so hard that it travelled back in time to a Sega Megadrive party at the home of a young, but still moustachioed, Philippe Albert.
But neither of these clips should take away from the fact that, in an age where truly great defenders are about as common as willing urinators in the presence of a flame-engulfed Sepp Blatter, we should unquestionably be singing the praises of Laurent Koscielny.