The rags to riches story of Laurent Koscielny
When a player with just a single top-flight season under his belt joins one of the European giants and consistent participants in the Champions League, you question.
At first, you question his technical ability.”I don’t think he’s good enough for us”. You question his price tag. “Can’t believe we’ve spent £10 million just to sign another unknown French player.” And you question the ability of the one who signed him. “I think Wenger’s lost it. We need a dependable established centre-back and look whom he’s brought in!”
These were all the questions/statements that were raised/made when he joined from Lorient in the summer of 2010. And suffice to say not one has been left unattended.
We’re talking about Laurent Koscielny, the dynamic Arsenal defender. And how Arsene Wenger, despite being under such immense pressure in recent seasons, still has the innate quality to unearth a gem from places no one else’s sight reaches.
And so arrived Koscielny, with a hefty price tag of £10 million (for a player of his reputation at that time). From there on, there was no looking back, and his inexorable journey from being a French third-tier player to becoming a first-choice for Arsenal and a French international is what this encomium will highlight.
The beginning of his Arsenal career was not so smooth, to put it mildly. Joe Cole, an otherwise clean player, took the responsibility of welcoming him to the league with a reckless tackle which meant he had to be carried off. Cole was shown red, and the half-time whistle was blown.
Thankfully, he returned in the second half only to be sent off himself for a ‘deliberate’ hand ball. The match ended with some serious questions being asked about the physical prowess of the new capture. Koscielny answered them with his actions on the field.
He slowly started getting accustomed to the league and its physical nature, and soon started receiving the plaudits for his immaculate performances. Performances which were usually marred by a mistake, every now-and-then, the most noticeable one coming in the Carling Cup final which led to Arsenal missing out on perhaps their easiest chance of ending the ever-so-hyped trophy-drought.
The media and the fans alike were quick to pounce upon him, and the tag of a talented but error-prone player was bestowed upon him. To recover from such a scarring incident shows majestic character and mental strength, something which our manager emphasises upon a lot.
But, in between his first season came a match which showed Koscielny had the weaponry in his ‘arsenal’ to make the very best look like amateurs. In the Champions League match against Barcelona, he kept Lionel Messi, a player every defender on the planet fears, in his pocket for the entire match.
His positioning was immaculate, and so was his reading of the game. He shrugged off Messi as if he was a nobody. Never had I seen Messi so helpless for the entirety of a match before this, which was enough to suggest signing Laurent was the biggest magic trick Arsene had pulled off in recent years.
He still lacked consistency to be considered amongst the top defenders in England. But such has been the progress of the player, he now is, in my humble opinion, one of the very best ball-playing defenders Europe currently has.
His countless interceptions and last-ditch tackles is second to none and his stats show nothing to suggest otherwise. He also possesses the knack of scoring goals at the other end with the ones against Man City, Bayern, Newcastle and West Brom(2011-12 season) showing how vital they’ve been.
To put it in one line, he’s a calm player having very nimble feet, who anticipates the game shrewdly, is tenacious and fearless in a tackle, is expeditious in possession and a defensive stalwart who’s managed to add consistency to his game with persistent hard work.
There’s a reason why Tony Adams says, “He reminds me a lot of Martin Keown. He’s very tenacious. I hate labelling people because Martin Keown was one of the best we’ve ever had. To put Koscielny in the same category(of Keown) is an enormous compliment I think.”
And that reason is why he has become one of the most important(yet hugely underrated) players at the club within the span of three years, and rigorously pursued by Barcelona and Bayern in this transfer market. And that reason is why this article pays a tribute to one of the best “rags to riches” story of modern times.