Don’t let it be known that Arsene Wenger has lost his touch in the transfer market. At least not completely.
Laurent Koscielny didn’t look the part at first. A scrawny centre-back, Koscielny had dabbled briefly with top flight football with Lorient prior to his move to Arsenal, but for the most part he was a Ligue 2 player in France. He didn’t look the part but he fit the description. Laurent Koscielny: unknown, inexperienced, ripe for moulding; the ideal Wenger project.
Four years on from his move to Arsenal, Koscielny’s high value to the team is indisputable. Wenger saw something in the Polish-born French international that went over the head of most others. Koscielny had the technical attributes and athleticism, but the detractors were drawn in to his physical limitations, which have since been eradicated.
Maybe it’s the recent history of Arsenal’s defenders that dictate people’s opinion on the 28-year-old, but for one reason or another, there is no definitive description of Koscielny in English football. Some, mostly Arsenal fans, acknowledge his development and rate him as one of the top centre-backs in the country. Others remain perplexed as to why there is so much good feeling about the centre-back; he’s been described as error-prone (he does have more than one red card to his name), among other things.
Over the past year, Koscielny has dovetailed perfectly with Per Mertesacker in the centre of the Arsenal defence. The French international will be praised for his quickness and strength, but he, like Mertesacker, is an excellent reader of the game, too.
In an effort to reward him for his good form, Arsenal have tied down Koscielny “long term,” fending off reported interest from abroad as well as from the Premier League. It’s a good show of support from the club for one of their key players, but you’d hope they’ve also learnt from the contractual mistakes of the past. Koscielny isn’t one Arsenal can afford to let go of anytime soon.
The contract extension will give the club a good platform to start from going into what should be a busy transfer period. Bacary Sagna and Lukas Fabianski aside, there are no major issues plaguing the club, as has been the case in recent years. Both first-choice centre-backs are tied down now, with Mertesacker having committed earlier in the season, which should spell a positive campaign next time around. There is stability that can be built upon.
Wenger’s trick of pulling rabbits out of the hat via the market has run a little thin of late. Yet Koscielny’s development is a reminder that the Arsenal boss can still conjure something out of nothing. By no means was Koscielny’s transfer fee large by today’s standards, but at £11 million it was a gamble, one which has since paid off.
Going into this summer, the gold struck from Koscielny’s transfer will provide a lot of hope and inspiration for what may come. Maybe they timed it – as Arsenal have been known to do. But Koscielny is an example and symbol of Wenger’s work and success in player recruitment. Putting news of his contract extension out there ahead of a crucial FA Cup final and transfer window will help restore faith in the manager that has been lost by so many.