Koscielny and Giroud’s careers for me have echoes of players whose careers bloomed in their mid-twenties taking them belatedly from the lower leagues to the top level.
And the stories of the two Frenchmen shine in the comparisons, Koscielny only denied that WC winners medal by injury as he hobbled and winced his way through 2017/18.
Rising to prominence with the Arsenal after his late bloom Koscielny’s story with France encapsulates his story, his quality and standing in the sport.
That aggressive style targeting the ball and not the man (almost always) and the infamous red card as the red mist descended against a hacking and diving opponent in the World Cup qualifier away in Ukraine was a proud tribute to Diaby though his teammates that day had better luck in comparison with the officials for the rest of the contest then the Arsenal. France eventually went through and after spell out the team Deschamps who had no choice but to punish him for such a high profile incident (much less provocation then, say, Diaby!) eventually brought the Arsenal man back to lead his defence.
Deschamps is an admirable coach for me and being blessed by France’s relentless football production line he had the quality and by 2018 experience in Varane to cope with the loss of his senior CB at that time, clearly the Arsenal man was his senior CB from about 2014-18.
Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the next exciting chapter: Mertesacker.
In transfer terms, a Cazorla at CB. A worldie for literal peanuts. And a pre-season friendly.
Arsene Vulture soaring at his best but you might have missed it due to shrieking hungry hyenas left scavenging in the wind of that mighty swoop upon the Bundesliga. But I don’t think the Arsenal fans missed it. Given the songs etc. given his continuing story at the club. A different universe to one where the club spends £30M on a rookie teenage playing in France never mind Bolton (please ask Sven, George Graham, Paul Davis or John Jenson what I mean, if you find my meaning too cryptic – Fa Cup winner and top level prospect pre-injury Holding only cost £2M!).
And a captain too. A huge presence at the Arsenal alongside Arteta. The Big Friendly German was never accepted by the media outside of Arsenaldom, an obvious result given the German and Arsenal mix, but he arrived having already played in two tournament finals, all the way to the final,I think, for Germany. and left with a WC winners medal and over a hundred caps on the mantelpiece. A serious career, ending as an undeniable legend of German Football.
Like the hugely admired and equally legendary Cazorla, Mertesacker won his first club honours with The Arsenal.
Everyone knows this great player began to lose what little pace he had in 2014 and eventually he played on a season too long after that glorious performance against Champions Chelsea in the 2017 cup final after not having played for most of that season, but no one blamed the lack of funds back then. No big deal for me, it happens, but the comparison with Koscielny in his waning years is interesting and that’s why I’ve drifted into discussing Mertesacker.
The contrast with Koscielny’s speed, his agility, his aggression, the highlight performances especially against Barcelona and Munich that brought appreciation of this player to a wider audiences, an amazing defender to watch play, who played on the physical edge. Not at risk to others, not often, but his own stretching sinew.
Campbell had one style, Mertesacker another, older greats. And Koscielny had this intense physically demanding style, so demanding on stamina and strength, when I would watch him in his pomp I didn’t imagine he’d be able to play much at the top level past thirty. I was wrong, but for the tendon strife he has.The kind of CB most football fans like to see, hobbling, grimacing along even when past their best years giving their best, which last season was still the best in the squad! I have high hopes for Holding if he survives the hacking. And he had a knack for the odd important goal too.
Between this fear of attempting a dribble past Mertesacker’s telescopic legs, staggering how often high level forwards gave up in games and looked for an easier option, or the fear of Koscielny snapping at their heels, most forwards did not look forward to the contest against this Arsenal pair. It was great to watch and it helped to bring about a great era to Arsenal Football Club.
Bar an attack of nightmares and demons from the upside down underworld upon the saintly calves of the blessed Santi Cazorla this pair might’ve had a league title to add to their triumphs. The most recent, previous Arsenal team had two Worldies at CB and three further up the field, not forgetting the world’s number one and most handsome target man, the man with literally the Midas touch. Or Rambo.
I have no doubt Koscielny turned down one or two big offers from big clubs over the years. I had hoped he’d stay and play the role Mertesacker played so well from the bench and dressing room for a season. Again we all know about the additional season for Mertesacker and the lack of moolah but I don’t care about the monies. I hear that some do. I’m just a hopeless football romantic who was hoping the veteran Koscielny would stay and player-coach Holding and others for another season whilst playing the odd game etc., as the senior players do.
I, romantically, imagine that the public comments from his French colleagues about his love for the club might result in some expression of love. From somewhere. I mention no names. Perhaps the heat has melted my brain?
Whatever happens next in his career I wish club captain and world class defender during his time at the club Laurent Koscielny well and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his efforts on behalf of The Arsenal.
Penny for the thoughts of Arsenal coach Per Mertescaker.