Sunday, 24 June 2012

Koscielny: He had Cesc in his pocket. Another reason to love him!

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Laurent Koscielny's performance against Spain for France at Euro 2012.

Laurent Koscielny battles for the ball

At 26, it is safe to say that Laurent Koscielny is a late bloomer. Three years ago, the Guingamp academy graduate had just finished a season with Tours FC in Ligue 2 and was preparing for a dream move to Ligue 1 with FC Lorient.

No one at that stage could possibly have imagined that he would be playing – and indeed producing a man of the match performance – for his country in a Euros Quarter Final.

The Arsenal centre-back was undoubtedly France’s best player against a dominant Spain side that gave him plenty to think about. After the match, Koscielny added to an assured performance with a mature and intelligent handling of the media.

Speaking to French media, the defender said:
"We can perhaps have regrets that we didn't have a little bit more technical quality in the attacking zone."
A response that simply underlines his superb understanding of the game and ability to offer more than the dull answers we tend to hear from footballers.

 Despite only making his debut for the national side in February 2011, and despite a difficult start to his Arsenal career that saw him sent off twice before Christmas, Koscielny has already become an important part of both teams.

Before the game against Spain, Les Bleus hadn't conceded a goal in the 205 minutes he spent on the pitch, while by April he had made the most successful tackles (78) of any Premier League centre-back that season*. 

Against Spain, Koscielny shrugged off the pressure of his competitive international debut with a commanding performance. As France looked to push up the pitch and gamble on Spain’s relatively lateral play, Koscielny was one of few French players to look switched on; winning three offside decisions and making the most interceptions (five) of anyone on the pitch*.

 However, ‘bosscielny’ as he has become known by the Arsenal faithful, is not a player to ignore his weaknesses. Still fragile after only three seasons in the top flight, and a handful of international appearances, the defender showed a no-nonsense approach with five clearances (three of which found a team-mate) and three shot-blocks*.

As featured heavily in the build-up to the game, this was not Koscielny’s first game of this kind. He was superb against Barcelona in 2011, where he successfully battled against the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, among other Spanish players in that side.

Koscielny’s experience clearly aided him as he kept Spain’s lone ‘striker’ Cesc Fabregas relatively quiet throughout with three successful tackles (again, the most of any French player), and without committing a single foul in the process*.

 Unfortunately for Koscielny, his fellow defenders weren’t quite as efficient, and an early Spain goal effectively destroyed the French game plan. As his Euro campaign comes to an abrupt end, Koscielny will have to pick himself up and prepare for the new season and continue his love-in with the man who gave him his chance two years ago.

Regardless of his minimal involvement in this tournament, his 90 minute cameo will no doubt have impressed Laurent Blanc and the French Football Federation.

If he continues his fine form for club, his reputation will continue to grow and so he will become an increasingly important player for his country. We could be seeing the development of a truly great centre-back, and one whose background also seems to have made him one of the most genuine footballers around.

*OPTA statistics, collected by

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

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