What earns a player their spot back in the squad, is it their strong practice effort or does someone have to screw up? Arsene Wenger has publicly praised Thomas Vermaelen’s efforts in training but the captain’s opportunities remain limited. Laurent Koscielny has conceded his third penalty of the season, maybes it is time he cedes his starting spot. The point of this article is not harp on Laurent Koscielny but to illustrate that he must earn his spot back.
I am writing this because I am irked by a few plays I have seen from Laurent Koscielny. This season, domestically and internationally, Koscielny has conceded three penalties. The first was questionable as, for my money, Koscielny won the ball but his trailing leg took down Gabriel Agbonlahor. Which came first the chicken or the egg? As a child I was taught to take the ball first, but if I could take the player after the ball that it was a fine thing to do; I feel that Koscielny accomplished what I was taught as a child. The second was a clear penalty as Kozzer went through Adam Johnson. I’m not a fan of Johnson, but giving up a penalty to nail the bugger doesn’t make me happy. The third was this past week against Ukraine when Koscielny committed another mental fart.
Are these bad moments indicative of Koscielny’s play? No, he’s really improved since I wrote my last article on him 18 months ago. Do three penalties in three months mean that he will concede nine by the time the World Cup starts? Nope, that would be a little ridiculous, but could he concede two more before the end of the Premier League season? Yes, that’s conceivable maybe even probable.
What I’m proposing is that in light of Koscielny’s recent tackling woes in the penalty box that he sit out the Southampton match so that Vermaelen could play with Per Mertesacker. Chances need to be given to Verminator and each pairing needs to be tested. We have seen Vermaelen and Koscielny, but not the Verminator and BFG. Giving Koscielny a weekend off and advising the player it is because of his poorly timed and judged tackles may have the desired effect.
I am not advocating that this be a permanent change, but if Koscielny were to get injured we would be in this position anyway. Now is the perfect opportunity to test it out and give Vermaelen a match with the squad. Another reason I’m advocating that Vermaelen start, rather than Koscielny, is because of the proficiency Lambert displays in taking penalties. Keeping Rickie Lambert away from the penalty spot can only improve Arsenal’s chances of winning the match and staying atop the Premier League.
If sitting out a match gives Koscielny that needed time to analyse his performances, reflect on his abilities, and strive to improve then we are all the better for it. It’s a long season and this is only one match, but the timing is perfect to help set the defence up for success over the full season.
Arsenal Canada Chair