While Laurent Koscielny is considered the boss of the squad, we don’t talk so much about him.
In the same way, he is not adulated by the French in the national team despite strong performances like ones seen in Arsenal. He is the boss behind the scenes, doing the dirty work.
But here I won’t talk about how he is important in the Arsenal defence, which is obvious, but I would like to talk about his position in the defence and how he could bring even more to the game.
Koscielny is one of the right-foot centre-back playing on the left side of the defence. He mainly plays on this side for Arsenal, and even when he was in Lorient. When Thomas Vermaelen was in the squad, he was still playing on the left alongside Per Mertesacker.
Nevertheless, in the national team, he sometimes plays on the right, mostly when Raphael Varane is injured while Samuel Umtiti can’t play at all on that side.
For the Gunners, he never played recently on the right side since last weekend against Chelsea: Arsene Wenger should try him on the right of his 3 centre-backs based defence and the result could bring some new ideas to the French manager about an improvement of pass combinations and passing game.
The passing game
The last few seasons saw the emergence of a new kind of centre-back. Players like Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Jan Vertonghen or midfielders like Julian Weigl or Eric Dier play now like quarterbacks in American football, throwing long balls that break the line. Mats Hummels is the master in this category: able to plays as a real playmaker and skipping the lines and avoiding high pressing opponents in addition.
In the Arsenal side, there is not really players like these or the system doesn’t fit with this way of playing.
However, there are some clues on how the new 3-4-2-1 system could be more efficient with Koscielny on the right.
Pass networks above show how Koscielny was important in the passing game when he was on the right side: against Chelsea and Bournemouth – which are the best two games of the season for now – he was one of the hubs of the team. We can’t really say something about the game at Anfield as the players didn’t perform well.
What is interesting with Laurent Koscielny is his leadership and his risk-taking: when he goes forward with the ball we can feel how he is confident, and each time he takes that risk it comes to a good action.
In 2015-16 season – when Leicester won the title and Gunners finished second – Arsenal played with Per Mertesacker on the right side. His passing skills were very efficient in the way to start first pass sequences, not as much as Mats Hummels but quite enough to improve the passing game.
Last season shows how it’s a lack of a good first playmaker in defence. It’s difficult for Laurent Koscielny to do this job on the left side, while he is a right-footed player.
But putting him on the right side could be completely different: Arsene Wenger is still trying to find a good formula in defense, because of the 3-4-2-1 change and, though there are not enough games played to make a real conclusion, playing Laurent Koscielny on the right side could be a good solution to improve the game fluidity and the passing game of Arsenal so the French centre-back has very good passing and vision skills.
When Jan Vertonghen came to Tottenham or when Mats Hummels arrived in Bayern Munich, these teams changed completely the way they were playing, thanks in part to these centre-backs who can play as real playmakers from the back. Why would Laurent Koscielny not bring this to Arsenal?