Laurent Koscielny is just twelve months out of Ligue 2. He has only ten months experience playing in a major European league. Even that apprenticeship came with relatively unfashionable Lorient, a club without a single Ligue 1 title.
Last term, they finished seventh, a respectable showing but well outside the European places and 20 points adrift of La Championnat winners Olympigue Marseilles.
At 24 – 25 in September – Koscielny has yet to play a full international. Born in France, he also has Polish citizenship and hasn’t yet been forced to decide between his options – if he has options.
Not the type of player you thought Arsene Wenger had in mind when he talked, towards the end of last season, about the need to bring in experienced players during the transfer window.
Speaking to France Football about the prospective move before he joined Arsenal, even Koscielny himself seemed a little daunted.
“Everything is going so fast… I don’t have much experience, clearly, but you can’t refuse Arsenal. It could be the last opportunity in my life. I’ll have to work like a dog to be at the right level physically, but I’m not that scared about the big gap it represents. If I don’t make it, it just means that the step was too high.”
Understandable, then, that Arsenal fans might be worried about the new man’s ability to tighten up a back four that needs much tightening if the gap to Manchester United and Chelsea is to be bridged.
And not just worried about his technical ability and physical stature, but about his readiness to deal with the mental demands of the Premier League.
Between William Gallas’ fragile temperament, Kolo Toure’s distraction and Philippe Senderos’ terminal lack of confidence, Arsenal’s defensive headspace has been undermined by wooly thinking in recent times.
How pleasing it was then to observe the palpable confidence in Koscielny’s play during Saturday’s Emirates Cup tie with AC Milan. Quite apart from the impressive turn of pace he showed in denying Pato before the break, he moved smoothly throughout; playing on the front foot, darting into interceptions, choosing his tackles well and distributing confidently.
Later on, a Cruyff turn deep in the Milan half followed by an optimistic drive from long range suggested this was a player determined to enjoy rather than endure his big-time baptism.
Clearly bigger, more competitive tests await Laurent. His rather slight frame still doesn’t look the answer to Arsenal’s dispiriting habit of conceding from set pieces. But the early signs are that this is player capable of once more earning the kind of high praise he took for granted in France.
From www.fclweb.fr/forum – Je crois qu’on tient là le meilleur défenseur lorientais de tous les temps!! C’est peut etre meme le meilleur défenseur central du Championnat de France!!