After a tough international break with France, Laurent Koscielny bounced back and put in a very good performance against Southampton. In France’s World Cup Qualifiers, Koscielny had a rough game. He only played the first game, because he was sent off for slapping a Ukrainian player. Earlier in that game, Koscielny also made a poor challenge resulting in a penalty for Ukraine. Many players would have dropped their heads and lost confidence in themselves after a game like that, especially in such a crucial game for their country. Koscielny didn’t let that happen and put in a very good performance.
While Koscielny is a good defender, he is prone to having “one of those games” where everything goes wrong and he makes bad decisions. Earlier this season, Koscielny had another one of those shock performances on the opening day vs. Aston Villa. Koscielny was sent off and conceded a penalty, in a horror game for Arsenal. While he is prone to these games, he has shown good mental strength to come back from these games.
Against Southampton, Koscielny made 10 clearances and four successful tackles – both team-high totals. Koscielny also won five of his six ground duels, made three interceptions and recovered the ball four times. Koscielny performed well, doing his duty in the Arsenal defence.
The way the Koscielny/Mertesacker partnership has worked for Arsenal, is Mertesacker standing slightly behind Koscielny. Mertesacker plays slightly deeper, reading the play, allowing him to recognise the possible danger and cut it out. Koscielny is the more mobile and more proactive of the two, jumping out of his spot at centre-back to cut out the ball before an attack can really get started. With him being much more mobile, Koscielny is also the man who tends to go out and get tight to the players with the ball. That role is reflected in the fact that Koscielny won possession three times in the middle third as opposed to once in the defensive third. Koscielny also made two interceptions, no more than five yards away from the half way line. He did very well getting to players out wide, making four clearances in the wide areas of the pitch.
That said, when there is not the opportunity for him to cut the ball out higher up the pitch, he does hold his line well and clear any danger. Koscielny did make two tackles in the penalty area, one of which cut out a dangerous possibility at the end of the game when it was still 1-0. Jay Rodrigez picked up the ball at the halfway line and easily skipped past both Kieran Gibbs and Per Mertesacker. As Rodrigez entered the penalty area, he took a slightly heavy touch which Koscielny pounced, making a sliding tackle to get the ball out for a corner and allowing the defence to regroup.
Koscielny put in a great shift in a game where Arsenal had to be focused at all times against a dangerous Southampton team. The Frenchman showed great resilience and mental strength to bounce back from what was ultimately a horror show versus Ukraine. Koscielny had a great performance cutting out danger and the Arsenal defence as a unit contained the Southampton attack to long range shots. One of the shots from in the box was blocked, while the other was just a great piece of skill by Jay Rodriguez. Koscielny has improved as the season has gone on, along with the rest of the Arsenal defence.