It’s not something any of us would have said 18 months ago, but Laurent Koscielny’s absence through injury this Christmas is a bitter blow to Arsenal’s title challenge.
The Frenchman, who was once derided as a quiet, impressionable defender incapable of positioning himself within five yards of the ball, has been superb over the past year and has provided a bedrock at the back, alongside Per Mertesacker, from which the Gunners have grown.
As much as we have enjoyed the attacking prowess of our front line and midfield, the defensive unit this season is the main reason we’re top of the league.
Yet it seems our title challenge will have to be maintained by others after Koscielny was stretchered off against Manchester City on Saturday with a deep gash in his leg. There is no timescale for recovery to cuts like these – remember Wayne Rooney’s head scar earlier this season? – and so people who bet on football should plan around the Frenchman’s absence this Christmas.
This is as bad an absence as Arsenal could have had, for our clash with Chelsea next week requires a competent back four – especially after our 6-3 drubbing at City.
Who will fill the Koscielny role? Ironically the man who looked set to become the new Tony Adams 18 months ago, but who has since declined and now sits firmly behind Kos in the pecking order.
Of course, as club captain, Thomas Vermaelen will play with just as much intensity as he always has but there is a feeling among football betting punters the Belgian is not cut out for containing Premier League strikers while having captain responsibility. Robin van Persie’s goal against Arsenal at the Emirates last season tells you that.
Since he was given the armband, his performances have dropped and, although Vermaelen is adequate cover for Koscielny in the short term, let us hope our so-far solid defensive unit is back to normal come the FA Cup clash with Tottenham.
Enjoy your day people.
Guest post brought to you courtesy of Mark W.
Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.