Good news everyone!
We kick off this morning’s Saturday round-up with Laurent Koscielny’s new deal. The Frenchman has signed his second extension since joining back in 2010, meaning his future is secured. With some real uncertainty about the rest of our central-defensive options, at the very least we’ve got the Mertesacker/Koscielny Axis of Awesome tied down, and even those who always find something to complain about won’t be able to find anything to moan about regarding this.
The player himself said:
I am very proud to have reached agreement with the club on a new contract. I have enjoyed four great years at Arsenal already, and I look forward to continuing to help the team in the years to come.
While Arsene Wenger said:
Laurent has proven himself to be an outstanding player since joining us in 2010 and has showed his quality once again this season. I am delighted he has decided to commit his future to the club.
His purchase raised eyebrows at the time, because he was unknown, French, and had little experience of top flight football, but you have to take your hat off to the manager for this one because he got it absolutely right. I suppose it’s a testament to how well he plays on a consistent basis that he’s been able to … I won’t say ‘get away’ … but absorb some mistakes/errors that might have crippled other players.
He’s had a clutch of red cards, given away some daft penalties, and had some moments that would make you scratch your head, but those things come with Koscielny territory. What he does aside from that is perform at a very high level week in, week out. He reads the game well; is good in the air; aggressive; very, very good on the ball and, of course, he’s the undisputed king of the St Totteringham’s Day goal.
And the partnership with the BFG is just superb. Maybe it was an accident of timing or circumstance but he is the Hall to Per’s Oates, and the idea of them being broken up by genuine interest from the likes of Bayern or Barcelona, well I can’t go for that. Oh no. And neither could Arsene Wenger.
It means that beyond Sagna, almost every one of our squad has been tied down to new deals in recent months. Mertesacker signed up, as did Cazorla, Ramsey, Rosicky, Szczesny, Wilshere, Ox, Gibbs, and there’s nobody flirting around the edges of a Bosman that we don’t really want to be there.
The challenge for the club this summer is how they add some depth to the centre-half position. I still think Thomas Vermaelen will want to go – whether we let him is another thing – but if he does then we obviously need to make a couple of additions in this area. For all the talk of us being unlucky with injury this season, we can count ourselves fortunate that we weren’t exposed in the centre of defence.
As we know from having all the full backs out a couple of years back, it’s not impossible that you can be stripped of all options, and having just three centre-halves for the duration of a season was a big gamble. It’s one we got away with, but not one I’d like us to repeat next time around. However, the difficulty is trying to find players who will come when they know Mertesacker and Koscielny are absolutely the first choice.
I think you can get a young player who could come in and learn from them, play the cups, for example, or a European dead rubber if we have such a thing. But you also need some experience too, and that’s the most difficult player to find, I think. Look at Sebastian Squillaci, he ticked all the boxes in that regard. The right age, plenty of experience at the top level in France and Spain, at international level too, won European trophies, but it just didn’t work out with us.
I know the focus this summer is going to be on who we bring in it up front. The manager even said it himself that this was the area we needed to improve above all else, but for me it’s going to be fascinating to see how they manage the situation at the back because that’s just as important in my opinion.
Not a lot else happening this morning, but some interesting stuff from Arsene Wenger on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of the World Cup. He says:
He is desperate to go, and who wouldn’t be? But we are in a job where your body responds or it doesn’t respond. He can only go to the World Cup if he is completely fit. It wouldn’t be helpful for England for him to go there and not be 100% fit.
It sounds like he’s really struggling, and while it would a shame for him to miss out, there’ll be other chances, I’m sure. Young players often tend to play down the extent of injuries because of their enthusiasm and desire to play, but exacerbate the problems in doing so. It’s not too difficult to imagine a scenario where the Ox pushes through a World Cup campaign and all the training etc, and comes back to us not ready for the new season.
It’d be a tough thing to miss Brazil but if he’s not fit, he’s got to be honest and think about what’s best in the long-term for himself and for Arsenal (not to mention England).
Right, back tomorrow with the final Premier League preview of the season. Until then have a good Saturday.