Arsenal’s new French international right back?


“We have Jenkinson, we have Koscielny – who has been educated as a right-back – we have Djourou who can play right-back,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

The above was the quote from Wenger back in October when Sagna broke his leg the first time on October 2nd last year. The French international’s misfortune began a whole serious of misfortune when it came to the fitness of our full backs. Some might argue and I would be among the number that had it not been to the loss of Sagna, Gibbs and Santos at the same time, our revival would have begun earlier and third places would have been secured considerably earlier than on the final day.

So as it transpired Wenger did indeed have to utilise all of the above players at right back between in the 3 month period and you can throw in Francis Coquelin and Nico Yennaris as well. So as we find ourselves again without our first choice right-back gain due to Sagna’s incredible back luck, we must assume that Wenger and know Banfield and Bould will be discussing the situation as I write. Why because we must assume Bacary will be out until earliest September and latest November and the squad will reconvene to travel to the Far East in only 2 months from now. Our first match in Malaysia I believe is schedules for the 25th of July.  

  “Les malchanceux Monsieur Sagna”

So let’s consider the options as we cannot afford a weak start to the campaign again and I do not see is investing in a new player for this position, despite occasional links appearing to Gregory van der Wiel:

  Not Ready?

Option 1 – Carl Jenkinson was bought last summer from Charlton in a surprise move which raised some criticism from fans as one might have expected – Shopping in the bargain basement again Monsieur Wenger? However his rampaging overlapping runs made him popular with some sections of the fans, but for me if we are intent on launching a credible challenge for the league ‘Jenko’ as a defender is not ready yet for the top echelons of the Premier League.

  Familar Pose?

Option 2 – Johan Djourou. The young Swiss had has a mixed career at the Emirates and has shown himself to be very a very capable defender on many occasions. Indeed 2 seasons back it was only in the final few games we actually lost a match in which he had started. However he is also liable to making some awful decisions and his lack of pace can be horribly exposed when he is asked to play a full-back. I am personally quite surprised at his contract extension, both that we offered it and that he accepted it.  He is an international defender who could play week in week out elsewhere and clearly only a cover defender for the Arsenal. Second option ruled out for this observer.

  Big Future!

Option 3 – Francis Coquelin. After a season long loan in Ligue 1, followed by a superb European U21 Championship for France, 2011/12 was a big season for ‘Le Coq.’ Sadly after an impressive start injuries limited his impact, but not before we all saw a sign of big things to come. He has earned a proper contract and next season I feel he will need to be given more game time, but I personally hope that this will be in the centre of the midfield and not at right back.  A fully fit Coquelin with a good pre-season will be pushing Song, Arteta and Wilshere for a starting berth. He has an exquisite touch, a full range of passing and I firmly believe that along with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere he has a huge future at Arsenal. However I would certainly rather see Coquelin at right back in August than either of the first 2 options.

  Simply the best defender at Emirates!

Option 4 – Laurent Koscielny. Our most consistent defender over the season as a whole without any doubt and if we are to begin well next season we have to build from August with a solid base. It is for this reason that I would like to see Laurent begin at right back and Per Mertesacker restored to the centre alongside Thomas Vermaelen. Please before you object this is not a demotion in any way shape or form for ‘Kozza.’ Indeed it is the exact opposite as I believe he is a complete defender and the best reader of the game we have. I am surprised to say it but it was Vermaelen that was the weakest link on the run in and Koscielny held us together.

One observation I would make is that on many occasions without the big German we did look more susceptible to the long ball through the middle and we missed his height and reading of the game. Goals created by long balls through the middle against Wigan, Norwich and WBA are painfully fresh in the memory. We also have to accept that Vermaelen is the vice captain of our club and if fit will play.

I am a huge supporter of the French defender and delighted he has received recognition from Laurent Blanc for the great strides he has made in 2011/12. In the final analysis I just feel that Kozza is quite simply a better defender than Jenkinson, Djourou or Coquelin. I always recall the positivity of Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn shortly after Laurent’s darkest hour in the Carling Cup Final:

“Obviously I always look at the defence because I played defensively and the one player that I think will turn out to be a big, big player for this football club is [Laurent] Koscielny.

I love his mental strength. I remember a game early in the season when he had a clash of heads and he went down and I was thinking, ‘Oh, a foreign player, I would love to see what happens here’.

But he was straight back up and the next tackle, he went into a 50/50 and that for me shows great mental strength. He still makes one or two errors but I don’t like judging a player over six months or a year, I like to judge a player over a couple of seasons.”

  Mental Strength to bounce back

I would not have presumed to question the judgement of one of our greatest defenders then and how right he has been proved to be. We have now had the couple of seasons Nigel referred to and his observations were not surprisingly right on the money and those doubting Laurent have been silenced.

So back to the initial quote at the outset from Wenger about Koscielny being a right back originally.  Well this was indeed the case and his whole youth career and the first 3 years as a professional at Guingamp between 2004 and 2007 saw Laurent play over 40 games at right-back. It was only on moving to Tours in 2007 that he first moved into the centre.

So in the final analysis I would like to see us begin the EPL campaign in August with a strong and experienced back four and for me that means Laurent Koscielny being deployed at right back until such time as Sagna is fit enough to resume his role. He is our best and most consistent defender, reads the game with real intelligence and has the pace to cope with fast left-sided offensive players. In addition he is more than capable getting forwards and may just enjoy the freedom to do so.

Keen to hear any views on twitter or via the comments but I genuinely feel a back four at the outset of 2012/13 of Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Gibbs/Santos (one for another day) will give us a solid foundation to build from.

Until next time thanks for reading

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  1. I strongly agree wit you,this is bcos iv always seen Kozy as a strong defender for Arsenal.its still means Wenger must still buy a natural center back,a mentally strong defender as well.if possible from d EPL.
    I av discovered over time dat players outside d EPL spend the first season learning,and d learning period for the player(s) is the waiting period for the fans…..we can afford to wait for a season.70% of Wengers purchases. Must be from EPL.ARTETA as case study.

  2. Quite astute Dave and certainly one of our many options. however Kos is also our best CB among a good selection of the Verm, Per and Djourou. We also have Ignasi Miguel knocking at the door and if Vertonghen is bought, we will have the embarassement of riches we have always needed defensively.
    Many plastic fanboys and AAAs whine about our defense, which HAS shown some weaknesses this past season but I always consider that the defense includes the DM position and when Arteta played alongside Song, we looked very sharp and won every game. His loss hurt us as the Verm abandoned ship too often by attacking and Kos got overwhelmed. I agree that with Per and Arteta fit, we would be challenging every game. That is why we need a top choice in the DM role. If M’Villa is bought and with Arteta,Wilshere, Ramsey, Song,Frimpong in form, we can build a very solid defensive 6.

  3. Kos followed by Le Coq… if Kos plays right, per has to play in the centre and due to his lack of pace, more like a Sweeper… so I would have verm playing slightly ahead of per and kos n Gibbs on r & l flanks

  4. yh kozza is bawse at the back!!! i used to think, hu is this guy, he just dropped into the biggest league n biggest games from nowhere, he’s not really strong but u can tell that he thinks he’s a tough guy n that got him through this first season, now he really is a tough guy n there a few attackers hu can out smart n out manouver him… he’s got brilliant touch for a defender, good passing n hes pretty damn quick!!!

  5. Kos at RB? Yeah, I know he can manage, and he did look OK when he played there this season, but do you really think this is what’s written in the stars? He’s a formidable CB of great skill, and if I would move him anywhere across the pitch, it would rather be DM. He is fast and pacy, but can he maintain the same level of pace over every game, week in, week out? In my opinion, we would be losing one of the best CBs in the world to get a good RB.
    However, you’re totally right as far as Jenkinson is concerned. In my opinion, if he is to play any role at Arsenal next season, it’ll more likely be as a CB. He’s way too tall and clumsy to be a fullback yet.
    Our backup option for pre-season should be Coquelin/Yennaris. Both can manage the pace and the demands of being wingbacks. If Wenger wants to be adventurous, he an always pick up another kid from the Academy. I hear Bellerin is good, and he’s 17 already. They say Angha can play all across the defence. I would like to see those new faces now.
    For the season, I hope we will have settled on a different option – not Koscielny, and not any of the kids. I don’t think we need to buy anyone, but Wenger has to come up with a working plan. Maybe Jencks can pick up a bit?

  6. Good article and I agree with your comments. As a long time Gooner (many, many years) and supporter of football in general I believe that all teams should build from the back and then and only then, forwards. All successful teams have good defences and I hate to mention it but Chelsea have just won the CL not because they were the best team but because their defence was solid. Look at the semis and the final.

    Just to look back, where did the “1 Nil to the Arsenal” come from? A solid defence and scoring on our occasional breaks!! I’m not saying that that is how we should play but start at the back and develop the team forwards. Unfortunately, we seem to be trying to do it the other way round with the inevitable consequences (Norwich match).

  7. Been touting this for a while. at the end of the day our best 4 defenders at the club are sagna mertesacker koscielny vermaelen and unless we sign anyone better those 4 should be the.back 4 i dont care.who plays left back koscielny or vermaelen but seeing as vermaelen played there for years for ajax and still playes there for belgium i would have.him there. however for 10m u can have.van der weil and vertonghen for me that needs to be done. djourou can have a.season on loan and squillaci should be.offered a free.

  8. Thanks for another great article Dave. I also think Koscielny is the most natural replacement for Sagna, so I agree with you!

    First off, Koscielny has been brilliant. Djourou worries me when he plays out there (severe lack of pace). And although I like Jenkinson, he was found wanting against WBA on the last day – Fortune had a good go at the youngster. So based on other options alone, I’d have to go for Koscielny.

    Secondly, I’d like us to start the season with more stability in defence. And Koscielny could go a long way to making that happen (at right-back). Again, I haven’t so much as coached a little league team, but pick Koscielny in pre-season. Work hard with a starting back-four. And let’s come out with everyone in full agreement about the job they’re required to do.

    Thirdly, I believe that fullback is a very technical position. Sagna, the best in the league, knows when it is his job to defend. And he understands when he is required to support in an attacking role. It is absolutely crucial for a fullback to read the game in this way. I am not a fan of super-attacking fullbacks. Your first job is to defend. And that is why I think Koscielny should start the season at right-back. Because he is a great defender. And without our first choice around, we need a solid DEFENSIVE option. I’m not saying don’t support Walcott, I’m saying get the job done at the back first. And he’s the man. That’s why I wouldn’t pick Coquelin.

    Thanks again!

  9. Koscielny is perfect for RB till Bacy returns , he’s pacey , defends well and I do remember him going on a weavy run from CB but I don’t rem against whom it , he’ll enjoy making those runs from RB too.. kudos great article Dave !!

  10. Kos did fill in at RB when we literally had no full backs fit and was playing a back line of four CBs. He did an admirable job but I still think he’s a better CB because he just doesn’t have the same attacking ability that we require of our full backs.

    Jenky is too young to be #1, Coq is a much better central midfielder and Djourou is well he’s just not that good at anything. We don’t know how long Sagna will be out and I think we need a proper RB like Debuchy to come in. Yes it would be rough to have 2 international RBs in our squad but we seriously need some proper full backs for depth and quality. Even our LB position looks a bit suspect.

  11. Gr8 article as usual. Koscielny has been a massive player for us, not just this season but even the 2010/2011 season where the potentials were obvious. Using 3 disciplined central defenders with Koscielny @ right back will only allow our left full-back the freedom to go forward. I believe a player like Santos can be more valuable in that role. A good pre-season will go along way to define how our team will be playing. Our defensive records in recent past has been very embarrassing. Wenger has to put a final hammer to it.

  12. Great article Dave. I personally agree with everything you’ve said, but I think Bossielny is better suited at CB. I would play Le Coq

  13. Nice article as usual,your write ups are always world class. People tend to forget easily how good miguel is as a defender & i see him as a adequate back up in defence both centre & left back

  14. Dave i kind of agree with most of the points u made but here is my thinking.
    As u’ve said indeed kos is our best CB but as compared to his effectiveness as a RB,I WOULD say Coquelin does better.First of all RB is not only about Pace and Defensive ability,it’s also abt ensuring your team keeps possession on the right flank,get past the opposing winger and ensuring that there’s promising movement going forward, either to give in a cross/pass or to make a shot on goal.That is the work of a RB as far as i understand it(u can also ask Dani alves.)This is well complemented with the presence of a DM who remains to cover.Kos can only manage 1 of the roles(defensive at RB)he cant dribble,n isnt that fast too,but believe me Coq does almost all of the above said.B sagna gets the ball,runs forward then crosses deep,the opponents alrdy knows wat sagna will do n u see them flood into the box to head the ball away..coq dribbles then gets in the opposing teams danger box where he then looks to supply to either side of the strikers positions or takes the shot himself…i would prefer coq though he needs to improve defensively!! Overall its a good article,Thanks.

  15. I would be sure not to rush sagnas recovery, if merts is healthy, and arteta and wilshire too, we can easily use both coq and kos at rb. In any matches with a big lead, i would get jenks some minutes, and that boy can put in a cross, i believe thats why arsene picked him out.

  16. Since Koscielny completely quitened Kevin Davies two seasons ago I knew he was going to be a great defender. Kevin Davies came of second best in all their clashes and in the end respectfully avoided him.

  17. I am not a very good observer but when it comes to arsenal, I feel like I know a lot of things. I agree Jenks isnt that ready yet though he can be a natural succerror to Sagna in few years time. As far as the start of next season is concerned, I think arsenal should give le coq. a go at right back. He looks a genuine footballer overall and seems to know the arsenal way in depth. Of course boss Koz was our best defender last season and he can only improve as we’ve witnessed, but lets not forget he is best at CB. I am not much convinced with Per, he will be very successful in serie A or La liga. He is the one with best defensive knowledge and techniques in arsenal, but he lacks the pace and commitment that EPL demands which Koz and verminator are enriched
    with. Assuming that we’ve got m’villa, le coq can be back up to sagna. He can also perform the job at DM, so if Per is sold out, song and djourou[not my preference but he has signed a long term contract] can be back up to CB position. We can rotate holding midfield potitions between two of arteta, m’villa and wilshere. It will give us a good defensive platform in EPL for walcott, gervinho, OX, miyachi, rosicky, ramsey[hopefully he improves], podolski and captain vantastic to perform against any teams.

  18. I completely forget our lB position…I am not convinced with gibbs and/or santos…but dont want to get rid of them either.

  19. mhsc won d league wit just a single signing at d begining of d season, i think arsenal can win d league wit more discipline at d back,bcos we already hav a team dat know how to keep possesion and score in almost every match

  20. Koscielny is too good to be played out wide. His ability to read the game and cover for the other defenders should they find themselves out of position is too valuable to be wasted in another position. Mertesacker is too slow to be able to cover as well as Koscielny, and we know that he’s going to need to do that several times a match as Vermaelen likes to pressure and get forward.

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