Today I would most like to be talking about our defence. Because it has occurred to me that I simply haven’t given them the level of praise they deserve of late. In particular, those gentlemen that sit at the very heart of the defence; the foundation, the bedrock of our miserly back five and the fulcrum of which our successful campaign has been built to date.
Step forward Per Metesacker and Laurent Koscienly ladies and gentlemen.
I think for me, when it hit home the most was on my way back home after a long day in The Smoke, reading a copy of Tuesday’s evening standard. In an article talking about how we had ground out another win, whilst somewhat critical of Arsenal’s ability to give hope to opponents by not killing teams off, the writer did praise the nature of our defence. He also highlighted an amazing stat. So much so that I didn’t really believe it at first. It reads: 28 games, 20 wins, 8 draws, 0 defeats. That is the number of games Per and Kos have played together for a full ninety minutes. Zero defeats at all. It’s remarkable stuff when you think about it. Not least because it spans a number of seasons. When these two lads have played together for the duration of the game, we haven’t lost, to which the writer of said article rightly said that when you have a defence as strong as that, it does afford an element of profligacy.
Just think the confidence it gives to the whole team to know that. To see what knowledge and understanding of one another’s game does for teammates. It isn’t a fluke. These two play together so regularly that they intrinsically know what one another is doing. Because I’m telling you now, there’s no way that you can play that many games and get results like that, by way of fortune alone.
One really good example I can think of in recent memory is the home game against Cardiff on New Years Day. Kos had been caught higher up the pitch as Cardiff broke and, with Campbell turning Big Per quicker than two week old milk, the German hauled down his marker on the halfway line. It was cynical and deserving of the yellow card it got, but from my side I watched it unfold and knew that Mertesacker, without any knowledge of Koscienly’s exact positioning, knew he had to ‘take one for the team’ because he knew he had no back up.
These two are Ying and Yang. Per loves his role as Gandalf (‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS’) in putting in those big blocks, plus his positional sense makes him a perfect captain; a role he’s deputised in during the ongoing Vermaelen absence and when Arteta is rotated. Conversely, Koscienly relishes his status as Aragon, the all action runner that mops up and uses his recovery pace when Big Per falters.
How long can these two stay unbeaten
together? I do wonder what the football betting at William Hill online make of it and whether or not we will see a season of these two together undefeated. One things for sure, keeping those two together will have a massive bearing on where we finish this season.
I will be really interested to see if we can keep them both fit for our two spells of really tough games at the beginning of February and the end of March. If we do, well, that’s a massive piece of the ‘victory’ puzzle already clicked into place, my friends. It’s why Arsene also now has to think very carefully about rotation, because a fatigued player is a player that is more likely to succumb to injury, so I hope he uses Vermaelen where he can. Providing of course the Belgian also remains fit!
So share a little love with me for our two defensive stalwarts. And pray that they can stay together at the back until mid May.