Tag Archives: experience

The Best of Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny’s injury suffered during our Europa League Semi-Final not only ended his season, but his World Cup dream.

He had to watch from the sidelines as his compatriots enjoyed the perfect World Cup, lifting the famous trophy to be crowned World Champions.

All while Koscielny was nursing himself nearer to a return to the pitch.

It must have been pretty difficult to overcome the knowledge that if it weren’t for his achilles injury, the defender would have gotten his hands on the World Cup. It is a thought that is perfectly designed to torment for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

Koscielny stuck gamely to his task and now we have our club captain back and available for selection – but is his Arsenal career now merely passing the torch to his students?

Koscielny has been a fine defender for us. His arrival in 2011 was pretty unheralded, despite the relatively high transfer fee. We saw a rough but adept defender, who resembled Kolo Toure in style, but with a shorter temper.

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Koscielny always had a tendency to jump into tackles, giving away needless set-plays thanks to his penchant for going to ground. It took years to coach out of him, but for the last five seasons, Koscielny, has been amongst the greatest defenders to grace the Premier League.

His reading of the game benefitted from partnering the sage Per Mertesacker. His aerial ability has always been strong, and his strength belies his streamlined physique. Koscielny’s greatest asset though?

His undying loyalty.

The Frenchman stayed with us through the miasma of struggles we have endured. In the seven years he has been with us, approaching eight, Kos has seen many stars depart for greener pastures, he has seen seasons crumble into the abyss, he has been humbled by the odd thrashing.

Yet, much like how we herald the fact that the likes of Rosicky stayed during times of distress and precious little success, Kos too did the same thing. He stayed because he loves the club, and we adore him too.

This is why we must keep Kos in amongst the squad. He has much to teach the likes of Medley, Holding, Chambers and others pushing through. He can show them what it means to put on the jersey, he can show them about recovering from a mistake, or when a partner leaves a path open.

Kos can pass on his learnings from seasons of under-par partners, from under-strength squads. He may have lost the peak abilities he once had, but he still has enough to see he is one of our stronger defenders, and is well worthy of a place.

We may have seen the best of Koscielny, but no one wants to see him go just yet. He deserves every bit of our respect.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Youth

We seem to have a pretty settled and well stocked squad this season.

Depth in every position, competition to drive our players forward and avoid resting on any laurels, our team appears to have the necessary resources to last through a rigorous season, even if injury bites.

What about the near future though?

It would appear we have that covered too, thanks to our promising youth starlets pushing through the Academy.

In Eddie Nketiah, Ainslie Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith-Rowe and Alex Iwobi, we have players ready to be the next spine of our side. It doesn’t stop there either.

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We have Gedion Zelalem now back from serious injury, and with previous loan spells giving him the experience he needs to push on further, it could be that Zelalem pushes out from the shadows and thrusts himself back in the limelight once again.

We have Ben Sheaf and Josh DaSilva, players who our backroom staff and those who have seen them have been raving about.

We also have Chris Willock, the midfielder who has impressed Emery enough to remain part of first team plans. Willock may not have many minutes under his belt, but the fact he has remained in the squad and hasn’t been sold or loaned points to a talented player who has kept himself in full view of the manager.

Let’s not forget about Reiss Nelson as well.

Compare this to our rivals for honours.

tottenham have the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters who seems promising enough, and Harry Winks is earning international recognition, but the best of the rest of their youth system is nowhere to be found.

At City, Phil Foden aside, there are no kids pushing through whatsoever.

United, before Mourinho anyway, were a conveyor belt for talent, and they also had a slim chance of making it into the team. Now, aside from McTominay, they have the likes of Tuanzebe who are being sent on loan as they have no hope of making an impression on the first team.

Chelsea have no representatives from their youth pool, and their recruitment policy may have calmed down, but their large amount of kids sent out on loan to the purgatory that is Vitesse Arnhem speaks volumes about what is required to be a first teamer at the Bridge.

We have not only increased the amount of our youth products coming through, but we have increased the quality.

Just look at Maitland-Niles last year. In amongst international class but a poor team, Maitland-Niles adapted in his full-back role, used his defensive nous to forge himself a slot in the squad, and impressed both Wenger and Emery enough to consider him in his preferred capacity and a s a certified first team player.

Emile Smith-Rowe made his splash in pre-season, and swayed Emery so much that he never left the first team fold. The teenager is making sporadic appearances, and is well on course to achieve great things with Arsenal. He has now got off the mark in terms of goals too.

Nketiah made a big splash last season by rescuing us with a superb brace in our league cup win over Norwich, and despite struggling to get into the team, has impressed when on the pitch, and is constantly in the squad and on the bench to be called upon.

When injuries bite and inevitable departures occur, these players will form the backbone of Arsenal – if all goes well, injury and mentality permitting.

Alex Iwobi is the target the kids have to aim for, and the Nigeria player is coming on leaps and bounds this season. He hauled himself up through the youth system, and now stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ozil’s and the Aubameyang’s in the team.

When players depart, we have the ideal fillers, and they will be one of our own.

​The Unearthing of Rob Holding

Published on Arsenal Mania

That £5 note you find in your old jeans. Getting to work and remembering that tomorrow is the start of a Bank Holiday Weekend. After a long day at work and finding out you’ve got a roast dinner waiting for you.

Finding good stuff really puts a brightener on your day. It doesn’t happen often enough for the regularity to dull it, and when it does occur, your whole mood changes. Maybe for five minutes, maybe the whole complexion of your day is uplifted.

One of the few things that can match that high is a bargain. One of those buys that you’re sure the shop has placed the wrong price sticker on. It is so cheap you’re worried until you’ve left the store. It is such a steal you feel like a shoplifter.

So just imagine how Arsene Wenger felt when he first saw Rob Holding in action on the training field.

The £2m outlay we splashed on the 21yr old last summer didn’t initially raise any eyebrows. It seemed as if the purchase for this young defender was one for the future, one to keep our eyes on in the next few seasons to see if he would make the grade or if he – like so many others of his age – would fade into obscurity with a series of loans and an inevitable slide down the leagues.

18 appearances later, and we are singing his name in the stands.

The normal parameters have not applied to this starlet so far in what is his first taste of the top flight. Players usually require a long run in the side to guarantee rhythm and the honing of their talents so we can see the keenest edge of their play. Rob Holding – you know – has been in and out of the team and yet has been an immovable force in terms of stifling attacking opponents. He hasn’t needed the run of games, he has just given it everything he has got.

It is since we have switched to three central defenders though, that we have had to squint our eyes as the brightness has burned into our retina’s. Holding has taken to his task with gusto and taking every obstacle that he has faced this season into consideration – he hasn’t looked out of place alongside his more illustrious and experienced defensive partners.

This is his first season in the Premier League. Prior to this, he played 30 games for Bolton Wanderers in the Championship in a season which saw the Trotters relegated. His displays despite the poor results showed a boy who had the instincts and defensive nous which could be sculpted. He marshalled the Bolton backline in what was his first full season as a pro. That screams leadership. It bellows nerves of steel and an unwillingness to yield.

This season we are seeing what a player this young man could become. He will have his wobbles next season as the second season syndrome kicks in – all youngsters who blaze a trail in their first season will always find a sticky patch in their next campaign, much like Alex Iwobi – but we need to remember the player he can become.

Mistakes are what players need to learn. It means his howlers will take place on the biggest of stages, but he needs the scars to lure out the player that he can become. This is how these youngsters improve.

His first season shows he promises much. If he carries on his current trajectory, there is no telling what he can achieve. What a player we have found, and we have every right to be excited.

Who knows what levels he can reach. Cannavaro, watch out.

Chambers and Holding are the Future

From the hottest temperatures are the most valuable of treasures born. The most precious metals are twisted and formed in unbelievably scorching heat, and under duress are beautiful objects crafted and hewn.

The same rule applies for footballers. 

Hector Bellerin – who some rate as the best right-back in the Premiership – had his debut in 2014 against a rampant Borussia Dortmund side and was taught the most severe lesson in a 2-0 defeat. The young Spaniard learned a years worth of lessons in ninety minutes. 

It was not just a baptism of fire, it was akin to tying him to a pyre.

Calum Chambers and Rob Holding went through a similar unveiling ceremony in the first game of last season, when Liverpool smelled a hint of blood and eviscerated the duo in a brutal – if slightly lucky – 4-3 win at The Emirates.

Arsenal were in control when the second half began, but Liverpool’s Mane, Coutinho and their cohorts took advantage of the green nature of the Gunners defensive centre, and cashed in opportunistically.

It was the harshest of lessons, but one that needed to be taught. Chambers was fresh from leading the England youngsters to victory as Captain in the Toulon tournament in the summer and his stock was high, as well as his confidence. An unceremonious bringing back down to earth meant that whatever illusions Chambers may or may not have had about having ‘made it’ were dissipated quickly.

The same goes for Rob Holding. He was making his competitive debut for Arsenal and he must have been counting his lucky stars. Snatched from the bowels of Bolton and now playing a Premier League fixture against Liverpool, Holding could well have thought this was where he deserved to be. 

The bottom line that was emphatically delivered to both is that the work had not yet finished for the starlets. The lesson they must learn is that the work NEVER finishes. All top class defenders will extoll this loudly when asked.

This is why defenders reach their peak later than their outfield compatriots. Different strikers bring different challenges and defenders must constantly shift and adapt to meet the task head on. 

In pre-season before the Liverpool game, Holding and Chambers saw plenty of minutes and with the pressure off to a degree, they shone. With Krystian Bielik as another youngster given the opportunity to play, the three young defenders gave great accounts of themselves. the level of competition and the lack of competitive heat was not present though. 

This is why Chambers going on loan was the best idea for his progress. With Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel and Mertesacker as rivals for the two central spots, Chambers’s development would have been hampered by a lack of gametime. With this season-long loan at Middlesbrough, we saw what he was capable of on a weekly basis. It was the perfect way to gauge whether he truly is up to the mark of playing for Arsenal.

The answer is yes, very much so. Chambers has been a pivotal member of the Boro back four which has put up a brave resistance. With their attacking threat being far less than the majority of teams in the Premiership, it has meant more time defending for the Teessiders. A real scrutiny has been on Chambers and he has passed with flying colours. 

Rob Holding was retained within the Gunners squad, and his sporadic appearances have been an indicator as to what type of player the former Trotter will be. He plays it safe, is not prone to panicking and makes correct decisions. There is much room for improvement, but at such a tender age, the signs on his progression are that the only way is up. Just look at his display in the FA Cup Final and his shackling of Chelsea’s malevolent force of Diego Costa – the boy done good.

Both players allow Arsenal to plana a little ahead. They represent the future of Arsenal’s defence, and if they can keep hold of Hector Bellerin, then many years of solidity stand in the Gunners future. What other clubs can boast of such things?