A statistical look at the improvement of Arsenal centre back Laurent Koscielny.
On Sunday the 27th of February 2011, Laurent Koscielny's Arsenal career hit rock bottom. On the day that it was seen as a near formality by most that Arsenal would overpower Birmingham and win some long overdue silverwear, a comical mix-up with Szczesny squandered the tie and butchered Koscielny's reputation in the process.
The Carling cup final, along with continued calls for the signing of a new, top class centre back in the summer, meant that Koscielny's days as Arsenal's first choice centre back looked numbered.
However, this has proved not to be the case, with Koscielny looking a completely different animal this season. While he sporadically delivered good performances, predominantly in the Champions league (and in particular in the first leg of the Barcelona tie), he looked very shaky at times as was forced to acclimatize to the fast, physical and relentless British game.
However, this season he has added a steely element to his game which has taken him to the next level. Much was said of Arsenal's aerial fragility in the summer but Koscielny has really stepped up to the plate to provide an internal solution.
His improvement is evident from a statistical viewpoint, winning 14% more of his aerial duels. This rate eclipses that of any other Arsenal centre back, even falling just 2% short of 6 ft 4 inch tall mammoth Christopher Samba, reported summer target.
Although he is now solid enough in the air, his real strength is his superb reading of the game. Nicknamed "Bosscielny" by the Arsenal faithful because of the fact nothing seems to get past him, he impressively averages the joint most interceptions per game in the league (2.7) alongside Vermaelen as they counteract attempted through balls past Arsenal's high defensive line.
Koscielny also looks a lot more aggressive in the tackle, which has payed off dividends. His imposing style means he is no longer bullied out of games, and more often than not finds himself victorious in his duels with centre forwards, averaging an impressive 2.8 tackles per game, also more than any other centre back in the division.
To put those numbers into context, I have compiled a table comparing Koscielny to some of Europe's finest centre backs. While stats are only stats and , at the end of the day, nothing beats the naked eye when judging a player, it more than shows the rapid improvement Koscielny has made.
These tackles are also very clean and successful. In an article composed on premier league centre backs by WhoScored.com on the 18th of January, Laurent Koscielny (93%) was found to have the the highest tackle success rate of any player in the league.
Possibly one of the most exciting things about Koscielny is that he is yet to play alongside Vermaelen for a consistent this season. With the full back crisis forcing Vermaelen into the left back slot and Koscielny into right back, Arsenal fans have been denied the sight of watching what could possibly be the best centre back partnership at the club since the days of the invincibles and the Campbell/Toure partnership. The statistics behind the partnership only help to water mouths. They have played only six competitive games together in the heart of defense, conceding just two goals at a rate of 233 minutes per conceded goal whilst collecting four clean sheets. While it would be foolish to expect this high standard continuing throughout a whole campaign, the future looks bright in the heart of the defense.
Koscielny has been one of the few bright sparks in an overall disappointing season for Arsenal. Although some opposition fans still remain skeptical of him, the vast improvement of Koscielny has meant he has become firm fans favorite with the Arsenal faithful. If he continues in this manner, there is no reason to believe why not "Bosscielny" can not earn the respect and admiration of the Premier league as a whole.