Arsenal sign HUGELY talented French centre-back!


He’s an aggressive Frenchman who plays on the front foot, is unafraid of getting up the pitch, pops up with a stunning goal from time to time, and, of course, floors opponents left and right like some kind of, uh, French wrecking ball. He may be the best centre-back we’ve seen since our move to the Emirates. What’s more, he’s in the conversation for best Prem centre-backs of his era. William Saliba? No. Laurent Koscielny.

We’ll get to Saliba in a minute. I suppose that my earnestly if not professionally photoshopped image that accompanies this post from the earliest days of this blog gave it away. Yes, it was on this day in 2010 that we signed Laurent Koscielny from Lorient. Set aside that howler against Birmingham, his refusal go on the US tour, his Bordeaux shirt reveal. Koscielny was one of the best defenders we’ve had, and that’s all the more impressive when you consider the partners he worked with compared to those the contenders had. Bould, Adams, and Keown had each other. Campbell had Touré. Djourou had Senderos and Squillaci (just checking to see if you’re paying attention). Kos? He had Vermaelen, who made him look cautious. He had Mertesacker, who turned slower than an aircraft carrier. Mustafi, Sokratis, Luiz, Chambers, Holding… just typing these names gives me PTSD. I can’t imagine what it did to Kos.

Let’s touch on the manner of Koscielny’s departure. Back in May 2018, Koscielny ruptured his Achilles against Chelsea. This didn’t just end our Europa League campaign; it meant that Koscielny would miss out on a chance to win to contribute to les Bleus‘ World Cup triumph. It also meant that a transfer back home to a French club or for a lucrative golden parachute in China was off the table for then-33 year old, unsure of his future as Wenger retired that same summer.

From there, the tale takes a dark turn. After seven months of grueling rehab during which Koscielny struggled to cope with how it felt to miss out on that World Cup (at one point, he even said to Canal Plus that he “wanted them to qualify but at the same time, I wanted them to lose”. Upon his return, Unai Emery, desperate for results, promptly ran Koscielny into the ground. He played four games in 13 days and was asked to play a fifth in 16 away to League One Blackpool in the FA Cup but withdrew after suffering some stiffness in his back. Self-preservation? Possibly.

He was playing full 90s in the Prem and Europa League and close to it in the League Cup and FA Cup. Between April 11 and April 24, Koscielny started five games in just two weeks, all full 90-minute appearances. The only matches Koscielny missed across all four competitions were due to injury. He told L’Equipe, ““I didn’t feel I could play 40-50 matches and I didn’t want to end my career with injuries.” With Gazidis gone, Arsenal’s contract offer had been reduced to one extra year on diminished terms.

He had offers from Lorient and Rennes but chose Bordeaux due to its proximity to Tulle, Koscielny’s birthplace. You might remember that Koscielny made a sizable donation to save an accordion factory there, something that inspired me to suggest a song for Koscielny based on Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple”. Alas, that never came to pass. Despite his desire to leave (and belief that the club would allow it), Raul Sanllehi and Emery had other plans and wanted to keep Koscielny until none other than William Saliba was ready to join the first team (he spent the 2018-19 season on loan to St. Etienne).

By the time he took off the Arsenal shirt to reveal his new Bordeaux shirt, Koscielny had spent months feeling like the life had been squeezed out of him, down the drain like molten toothpaste, used and spat out. I don’t blame for a second. He gave almost a decade of service to this club without ever complaining or agitating for a move. He gave every match his all, even when he had to know that every moment of maximum exertion was shaving minutes and days and weeks off of his career, if not exposing him to a less than ambulatory post-career life. If you’re still salty about that moment, please re-read what I’ve written and ask yourself how you’d feel.

Back to Saliba. The big news of the day is that he’s renewed his contract, staying with the club until 2027 on weekly wages somewhere around £190k. He joins a list of players fighting for a chance to play for the Arsenal. Like Koscielny, his injury showed us just how much we depend on him. I hope that, like Koscielny, he spends the better part of the next decade here, picking up where Koscielny left off.

Sorry to have gone on for so long about Koscielny. I have to admit that he’s been one of my favorite players of the last ten years or so, and I wanted to take a chance to set the record straight.

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10 thoughts on “Arsenal sign HUGELY talented French centre-back!

  1. Eoin ó Conchobhair

    Great rundown of a player’s time here and how he was hard done by. His departure was never as bad as RVP’s or Giroud’s but it’s good to know more about what forced his hand.

    For the Gogol Bordello, maybe “start flooring bitches” would be better? apologies for the rude language, I hope it doesn’t get moderated!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      no worries on the language – there’s a great video of Kos with a similar title. Have we gotten past the point when that word is no longer sexist? I ask because my students use the word bro without any regard to gender. What’s more, in my colleagues’ group-chat (all of them women), they use “guys”. I’m the only actual “guy” in the chat. I know these words have very different meanings, but I’m still curious.

  2. Kelechi

    lol John that Koscielny image. Wish I’d seen the early days of this blog. I didn’t know all this about Kos, I just through he threw a fit to force his way out and I lumped him in with van Persie and Fabregas as snakes who sh”t on this club on their way out the door. One more reason to hate Sanlehi and dislike Emery. I guess I can understand Emery’s position when we see his other options but Sanlehi acted like a c*nt.

  3. A Simple Truth

    the finger of blame should be pointed squarely at our former used car salesman Raul and not in Unai’s general direction…let’s not forget that the biggest mistake made during Emery’s relatively short tenure here, besides all the ridiculous and juvenile linguistical nonsense, was the fact that this highly successful systems-based coach was given no say whatsoever when it come to personnel matters…I feel for both Unai and Kos, as neither were treated in a very humane manner by the powers that be or a sizeable portion of the fanbase…Kos deserved much better after spending the vast majority of his time here with inferior partners and managers who cared very little for providing him with the requisite amount of cover at the DM position…just think of the angst he must have endured when he had the far past his due date Per on his right side and they were required to play a high line…for that alone his number should be retired in the rafters (jk)

    1. Palladio43

      OMG Jon is now cranking out two per day. Hard to catch up with him
      Are you on vacation and writing these while lounging under an umbrella and drinking from tall glasses decorated with small paper umbrellas and slices of citrus fruits?

      1. Jon Shay Post author

        You’re looking at a classroom teacher with some time to kill, even moreso because wife and one child left a day early for our family vacation. Posts may slow down next week as there’s sure to be lots of quality family time.

  4. A Simple Truth

    maybe he’s just striking while the irons are hot…I retired at a very young age so sometimes I have more time on my hands…that said, it just so happens today I’m poolside with a gin on the rocks, so it’s another sun-buzzed Friday afternoon

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      sounds divine. I can’t quite start counting down the days ’til my retirement, but I’ll join you from afar with a cocktail of my own. It’s about that time of day over here…

  5. jw1

    Kos was a fave of mine as well. What took ‘months and years’ off Kos’ career was playing with Mustafi. Jesus Crisis!

    Recall when we were playing Atletico, 1st leg, in the EL 2017/18– we had the game going our way, 1-0– at 82′, and in comes a perfect ball over the top to Griezmann– with Kos battling him for position. Griezmann bodies Kos with a nudge to pull the ball down with a perfect touch.

    When this all started– Mustafi, who had no one to cover at the halfway line– started sprinting to get in position to help if what happened did happen. When right as he approaches the 18– he f^cking switches off for a split second. Had he kept sprinting to the line– he’s in proper position to take on Griezmann after it bounces off Cech. Instead, Griezmann recovers Cech’s block and casually lifts the ball into the net– while Mustafi goes to ground tumbling like a trainwreck.

    Now, as much as I disliked Shkodran Mustafi? I’ve come to realize that all the horrors he foisted upon my psyche– for years– were a necessary bit of suffering.
    In order for circumstances to unfold as they have– bringing Mikel Arteta back to the club.

    But alas, Poor Kos.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Aside from the Panglossian spin on all of this being necessary to bring us to our current position, I concur. Even without the video link, I could picture the scene. Kos was foolish to try to poke the ball away there, but Mustafi was trotting back on the assumption that Kos had the situation under control when a smarter player would have been in full recovery mode. That he ended by gesticulating, palms upward, as if it wasn’t his fault he scuttled, Phil Jones style, as Griezmann finished was just the icing on the cake.


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