As Arsenal have won their final match of the season against Newcastle, and are relived to not miss out on Champions League in next season, tribute should be paid to the center-back pairing of the Frenchman Laurent Koscielny and the German Per Mertesacker who now hold a fine record of overseeing Arsenal to 17 consecutive matches unbeaten when playing together.
The pair also get involved sometimes on offense too as Koscienly helped their cause against Newcastle by scoring the solitary goal of the game, with the ball headed to him by none other than Per himself, and Arsenal eked out another 1-0 victory this season. The tall Mertesacker and the tough and quick Koscielny balance each other well on the pitch. It is often said that strength of a team starts at the back and these two have been nearly perfect for Arsenal in keeping opposition quiet or subdued.
Per may not be the fastest in the League and cannot run down speedy forwards but he makes up for that by positioning himself well in tricky situations. He has also made the most appearances of any Arsenal defender this season and has also the most goals among them (Koscielny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Sagna, Jenkinson, Monreal, Miquel, Santos), thus justifying Arsene Wenger’s immense faith in his play.
Arsenal has also ended the season with the 2nd best defensive record in term of goals conceded (only Manchester City has conceded fewer – 34 to Arsenal’s 39) which is a marked improvement from last season when they let in a staggering 49 into the net. It might be safe to say that Arsenal’s defensive frailty has been resolved to some extent and with the likes of Jenkinson waiting in the wings, the future looks bright. It will be interesting to see if Wenger will be bringing in players to further shore up the back line and establish a consistent back four who can combine speed with guile to thwart teams day in day out.
Arsenal’s transfer market acquisitions will surely play a huge role in their aspirations next season. While it has been defense that has let down in crucial games this season, Arsenal’s inability to strike in decisive situations has also been their undoing. Next season holds the key, now that Champions League play is guaranteed and it will be an intriguing summer to say the least!