This week, Laurent Koscielny announced his retirement from international football.
Kos got his first call-up for France in February 2011 when his compatriots were set to play Brazil in a friendly. However, he didn’t feature until November the same year when Les Bleus beat the United States 1-0, also in a non-competitive match.
The centre-back was 26, which is pretty old to finally be called up for your national team. He hadn’t represented them at a youth level either and you have to imagine that the defender probably thought he’d never get to play for his country.
So, what changed?
Kos has been at Arsenal for seven years now so it’s easy to forget where he came from.
However, thinking back, most Gooners didn’t have much faith in the quiet centre-back who Wenger signed from Lorient.
In 2009, Lorient had only just been promoted from Ligue 2 and signed Kos from Tours. He was only at Lorient for one season before Arsenal came a-knocking. Lorient weren’t rated highly and neither was our new centre-back, whom Arsenal had signed for a reported £8.45m.
During his season with Lorient, Kos scored three goals and made 35 appearances.
However, Wenger saw something in him and over he came to north London.
Cue fan’s rolling their eyes at ‘typical Wenger’ once again.
Kos more or less became a first team regular overnight and was promptly called up during his first season at Arsenal. Although it’s probably noteworthy that he got his call-up before the League Cup final loss to Birmingham City.
The defender made 30 Premier League appearances in 2010/11.
It’s hard to say definitively whether Wenger signing Kos from Lorient was the exposure the centre-back needed to get his call-up. However, it looks likely.
He went from playing for a club that had only just made its way into Ligue 1 to one of the best in Europa.
Plus, let’s face it, he was playing under Wenger who’s obviously French himself, which I imagine gave him a bit of a leg up.
Despite the early blip of the League Cup final when there was a mix up between Kos and Wojciech Szczesny to help the Blues go 2-1 ahead with just minutes to spare, the Frenchman was never bad.
It feels like some people believe he was a terrible defender when he first came over to London but he wasn’t. He was just inexperienced at playing at the top level.
We may accuse Wenger of making the wrong decisions at time but if he saw something in Kos from the beginning. He had faith in his ability.
This obviously changed with time. He’s now Arsenal captain and, for a period of time, probably until last season, he was the best centre-back in the Premier League.
Kos has been capped 50 times for France and has made almost 300 appearances for the Gunners since joining seven years ago.
The North London Derby on 18 November will be his 300th game in the red and white of Arsenal.
Would all his success have been possible without Wenger snapping him up?
I doubt it. And I imagine he knows that.