Laurent Koscielny is a fine defender, but Arsenal must become less dependent on him.
There isn’t anybody like Koscielny, and that’s a problem.
The Frenchman has been a superb defender for a number of years now but age and fitness concerns are creeping up on him at a time when Arsenal don’t have the strongest options in defence.
That our best defender is on the wrong side of 30 and suffering with chronic tendinitis in his Achilles is a worrying situation when we have nobody who could step into his shoes when he’s not available.
He’s someone we need to play every game because he’s just so much better than everyone else at the back, but his fitness needs to be managed. We already went without him once this season, while he also sat out France’s recent international games. It was surprising to see him risked against Huddersfield when there was a game against Manchester United just two days later.
In Arsene Wenger’s mind, that might have been a risk he needed to take. His public assertion that Arsenal had to play their best eleven to keep up a run of good results disguised the fact that his defensive options are not that strong. He will say otherwise, but his reluctance to rely on Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Per Mertesacker this season in the Premier League speaks for itself.
Of the three, Mertesacker is the most reliable. He, though, is only a short-term plug who won’t be around next season. This is the season when young players like Holding and Chambers need to establish themselves and prove that they’re capable of stepping into the first team in any situation.
Chambers has been unfortunate with injuries this season, but his mate Holding has seen his stock fall considerably. The form that saw him perform so impressively during the back-end of last season has vanished, while his performances in the Europa League and Carabao Cup have been shaky. He no longer looks like a young defender on the brink of the first team.
That isn’t to say he has no chance at Arsenal, but we’re in need of someone who can perform as well, if not better, than Koscielny can. Arsenal need to prepare for a future without him now, and will almost certainly have to dip into the transfer market to do so.
For the club, the focus should be on future-proofing the squad for when its older players slow down.
We’re already seeing signs that Koscielny’s form is fading, so rather than wait for him to turn in bad performances and scramble around in the transfer market for a replacement, we should have someone ready to go.
Someone who could play with Koscielny in the meantime, but also has the potential to replace him.