It only took a matter of minutes to see exactly what Arsenal were missing last weekend against Liverpool – the dogged determination to defend consistently well throughout.
Over the past two seasons Laurent Koscielny has asserted himself as our best central defender and on his return to competitive action after his exploits with France at the Euros, he didn’t disappoint. So much so to the point where many supporters were voicing their confusion as to why he wasn’t risked against Liverpool.
Leicester, notorious for their ability to soak up plenty of pressure and hit teams on the counter-attack, struggled to make their tactical plan work for large periods. This was mainly due to the defensive solidarity shown by both Koscielny and Rob Holding, who kept his place after a decent display (despite the scoreline) last time out.
One of the main problems for teams defending against Leicester last season was the key tendency to back off and allow the likes of Vardy and Mahrez time on the ball. Our centre-back pairing refused to do so, and it worked to good effect.
Both of our centre-backs are fairly mobile (especially Koscielny) and although Vardy’s acceleration makes him one of the league’s most feared attackers, he was mainly restricted to half-chances and forced to regularly apply pressure on our backline. Apart from a few frantic moments in the latter stages, we were defensively solid and ultimately worked hard for a clean sheet.
Koscielny’s distribution was accurate as usual, both over short and longer distances – whilst he was a composed figure, even under pressure, in helping to protect Petr Čech, making five clearances during the 90 minutes.
As well as this, the Frenchman won two aerial duels and made key interceptions as the impact of Leicester’s dangerous duo was heavily reduced.
As I previously eluded to, time and patience are both important in terms of allowing Koscielny to continue blossoming defensively alongside a new partner.
With Per Mertesacker out until the start of 2017, it’s becoming evident that Holding has his eyes set on maintaining a starting berth at a club he’s settled into seamlessly .
Despite this though, plenty of critics and supporters alike are eager for Arsène Wenger to sign another central defender before the window closes. Wenger has admitted we are negotiating for Shkodran Mustafi but defensive performances like these are sure to give encouragement to the side, even if the attacking portion of the team are struggling for a clinical edge in front of goal.