Watching the World Cup and our players representing their countries it is possible to view their performances without the bias of an Arsenal match. I would like to highlight our central defenders.
Having enjoyed the Germany/ Algeria game it became apparent that Mertesacker was being focussed upon by the Algerian midfield. They chose to send long balls onto a forward who was as close to Per as possible. Why? Because Per has excellent vision and pitch awareness, he knows where to snuff out danger and how to make the best of his talents, but what he doesn’t have is pace. My grandmother with bricks on her feet has more pace – even I am fleeter of foot. In the first half in particular the Algerians attacked this weakness. The German response was to use the goalkeeper Neuer as a sweeper – not the most secure defensive tactic!
Germany use Merts as the distributor from the back and as such he is always the last man and it repeatedly caused Germany problems. He does the same at Arsenal but for us he doesn’t appear to be such a liability – why?
Let’s look at France’s defensive set-up. Two attacking wingers, the best (? RM think so) young centre back in world football and Koscielny. What has become clear is just how reliant France are upon Kos’s awareness and pace. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Varane may well become a brilliant player but right now he is being educated by his centre back partner. It was good fortune for France that Sakho was injured and Deschamps was forced to play Kos whom the French blamed for the loss in their first game against Ukraine in the WC play-offs.
Kos is two-footed according to Sagna (and he should know), he has a prodigious leap, is tactically aware but above all is is quick – very quick. Arsene bought him for €9m and after a problematic opening season he has developed into a key player at Arsenal. When he is missing even a fine defender like Vermaelen cannot fully replace him.
Which brings me to this. To be successful one has to have a proper CB partnership – we have one of the finest. Per and Laurent complement each other. They have different skills – Kos is a better tackler, Merts is better in the air, Kos is better with the ball at hois feet and running into midfield, Merts is better at distribution out of defence.
The fact of the matter is that Mertesacker is a better player when Koscielny is by his side and vice versa.
There isn’t a better CB partnership in the World Cup than Arsenal have at the Emirates – we should be proud.
Written by Big Raddy