Mertescielny or Kosriel vs Mahrdy? Gooners have spoken, loud and clear

And the winner is...

The Gooners have spoken: Arsène Wenger should drop our Big Friendly German and trust Gabriel to partner Laurent Koscielny – the best defender currently at the Club by  a distance, and one of the finest centre-backs to have graced Highbury or the Emirates Stadium.

The Twitter poll launched by this wonderful website is pretty clear: three out of four Gooners out there believe that a partnership between Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny would be the perfect choice to defuse the explosive Leicester City frontline (no disrespect but it still sounds strange to say so…)

Kos and Per

I am a huge fan of the Mertescielny hybrid – and I am still convinced they form the best partnership currently at our disposal: Per Mertesacker’s calmness, positioning and intelligence is the ultimate platform for Laurent Koscielny’s aggressive and quick approach – while the Frenchman’s outstanding athletic skills compensate for the German’s lack of mobility against sharp forwards.

Laurent Koscielny still looks a bit impetuous but he is so good that he can turn events around with his strength or speed, getting out of dangerous situations with a twist, while Per Mertesacker’s flaws can be seen from Mars and are horribly, horribly exposed each time things go wrong, but he’s excellent at not getting into dangerous areas; when they play together the former enhances the latter’s strong points and hides his weaknesses – and the other way around.

Laurent Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny

I believe we are all a bit too quick in forgetting how good Per Mertesacker can be and how good Laurent Koscielny is when he plays next to the German; the Frenchman’s strong tackling and surging runs from the back are often accompanied by a roar from the Emirates Stadium (kind of…) but wouldn’t be as good if there wasn’t Per Mertesacker behind him, to cover; each sliding tackle, each adventurous run with the ball is a potential threat that Gabriel is unable to anticipate or contain.

The former Villarreal man has the potential to be a great defender but looks like Laurent Koscielny in his early days: raw, hasty and damn dangerous.

Unfortunately for him, Laurent Koscielny is not the kind of complementary partner that Per Mertesacker has been for the Frenchman and the Brazilian struggles to adapt – maybe more than expected; Arsène Wenger earlier this year said that Gabriel would play a lot of games this season, but he seems reluctant to play him regularly, which suggests that the manager is not convinced.

That said, I’m curious to see if Arsène Wenger confirms the new partnership at the back and if Gabriel can prove me wrong, for good.

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More mobile, more pacey and more athletic: Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel have all the required ingredients to fortify the area next to Petr Čech and would cope better with the sharp approach of Vardy & Mahrez, compared to the slow Per Mertesacker, whose lack of acceleration – sorry for the euphemism – could be targeted by our rivals; relegation-battlers Chelsea and Diego Costa created the footprint for opponents to exploit our weaknesses, why would we offer such a good chance to the league leaders?

Twenty-five league games and the historical win at Manchester City proved that Leicester City are a great team, able to play some very intricate football, and whose individuals – Kanté, Albrighton, Mahrez and Vardy – know how to hurt opponents, no matter what their pedigree; our obligation is to make sure we don’t give them any advantage and Per Mertesacker’s presence at the back could be perceived as a weakness for the home team, in this context.

Kos Gabriel

Often a like-for-like substitution: but do two ‘likes’ make a wrong?

Although I see the point here, there is a more interesting one in fielding Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny: having such a quick partnership would allow the team to play higher on the pitch, trying to win the ball back in dangerous positions and hit Leicester on the counter while in bad shape; it would be important against our next opponents but could be hugely beneficial during the rest of this campaign, to give impetus to our play and add unpredictability to a side that often looked out of ideas, recently.

This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of this new defensive partnership, because it would enable players like Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck to release their speed and provide Mesut Özil with more runners to pick with his through-balls; it is a risky approach, of course, but with Gabriel’s and Laurent Koscielny’s speed and ability to recover – plus Nacho Monreal’s and Hector Bellerín’s, of course – we might decide to take the gamble and play a more aggressive football, forcing errors in our opponents’ football.

Ector and Nacho

Kos and Gabriel paired with these two, would give Arsenal a very speedy defence.

It sounds like a no-brainer, put like this: more dynamic back-line, more aggressive football, more speed in our game.

It could work, it did when we beat Manchester United with Per Mertesacker at the back so would surely work with a more athletic duo – wouldn’t it?

Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 Responses to Mertescielny or Kosriel vs Mahrdy? Gooners have spoken, loud and clear

  1. Victor Thompson February 10, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    I agree with your assessment of the pros and cons of the Kos/Gabriel pairing for this match. I said so in my last comment and I agree that Gabriel is far from the finished product so I hope that if Wenger picks them for the Leicester game that it is not taken as a licence for Kos to vacate the centre to pursue Vardy to the wings.

    Gabriel needs more games under his belt to improve his covering role and to read the game to plug the gaps which Mertesecker would do. If we act with discipline, we have enough quality in our squad to beat Leicester.

    I would play Ramsey back on the right wing with instructions to cover for Bellerin and to link up on the inside with Sanchez and Ozil. There is enough potential for possession in the final third but it will depend on constant movement by those mentioned above. Giroud has to play because we need him to hustle Huth and co. at the centre of Leicester`s defence. Man City`s small forward line did not do it, so I can`t see Theo having any success either.

    Coquelin has to play. He will steady the midfield and it may be worth partnering him with Elneny. He showed in the Burnley game that he is careful with his choice of pass and doesn`t give much possession away. He is not as impetuous as Flamini ( who is lucky he is not suspended for a red card ) and has the speed to counteract Leicester`s high pressure game.

    Finally, this is a “must win” game – funny how we have so many of them now; and Leicester will know that. Ranieri is a very underrated tactician and he knows that. He will not go gung-ho at Arsenal but he will approach the game in the knowledge that we shall undoubtedly make opportunities for the long ball to Vardi and will plan accordingly. We cannot to give away possession carelessly as we have been doing. Ramsey and the Ox ( if he plays ) in particular should pay careful attention to ensure that they pass to their own players.

    • Malala February 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

      I woould go for Koscieny and Gabriel.Leicester is very physical and very fast.To stop them we must have a no nonsence but fast defence.The midfield must also be very steady to stop those long passes

      • AndreaR February 11, 2016 at 6:15 am #

        Hi Malala, thanks for your comment.
        I see your point and see the importance of two quick centre-backs but I would prefer discipline to speed, hence I would play Mertesacker alongside Koscielny.

        Absolutely agreed re midfield, our men will need to be extra careful and focused.

    • AndreaR February 11, 2016 at 6:13 am #

      Spot on, Victor, on both Elneny and Ramsey: the Egyptian is very careful on the ball and could prove a good addition to a team that struggles to move the ball away from its third; Rambo should not be limited to the central berth, where he has to work a lot defensively and be more disciplined in his positioning and runs – and although he did very well against Bournemouth, I would prefer to see him roaming around the pitch from the RW position, helping Bellerín off the ball and combining with Özil and Giroud through the middle.

      We’ll see what AW choices will be by I’d bet on Per and Koscielny at the back, with Ramsey and Coquelin in midfield.The only change could be Joel Campbell at RW, for the reason you are mentioning in your comment: avoid any risk of giving the ball away cheaply.

      Thanks for your comment

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