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Captain fantastic: Why Koscielny still has a future in shambolic Arsenal defence – opinion

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If you were to describe Arsenal’s eventual shortcomings last season as a titanic collapse, you’d be considered extremely harsh for blaming captain Laurent Koscielny for The Gunners crashing into the proverbial iceberg.

It’s easy to blame those in charge when things go wrong, and while Arsenal’s prospective Europa League triumph was meant to crown the most glorious of comebacks for Koscielny, their subsequent failure brought the Frenchman’s immediate future into question.

With the 33-year-old reportedly holding talks earlier this week on that very subject, one could assume that there is a chance that he will not be skippering Arsenal into next season.

But all things considered, Koscielny, if anything, returned to action better than ever following his horror Achilles injury in May 2018.

That said, his return to Premier League action against Southampton did not get his comeback off to the best of starts, perhaps returning too soon as The Gunners’ defensive options were stretched (he partnered Granit Xhaka at centre-back) and they lost their unbeaten run with Koscielny arguably culpable on at least one occasion as they were downed 3-2 on the south coast.

But by the new year, his minutes, form and the club’s results picked up – capped off by scoring in the 2-0 victory over Chelsea, followed by two goals in February as The Gunners’ top-four chase picked up pace.

It was as if he’d never been away. And while Arsenal still crumbled with him as leader, it was often those around him justifiably taking the stick as their top-four challenge and Europa League quest almost instantaneously disappeared.

When Unai Emery comes to evaluate his Arsenal squad, any desire to put the Frenchman up for sale would be brutally unfair on the veteran centre-back.

In any case, with the likes of Shkodran Mustafi arguably more at fault with the dropping of points last season (and the German likely to command a higher sell-on fee), retaining the leadership qualities of Koscielny at the club – even if not as captain – will be of benefit to those who survive the chop should Emery undergo a summer clearout.

Leading the squad from behind the scenes has become so common at Arsenal in recent years, it is bordering on tradition – and with Koscielny previously standing in for the likes of Per Mertesacker – the Frenchman should know how to apply his qualities accordingly should a lesser role at the club evolve.

As one of the few Arsenal players left in the squad who dragged the club out of its barren trophy spell, he’ll be the kind of player others will be looking up to as they strive to get the club back to similar heights in the coming years.

His effectiveness off the pitch could be as valuable as on it, and while he stays fit and hungry, he will always remain an asset to Arsenal Football Club. With a tenth year at The Emirates on the horizon, a chance to leave the club on happier terms than the previous season is the least Laurent Koscielny deserves.

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