Arsenal’s season looks set to be determined by an FA Cup fifth round clash with non-league Sutton United on Monday night.
That’s because Arsene Wenger’s men are all but out of the Premier League title race, trailing leaders Chelsea by ten points with 13 games to go, and are all but out of the Champions League after losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich in midweek.
That leaves only the FA Cup as a genuine silverware opportunity for the Gunners this term, but they’ll have to get past Paul Doswell’s side first, who have already knocked out EFL sides Cheltenham Town, AFC Wimbledon, and Leeds United en route to the last 16.
Other than the FA Cup, Wenger’s men can only focus on finishing in the top four for a 21st successive season, and with just a one point lead over fifth place Liverpool, who themselves are just a point ahead of Manchester United, the race for Champions League qualification is going down to the wire.
One thing the Gunners may have to rely on between now and May is their defence, which has conceded 28 goals in the league this season, more than the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, and United.
Nonetheless, there have been some impressive performers in the Arsenal backline this term, but who has been their best defender after 25 Premier League games?
Well, as much as new signing Shkodran Mustafi has settled well, it’s no surprise that captain Laurent Koscielny tops this list.
The French international, who played more times for his country in 2016 than in the two preceding years combined, took a while to adapt to English football when he first moved to Arsenal in 2010, but is now one of the best centre-backs in the division.
And this season has once again been an impressive one from the 31-year-old, who averages the least fouls per game of any of the Gunners defenders (0.6), and has cleared the ball more often than fellow centre-half Mustafi, 6.2 to the German’s 4.9.
However, although this may seem like Koscielny is more inclined to clear his lines than build from the back, the French defender in fact has a higher pass success rate than Mustafi this term by quite some distance, with Koscielny at 87.7%, and Mustafi at 82.8%.
Mustafi may well have averaged more tackles per game than Koscielny, 2.1 to the latter’s 1.8, the Frenchman is more successful than the 24-year-old, with Koscielny winning 57% of his in comparison to Mustafi’s 50%, which is probably why the German has committed more fouls than Koscielny at 25 to just 15.
Clearly, both defenders have had decent seasons, but there’s no doubt that Koscielny is more solid and more reliable than Mustafi, who too often gives away needless fouls and doesn’t always make the right decision.
Koscielny may well have struggled against Chelsea the other week, but Wednesday night highlighted how much they need his defensive capabilities and his leadership skills, as Arsenal fell apart when he was substituted due to injury.