For two consecutive seasons, Laurent Koscielny has proved to be the difference between Arsenal finishing in the top 4 and making the Champions League, and an end result that would have been disastrous for the club, and probably for Arsene Wenger as well.
So in the tense 1-0 win over Newcastle, a team that had nothing to play for but still had its moments to try and play party spoiler, it was the French centre back in his best season for Arsenal that was enough. There was also last season, when Arsenal needed a win against West Brom to remain in the Champions League club, and Koscielny was the one to score the winner in their 3-2 victory.
It’s been almost an entire season since Koscielny last scored, finishing with two goals in the Premier League to his name, after scoring very early in the campaign during a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Back then, it looked like Arsenal had the kind of defense and offensive efficiency that might help them end up as title contenders, but things kind of fell apart along the way, at least for a little while.
Koscielny was one of the reasons Arsenal didn’t look good during their bad stretch in the middle of the season. The French centre back eventually will be remembered for improving and becoming a much more consistent performer, but these ray of lights came after some dark, disappointing performances. His decision making was erratic, and he had this tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time more often than not.
Arsenal looked a lot more confident over the last couple of months, as the Koscielny – Mertesacker combination worked quite well, conceding only 2 goals in their finals six matches, not losing even once. The Gunners needed that kind of finish to barely make it in to the Champions League, and still Arsene Wenger is credited for some incredible work. It’s weird how expectations and standards change, but no one at the club is denying that their primary goal is remaining in the Champions League, nothing more.
Is this season a success or not? If the ownership is happy by keeping their main revenue stream intact, I guess you can call it a job well done. Theo Walcott showed everything about why he’s a great player and still not considered a true striker, by making a mess of the Newcastle defense but unable to finish the job that would have saved a few extra painful heartbeats for everyone involved until the referee blew the final whistle.
Arsenal did just about enough. Arsene Wenger looked across the team he was using to secure the extension of his legacy in North London, and saw too few players he knew he feels confident about for next season; confident in their ability to be more than a fourth place team, or a fringe and unimportant side in the Champions League. The question is – will he have the money, and the will to use it, in order to give this squad the major overhaul it needs?