Here, in the second instalment of a five part series by Jeffrey Gamby Boulger, GFFN lists our top 5 outfield Frenchmen in the Premier League this season in the build-up to EURO 2016. In 4th, Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny
4: Laurent Koscielny
While some have shared the spotlight and spoils of this frenetic Premier League season, others have been left to quietly and steadily go about their business in the background.
As certain individuals wow us with fantastic goals, a feast of assists or breath-taking individual performances, the 4th entry on our list goes to centre back Laurent Koscielny for another consistent and unheralded season for Arsenal.
The Frenchman never attracted the headlines this season in his role as the defensive rock in Arsène Wenger’s side, a role he performs with subtle aplomb.
Nevertheless, he remains an integral player in an Arsenal side that despite heavy criticism at their apparent staleness, still managed to finish 2nd in one of the most hectic campaigns in recent times, guaranteeing, yet again, the riches and glamour of Champion’s League football; an achievement that cannot be overlooked.
The common perception amongst critics and fans is that whilst Koscielny has often looked every bit the supreme archetypal Premier League defender, with pace, awareness, tactical intelligence and an aptitude for the lost art of tackling, he remains just short of true world class ability, and comparatively speaking actually enjoyed a better campaign last season based on performances alone.
In his favour however, is the fact that football itself seldom follows normal logic. While he may not have hit the levels of excellence he set himself last season, his performances must be critiqued in the broader context of what his team was still able to achieve as he marshalled the Arsenal backline.
Indeed, the Frenchman has had to deal with an inconsistent centre back paring for much of the season, finding himself partnered with both a declining Per Mertesacker, with his previous powers deserting him, and Brazilian Gabriel Paulista, a more combustible counterpart still unable to communicate fluently in proper English.
When one considers that communication is arguably the single greatest asset a defender can have in his repertoire, it is understandable then why Koscielny would find himself impaired this season by such partnerships in the heart of the Gunners defence.
It must also be noted that the Gunners lost midfield defensive shield and compatriot Francis Coquelin for large parts of the season, leaving Koscielny particularly isolated in his defensive duties and notably more vulnerable than last season.
Certainly, he may not have been at his impeccable best this campaign, but this was due in no small part to mitigating circumstances rather than any serious failings from Koscielny himself.
It is no secret that Arsenal require, make that desperately cry out for, a leader in their ranks; a midfield enforcer or a dominating presence in their backline.
And while no-one could fault him for not having the type of brash and commanding personality of the great Arsenal defenders of old – and indeed it is his calm demeanour that often separates him as such a reliable defender – the Frenchman must assume those responsibilities if he is to ever reach true world class status.
And yet, despite these setbacks, the Frenchman was still the best performing Arsenal defender according to Whoscored.com, and was bettered by only Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Leicester’s Christian Fuchs across the entire league.
With three Man of the Match awards, 3.2 aerial duels won per game and an average rating of 7.48 for the season, the defender was also able to score a respectable four goals.
And so while he may not have been able to hit the heights of previous campaigns, with a successful pass completion rate of 87.1%, Koscielny still provided Arsenal with the sort of calmness and quiet authority to lift them to 2nd in the table and into 4th place on our list.
Top 5 Premier League Frenchmen 2015/16 | 5. Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)