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August 2021

The case for Koscielny as a defensive midfielder



For most of the past year now, whenever I see Arsenal play, we close down the opposition quickly enough but still do not get possession back as fast as we should, as fast as Barcelona do it.

For most of the past year whenever I see Koscielny play at Centre Back I wonder how well he would do at Central defensive midfield.

Before going any further let me tell all of you that I am a big fan of Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny. So I have a tendency to be biased about seeing them play together without altering the system already in place at Arsenal.

Some people might wonder what’s wrong with a Juventus style back three and for them all I can say is changing to a new defensive line up in the middle of the season is not exactly easy and doesn’t promise instant results. What I propose is that we tweak our system to have a high pressing CDM in front of the centre backs.

So what does Koscielny give to the side? What are his strengths? And how can we realise his potential to the fullest?

Koscielny is by far the quickest centre back we have at Arsenal, equally adept at using both his feet and an excellent reader of the game. If it wasn’t for all of us knowing beforehand that he is a defender we might have viewed a person with the above qualities as a Defensive midfielder.

If we look at his game further he has a propensity to make long runs with the ball which often leaves us gaping at the back. If he plays in midfield even if he leaves his post once or twice a game it should not be as fatal as a cb leaving his position.

Also he is an average header but is excellent at reading the game and often does his damage before the attacker is able to control the ball. His superior speed and greater technique resulted in the likes of messi struggling at the Emirates. He does make some rash tackles that can result in penalties and hopefully we can admonish them to being outside the box when he plays at Defensive midfielder.

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Also he isn’t exactly a powerhouse but so isn’t Xabi Alonso or Sergio Busquets. He has the sort of close control needed to make it big in midfield and that dash of aggression missing from our defensive set up ( Vermaelen ever since being promoted to Club Captain has been subdued).

I cannot stress enough that the key to being a great defensive midfielder is being a good reader of the game, great stamina and the ability to make well timed challenges.

Koscielny has all that and more. Also playing him at CDM can free up both our full backs and they can bomb forward at each opportunity.  If we are keen on playing Gibbs and Jenkinson together this can be our way of ensuring defensive stability. Given that Diaby is injured most of the time, Sagna’s form has dipped remarkably and we did not buy a defensive midfielder in the recently concluded transfer window, this is well worth a shot.. What say Gooners?????

P.S. Nacho Monreal is a good buy. Not just because he shares my nickname but because I think he his dependable, dedicated and in the prime of his life.


The books…

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61 comments to The case for Koscielny as a defensive midfielder

  • Stocksy81

    Great article, Nacho. To me, that would be a very sensible idea. Having Kos in a DM role would, as you said, give him the benefits of defending (as he is a defender) and as a sort-of attacker. He enjoys going forward. Just like TV5. If TV5 went forward, Kos could drop back into the hole and would have a full defense 🙂 BUT, I wonder if Wenger has thought of the idea. He’s abit of a cheap skate when it comes to buying players, so why not train one of our current players into another position? It makes alot of sense if he can’t find the “perfect player”. It’s worked in the past eg. Henry, Arteta, Walcott – just to name a few. So, Wenger, If by chance you read anything like this, start training Kos and turn him into the DM we so desperatley need! Again, brill article!!

  • Pat Rice

    First of all your article is flawed when you say we close down the opposition quickly. We actually don’t, hell we either sometimes don’t close them down properly or don’t close them down all together, that’s the main reason we concede so many avoidable goals.

    Against Chelsea our midfield just watched them pass the ball around or hold on to it while their other players made runs into good positions.

    If you wana see a team closing down the oppostion well besides barca, you should see Swansea(in form) and Dortmund.

    The games where we did close down quickly, were the games we won or drew, yes a dm is important(and koscielny would be good there) but a dm can’t close down players alone while the likes of walcott, rosicky, santi etc just wait for the ball.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting suggestion…why not? We know Wenger wanted to sign Verthongen, but according to the player, he declined (might to the delight of the Spud media) as Wenger only wanted to play him in MF, so why not do the same with Kos? He certainly has some of the qualities. Having said that, think the same could apply to TV5. If we are to assume TV and Per are our first choice, surely a player as good as Kos, and one who reportedly resisted Barca’s interest to sign an extension with us deserves a lot of game time. Agree with your assessment of Monreal, sounds like he is class, Gibbs can learn a lot from him. But, if Gibbs had to get injured, I am glad it was before the transfer deadline, I do wonder if the club may have left Monreal until the summer otherwise, with possibly dire consequences. As for our other LB, would like to see Santos used further forward as an impact sub…he will do damage in such a role, may get his confidence and maybe the support of some fans back if he does well. But never a defender!

  • Richard

    Aw has a history of playing players out of position so why not.
    As for the previous comment re Santos, I personally wouldn’t even let him hand out the oranges at half time!

  • nkusuny

    Good post! But Arsene is good at converting players in different position, if koscielny is good at Dm role Wenger would have used him before now.

  • halithriz

    I couldn’t agree more, well pointed out mate.

  • I have thought Kos would make a great defensive midfielder, and I think from memory that was where he started in France.
    I agree, that such a system would also give more attacking potential from the fullbacks.

  • nachiketa

    Come on lads… santos is crucial to our CL chances this season. let us not discourage him before the battle. all of us have our concerns about him but lets hope he is able to quell some of them in the games against Bayern.

  • Stocksy81

    Santos isn’t everyones cup of tea, but not every player is. I think he will become an impact sub when/if he comes on. When he plays bad, everyone slates him. But, when he plays well like he did against Chelski when we wiped the floor with them, he played a blinding game. It’s just that his confidence is so damaged, that he just makes mistake after mistake cos everyone is expecting it and the pressure is getting to him. He’s even thought about a move away from The Emirates. Eboue was the same when he was moved further up the field. Alot of mistakes and look what happened to him? Santos should have a go at LM. But that’s my opinion. Let’s have a team where everyone in the team can play multiple positions. Lol.

  • Arsenal1Again

    Because these days Wenger only likes trying to convert Attacking Central Midfielders into Attacking Defensive Midfielders. This is so they can support our Attacking Centre-Half with overlapping play and forget altogether they’re supposed to be defensive players.

    He had some luck with defenders once with Emannuel Petit, Flamini and Alex Song, even tried putting Nutty Boy there a few times, but these days it’s attacking CM’s only.

    I have a better idea. Buy a skilled, experienced, proven Defensive midfielder instead of converting a skilled central defender.

  • docbrody

    How about Vermelion instead. His distribution is better and I’d rather Kos’s pace temain at the back where he can cover for Mertesacker.

  • SouthernGunner

    Only problem is we haven’t much cover for centreback if Kos plays every game in DM. We’re a little short in central defence area & all it takes is one or two untimely injuries/suspencions/illnesses for us to be left short in numbers & having to utilise Squillaci/Miguel. Do like Kos though and think who could do a job in midfield if needed.

  • bjtgooner

    An interesting proposal. Kos is a very good center back and if he is quicker than the Verminator, it might be better keeping him alongside Mert and play the Verminator as defensive midfielder. Also, TV5 does have a cannonball shot, which we could do with seeing more of.

  • SouthernGunner

    Actually thought for a while that Djourou could have been played in this position before he went on loan. He used to play there in his younger days.

  • John

    I think Vermanlen and Kozzer could play there its something that is a option for us but with Arteta back Coquelin, Ramsey and Daiby cant see this happening anytime soon.

  • don

    perfect fit! and he’s the hardest defender at arsenal to beat one on one.the main problem is AW,arsenal need a manager who’ll maximise on players strengths and can improvise in times of injuries and fatigue,but not AW,he’s arrogant,predictable and i strongly believe a dictator,because if we all can see from koscielnys’ qualities he’s capable,why not him? to a point that he’d rather play ramsey as DM.he also played giroud all games as striker while still struggling to adopt,while walcott was on the bench,while winning games and points were at stake.walcott would have won as three or four games out of the numerous chances giroud wasted.that is a solid 10 to 12 points,we would have still been in contention.we need to change management.AW must just respectfully leave at the end of the season,irrespective of whether we finish top four or not.

  • arsenal4life jamaica

    TV5 is the ideal candidate, I watch the match with France and Kos didn’t play so well in there. I believe that TV5 would be aggressive would cover more ground sensibly than Kos. I always rated Kos, he’s me favourite defender but I beleive his strength lies in defence. TV5 has cannon left and image that coupled with Pod and Santi and even the ox, now my friend that his gunner. Teams will want to mark closer opening up the space for our fowards. Ohh Girourd has a great shot too, just haven’t get the chance utilize it as yet. Thats why think wenger want Hummel to play TV5 there in CM in the aggressive games.

  • nicky

    Agree entirely with your sentiments regarding Santos.
    At all costs he mustn’t go the same route as Denilson.
    Santos will only be 30 next month, a Brazilian international at left back or left wing. He hasn’t been two years at Arsenal, his contract is until 2015 at least and by anyone’s standard he cannot have become a totally failed professional footballer overnight.
    OK, so far he hasn’t performed well in his defensive duties as a fullback but he’s not afraid to shoot, he’s quick going forward, passes well and I would expect Arsene to use him at least in the CL games to come. I could well see him subbing on the left side of midfield or even further forward. He must surely still have a place in Arsenal’s immediate

  • Mandy Dodd

    Nachiketa, think Vermaelen, if fit will play LB against Bayern, Santos vs Robben….scary. But as a winger or forawrd sub, a different matter

  • John

    Nicky Santos is poor end of and should be shipped out for whatever we can get.

    It was a terrible buy like Squallci, Chamakh and Arshivan.

    I buying any player there’s a chnace is wont work for various reasons in Santos case he was bought as a LB who cannot defend so this was never ending well.

    Trick is to spot it quick accept it and get rid… take a loss and move on. Not drag it out hoping things will get better while paying good wages on players who just make up the numbers as oppose to pressing the first eleven.

    Jenikson is great competition for Sagna we need that type of competition all over the squad the fear of not playing week in week out if your not performing keeps players on there toes and then tend to give there all in games.

  • abdulquadri

    yes why not,good decision go ahead

  • Completely agree with the ideia of playing KOS as a DM. But i think we will be very glad with le coq.. He is a great player. Very good on defense and has ability to dribble and assists. He receives the ball and tries to pass forward.. Not just Backwards as the others.. I put my faith on him. Kos will fit perfect on that position too. Quick and has a good pass.
    My worry is on LB …. Verm showed very bad appearances as a LB this season… We should put him there… Not because he his a great Lb…. Just because santos shows no commitment and is visually fat. This is a classic type of lazy footballers here in brazil. They have great technique and skills… But have no commitment… They believe so much in their ability that they forget to get in shape…..

  • nicky

    With respect, I feel you are far too dismissive of Santos. A player who is capped for a country like Brazil cannot surely be regarded as “poor”.
    While I have already said that his defensive duties have been lacking (in the relatively few games he has played,) to cast the guy aside IN ANY CAPACITY before the ink on his contract has dried is, in my view, foolhardy to say the least.

  • that’s when we can make a strong defence by using Kos as a DM

  • The font

    Santos has his use scored the goal that put us in the champs league this year do not underestimate the skills he brings to the team not the greatest left back but lots of attributes. Going forward I think t.v5 will play first leg at emirates with kos in the middle if they score he will defiantly get the nod for the second. Leg

  • Igburu samuel

    kosielny is more physical than his technical ability, our pattern of football suggest that while in any position in the midfield you must have a considerable creative and technical ability atleast eg song or why do you we send denilson on loan ?

  • andreas

    i was thinking about this for a long time..but id rather see vermaelen play as a defensive midfielder..he has a great powerful shot and i think he could do a great job in front of the back four..i also think that koscielny is one of the best centrebacks in the pl and vermaelen has been a bit inconsistent so i would love it if wenger tries this out though i doubt it

  • Am

    No doubt that he and TV5 would do good in midfield, but being centre backs they may have a tendency to drop deeper naturally when defending, thus getting in the centre backs way.

    At times where we are under pressure they may lose their position and end up too deep.

  • Zohair

    There is something i do not understand. We bought Nacho Monreal (who btw is an excellent purchase in my opinion) but he happens to be cup tied in cl. With gibbs definitely missing the first leg and probably the second also, does this mean that we will be playing santos in the cl against bayern on the left where he will be facing robben or muller or ribery? what chances must we have if that happens? also we could play tv at lb but he has hardly covered himself in glory in that position and that would only be possible if we have both mert and kos fit for the game.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Off topic but it looks that we will have one more striker for our next game available. Ivory coast is out of the ANC

  • bob

    Oh, but you forgot to add, Gervinho, like a whole new signing! 🙂

    “I have a better idea. Buy a skilled, experienced, proven Defensive midfielder instead of converting a skilled central defender.”
    Way too sensible. No, the point is to sell off that person in order to achieve zero net transfer balance and win the Bean Counters Trophy and christmas bonuses for the boys in the suits.

  • happi.soul

    I support the idea that Kos plays as a CDM. He is good, committed, he as pace, stamina, height. Although he might need to improve especially on his vision, so as to complete. Thanks

  • Rufusstan

    In theory it could work. Both Koscielny and Vermaelen have the skill, speed and technique to made the change. There are 2 practical problems that mean I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future.

    The first, obvious is that we are already light in Center backs so cannot afford to lose one to the conversion.

    More importantly, we’d actually need a change to our system for this to happen. Even keeping players like Song in mind, we have not played with a straight DM in quite a few years. In the 4-3-3, the midfield works to a great extent by rotating the roles. It gives us the flexibility and uncertainty that helps the attack (and probably contributes to our defensive frailties).

    If you think back over the games this season, how often do you see Cazorla or Wilshere the most withdrawn midfielder. Even last season Song was often criticized for being too attack-minded, but that was probably part of his job.

    What that means is that either the new DM fits into that system, and while both are pretty technically gifted, neither could take on the more forward responsibilities. Or alternatively, they take the traditional patrolling in front of the back 4 role of a DM, which forces our system to change, and restricts our attacking options. I don’t see the last alternative happening.

  • Khalil

    What a great article. But I think either TV5 or Kos could play as a CDM, the only problem being that we would be short of CBs…I have watched a few Toulouse games and I have to say, Capoue is a monster. Hard to miss, if you don’t notice him terrorising everybody, you’re not watching Toulouse. I think we would need someone like that, someone with a massive fire in their belly (like Jack) and the raw power to scare anyone (like Vieira).

    Monreal was a fantastic acquisition and he had a solid debut, I just hope it continues for a long time to come.

  • good idea to try with Kos. but if is not an arsene’s idea it wonn’t happen

  • Adam

    Im not to keen on either playing there, as I believe they will give too many freekicks away in dangerous areas. Both have a tendency to nip in, and that tendency will grow even more when they are not the last man.

    An easier way around things is to get the current midfielders and forwards to win the ball back.

  • Roland C Rozario

    Yup ….. without a doubt Kos should be the CDM as he really ‘tackles robustly’ and away from the box will be ideal for a person with his skills!
    Wenger should give him the opportunity in that role and see the outcome of the complete footballing experience he may just bring to Arsenal and his team mates!

  • sperez

    There’s a reason André Santos has been bashed by Brasilians since he was called up to the Brazilian national team.
    He played well supporting the attack at Corinthians for 2 years (one season in Brazilian second division) but he was known as a terrible defender.
    Wenger doesn’t have a clue about defence. If he knew a little about this, he would never sign Santos.
    Doesn’t matter his attacking skills(not so good anymore), the primary role of a full-back is to defend and Santos is a massive embarrassment defending.
    Santos is always caught out of position and he can’t recover on time with his snail pace. Acres of space for opposition players.

  • reo

    Arsenal need a passer with defensive abilities. Kos’ passing is average by best.

  • kofi busia

    You have said it right koscielny is quick attacking player . He can nutralise the opponent midfield easily. He is serious when playing the game. B’cos of the forceful nature of his game when he plays at CD if he do not concede a penalty he scores against his team.

  • Jules78

    Vermaelen would be perfect in front on the defence IMO. Also think Koz/Per is our better centerback partnership. Having the three of them on the pitch would be good in any case, we’ve been shaky against the bigger teams at the start of games and sczezny doesn’t have the assurance needed to give his defence confidence and keep it well organised. AW must have thought of it since he tried to bring in Mapou last summer. I don’t think we’ll see any change there until pre-season unless someone gets injured though.

  • nicky

    To all those who advocate buying and selling various players in order to aid our campaigns, can I remind them that there will be NO deals either way for the rest of this season(at least not until someone introduces an Easter Window).
    On the subject of our back division for the immediate CL future, while we have Sagna and Jenkinson on the right side, the left side looks a bit bare with Monreal ineligible, Gibbs injured for a few weeks and Santos out of present favour. There is Miquel of course as well as a possible re-jigging of Vermaelen and Koscielny. The defensive part of our midfield may well have to play out of their skins in order to compensate.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I wonder on Fufa13 or whatever those games are called these days if you can buy players during the whole season or not? It could explain a few things…

  • Grande

    I seem to agree with the majority. it’s worth trying.

  • GunnerPete

    Are you kidding ? This is a carbon copy of the email I sent you two years ago in which I suggested Kossy for DMF, and got slaughtered. We have needed a wall in front of our leaky defence and K would be that wall. I also suggested that people open the eyes re; Sagna on the same email…..I said” I have just watched us lose to Man U & Chelski and in both games Sagna was guilty of being out of position”. This season he is even worse and responsible for at least three defeats. Jenkinson is raw but better in every way that Sagna…The next target is Szceszney….he is no better that a reserve goalie and as per usual AW lets a crap club like Stoke buy England next top man for sod all. Finall, if Arsene does not go back to Southampton with a massive bid for Shaw then he should be out the door immediately.

  • lopez

    He has played as defensive midfielder in the past when he was a Lorient, he able to play in 4 positions: left back,right back,defensive midfield and his main one centre back…i think he could do a great job in the centre of the field and also it would give him more playing time but if we do that then who would you rotate as a centre back when players get tired?

  • nicky

    You weren’t slaughtered two years ago by me, mate. I agreed with you then and now with most of what you say.
    Your views on Sagna AND Czszency are mine as well but I don’t know enough about Shaw. Roll on the next Window…

  • deabby

    i think kossy for DFM will be good he knows how to read game and can make use of the ball.

  • Gerry Lennon

    I also think it may be worth a try. I even suggested it recently. But, and it is a big ‘BUT’ What game are you going to try this experiment? Blackburn in the FA Cup when we are so close to that trip to Wembley? The CL match against Bayern? The next league game against Sunderland, perhaps, if we only wanted a draw?
    What I am getting at is, to get players to change mentality mid season is not that easy, so there are risks involved. It took TV5 a couple of games to get the LB positioning right. Do you really want to risk that in the middle of the park when points are at a premium?
    I think the best you could hope to do, if it did not end up with two players going for the same ball, is to play with 3 backs but have Kos slightly more advanced? That, however, is not a DM role.
    Perhaps more crucially, you will lose a midfielder. So do you play Kos instead of Arteta or Diaby? Do you wait for the next injury to either and get Kos to gel with whoever is the least advanced MF, either of the above and you lose out with Jack or Cazorla in the advanced role? Instead of both, so with Jack doing the box to box role and keep Cazorla in the advanced position? Or simply change formation to accommodate Kos and lose a striker?
    As someone said earlier, it looks good on paper … ?

  • Alan

    I’d be very surprised if the thought hadn’t already crossed Wengers mind. After all, new spud Vertongen claims Wenger wanted to sign him as a DM. Wenger works with the Kosh every day and he knows his players better than anyone. Since he’s never looked like pushing the Kosh forward it’s probably not a very good idea and bit of a mute point.

  • Modilati Gustav Mahlare

    I agree with Nachiketa’s suggestion of shifting Koschienlny to a defesive midfielder’s position. With proper training and guidance he can adapt well. The back 4 may be reinforced and other guys will have a chance of “penetrating” the opposition. One question – who will assist Arsenal in the event of an injury ? He has just deputised Vermaelen. If we did not have him, we would have been in trouble.
    He is worth trying and a cheap option – This will save Arsenal from going into the tranfer market.

  • Winner

    What position did he play in the Asian tour? I think it is a very good idea. However, does he have the engine to run up and down the pitch for 90 min? I have always wondered when Wenger would experiment with that. He may be better at protecting the back four but when all things are taken into consideration is he better than Arteta, Diaby or Coquelin in that role? I do not have the answers but I would love to see that experiment some day soon.

  • Esli

    A good experiment I would say. But I have reservations about his pass completion from such a position as well as his ability to distribute the ball effectively.

  • Strus

    We have only 3 good centre backs. So pushing up JK is a bad idea unless we buy another CB or even 2 in summer. Is there better idea than to buy a superior DM like E. Capoue?
    BTW I think that Vermaelen is more suited to DM role. His positionng is weaker than Per’s and Laurent’s.

  • Kal

    I’ve always had the opinion that a CDM in a 4-3-3 should always be able to play a CB role. So when the wing backs bomb forward, we have 3 players physically capable of stopping a strong CF from countering us. Far too easily have we seen Arteta or Ramsey pushed aside / shrugged off / be outmuscled in a tackle as someone surges through the middle on the counter.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Nachiketa his article was mentioned on by the way. If you see Koscielny playing DM you know where Wenger got the idea 🙂 🙂

  • Dgeol

    Surely that is worth experimenting.
    I have always wondered how Gibbs would perform as a winger or as CDM. He has the technique to go past opponents and his passing and crossing are good. With Arteta, Rosicky and Arshavin aging, Gibbs, IMHO, would be a better Winger or CDM than he is a defender. With Nacho, at least from his first game, adapting to the position well, Wenger can do this experiment when Gibbs comes back in a fortnight or so without any risks.

  • Ben Oboe

    Koschienlny makes me nervous as a centre back; I don’t think he is a natural defender. On the other hand, he is fast and he does like to take on players – often at the cost of playing himself out of postion in his present role. I think he could make a great contribution playing in front of the back four, like Pepe has been used at Madrid.

  • Alfa,
    Wenger should experiment it and I think he can perfoem the role of DM very wel.That will help us most expecially during big games.