23 January 2015

Is Koscielny the best defender in the Prem? Vote him in!

Kos. Kozza. Boscielny. We all know him, many of us love him. He wants his own song (I've suggested borrowing from Gogol Bordello's "Start Wearing Purple", in homage to Kos's contributions to saving an accordion factory. He's been vital to our fortunes, whether it's been through bossing people of a certain persuasion or scoring crucial goals late in matches. In the current squad, he is without doubt or best defender. Where, however, does he rank in the Prem? Is he in the top five? ESPN seems to think so, and I don't mind encouraging Gooners to engage in a little ballot-stuffing. First, though, let me make my case for why this is more than shameless hucksterism on behalf of a beloved Gunner...

Arsenal's record of conceding goals would seem to dent Koscielny's reputation; after all, we've dropped more points from winning positions than any other club in the Prem, and we've conceded more goals than anyone else in the top five. Some of this is surely attributable to Koscielny, marring his candidacy in ESPN's poll. However, I'd like to offer two factors for consideration: one, how much worse might it have been without Koscielny? In the 12 matches he's played, we've conceded just thirteen goals while keeping eight clean sheets. In the 16 that he's missed, we've conceded 22—dropping points at home to Southampton, Hull, Anderlecht, and Man U and away to Everton, Swansea, Stoke, and Liverpool. This is not to say that we'd've definitely kept all or even most of those points, but the correlation between his absence and our record is compelling.

The second factor is our tactics—or lack thereof. Up until recently, we've overcommitted on the attack, sending almost everyone forward, leaving Koscielny and Mertesacker all alone, and let's face it—Koscielny frequently ends up carrying far more of the load than his partner. Therefore, as an individual player, Kos shoulders a far larger burden than do his competitors for the title of Best Defender in the Prem. The other men—Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, and Pablo Zabaleta—are all excellent defenders, but it's telling that, of the four named, there's the pairing of Terry and Ivanoic, the inclusion of Zabaleta (an attack-minded right back), and then Kos. Terry and Ivanovic have the advantage of playing in a system that offers far-more defensive stability and support as Mourinho often prefers to sit back, park the bus, and defend in numbers. Each squad has dealt with a bit of instability, but Kos might deserve an award simply for how many different defenders he's had to play alongside in the last two seasons. The chemistry bred of consistency just hasn't been available to him to the same degree that it's been to the others listed.

Setting aside statistics, consider those factors. Contrasted with the others, Kos may stand alone, literally and figuratively. His role for his club differs markedly from the roles those other men play, and, as a one-off individual consideration of how important his performance is to his squad, it's hard to resist the conclusion that he does deserve to win this informal poll.

What do you think? Willing to vote for Kos? Here's a link to the poll. I hope you'll give our man a boost. As of this writing, Kos was in the lead, earning 30% of the vote to Terry's 23%.

UPDATE: as of 3pm Chicago-time (9pm London), Kos had extended his lead to 36%-20% over Terry.