Arsenal fans will take encouragement from the performance their side put in for the majority of Saturday’s clash with Manchester United, even if the 3-1 defeat was a dent to the club’s ambitions this season.
In the end, lapses in concentration and poor distribution from the back cost the Gunners dearly – and certainly not for the first time in recent history.
To lose two sloppy goals in the first 11 minutes of such an important Premier League fixture will drive Arsene Wenger to despair and viewing the highlights to pinpoint where it all went wrong will be tough to watch.
While the usually assured Shkodran Mustafi was clearly at fault for United’s second, Laurent Koscielny’s blunder for the opening goal was the start of a horror ten minutes for the Arsenal side.
The whole defence must burden blame for the slow start but question marks over Koscielny and his importance to the Gunners team continue be raised.
The France international has been a loyal servant to Arsenal since joining the club from Lorient in 2010 and when in his pomp, the centre-half was the imposing defender that the side needed.
So many times in the past Koscielny has been the leading light for the Gunners in terms of his attitude, commitment and physicality, with the main issue being a lack of others willing to follow in his footsteps.
However, with the Frenchman now 32, it is hard to deny that he is starting to look past his best.
Koscielny’s coughing up of possession that ultimately led to Antonio Valencia scoring for United will not have been a shock to the Arsenal fans, with the France international’s mistakes starting to become more commonplace over the last 12 months.
With Wenger switching to a three-man defence since the end of last season, the veteran is all-but assured of a starting berth when fit and available – but this is more down to a lack of competition for places rather than his worth to the team.
Nacho Monreal has fitted in well centrally despite being a left-back by trade, Mustafi is an important man for the club while Rob Holding has shown glimpses of his ability – but is still a raw talent.
As such, Arsenal’s reliance on Koscielny needs to stop.
The France international can certainly still do a job for the club but a side looking to compete for silverware, such as the Gunners are, need an assertive centre-half in the prime of his career to be the figurehead of the side’s defence.
Wenger and the club hierarchy really should have identified this in the summer but moving forward, signing a top-notch central defender should be a massive priority.