Arsenal have had some very strong central defensive pairings over the years, perhaps more notably back in the days when that was seen as the strongest part of our game, which gave rise to the famous chant of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’. Even in the two decades with Arsene Wenger as our manager, with the Frenchman giving the Gunners into a much more attack minded, exciting and creative type of football.
As recently as two years ago people were lauding the partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, as there was a period when Arsenal never seemed to lose when they both completed 90 minutes of a match. That pairing, like many others, was the blend of two quite different types of defender, with each complementing the attributes and making up for the failings of the other.
Our current pairing of Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny is much different though, as the summer signing from Valencia explains in a report on the Arsenal website, as they are both players that like to defend on the front foot and are very similar in their approach to the game. Instead of giving the defence less balance, however, the Germany international believes this makes us stronger.
Mustafi explained, “We are quite similar in the style of playing, he understands things that I do, I understand things that he does. If you play with someone who understands football in a different way, it’s even more difficult to get on with.
“But if you have someone next to you that sees football the same way you see football and that you think football, I think it’s easier to play with.
“I’m happy to have someone next to me that my understanding is good with, but I think it’s not about me and Lolo, I think it’s about all of the team.
“I think we are doing really good in the last games and obviously that gives us less to do at the back, so the few things we have to do, I think we dealt with it well. But I think the credit goes to the whole team.”
It is hard to argue with this theory of having two central defenders with the same dynamic being good for the team when they are playing so well and conceding so few goals. I would certainly not like to be in the shoes of Mertesacker, Gabriel and Rob Holding who are trying to get some first team football head of the ‘Kostafi’ duo.
Are we seeing the heart of our back four for years to come?