Arsenal: Laurent Koscielny brings intriguing versatility

Laurent Koscielny could be in line to return against Stoke City. The Frenchman, along with the many other central defenders available, brings an intriguing versatility to the Arsenal defence.

Arsenal are in the hunt for a top four position. After successive wins over Manchester United and Southampton, they now sit three points behind Manchester City and four points behind Liverpool, with a game in hand over the latter and momentum on their side.

Their recent success, although branded via results and not particularly inspiring performances, have come as a result of Arsene Wenger altering his system. Wenger is notoriously stubborn, rarely wavering from the 4-2-3-1 formation that the recent years have been anchored upon.

And yet, the three-at-the-back approach has worked well, and with a number of different personnel combinations across the trio. It is this adaptability that has served the Gunners so well throughout their matches in recent weeks.

The latest to miss out on the starting line-up was Laurent Koscielny. Suffering a hamstring strain from tiredness, Wenger chose not to risk his most accomplished defender. However, he could be ready for the weekend’s trip to Stoke City. Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Wenger revealed that there is a ‘small chance’ that he could be available for selection:

“He’s got a small chance. He was not far. He practised on Tuesday but it was risky to play him at Southampton. He’s got a small chance. He was not far. He practised on Tuesday but it was risky to play him at Southampton.”

The three that played against Southampton were Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding. It was the first start for the former in this new system after suffering from his own injury issues, while both Monreal and Holding have excelled in the two wide centre-half roles, showing the athleticism and the speed to be dragged into wide areas when needed, and the positional discipline and nous to remain connected with one another.

The return of Koscielny offers Wenger the possibility of changing his line-up quite drastically. He could continue with the same trio; he could bring in Koscielny, shift Mustafi wide and drop Holding and select a more experienced team; he could move Monreal to left wing-back in place of Kieran Gibbs, playing the more defensively minded and physically dominant Holding, Mustafi and Koscielny.

All of those options are possible avenues to explore. And that is without mentioning Gabriel Paulista who has been unceremoniously dropped since his North London derby blunder. The versatility that Wenger has in his back line is only beneficial for his team, and it will be interesting to see who he selects on Saturday.