Laurent Koscielny

Where it went wrong for Emery at Arsenal

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There were many highs and lows of Unai Emery‘s stewardship of Arsenal FC, but arguably the moment where things turned for the worst came away from the perfectly manicured grass at the Emirates Stadium.

Heading into the summer, it was clear that Arsenal needed more help defensively. Emery’s signings of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi were a good sign, showing that Arsenal was committed to finally plugging a hole in defensive midfield that hadn’t been filled since Patrick Vieira – former coach Arsene Wenger always preferred a Jorginho type passer in that position, but they’d be overrun against every big-six opponent.

[READ: Who are the favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal?]

But at centerback, the team was woefully overmatched. Shkodran Mustafi looked like a shell of himself, Laurent Koscielny was still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the run up to the 2018 World Cup, and prospect Rob Holding suffered a torn ACL, meaning he was out for the season.

So the last thing Emery could afford was losing one of his best remaining centerbacks, in maybe the worst way possible. And yet, that’s essentially what happened.

Koscielny returned to training on July 5, and per the Guardian, made it clear that if he didn’t have a new contract by next week, or perhaps at least some progress on a new deal, he would be holding out. That meant the Arsenal club captain wouldn’t be traveling with the squad to the U.S. for preseason training.

This seemed to take Arsenal’s leadership by surprise. In the 2018-2019 Premier League season, Aaron Ramsey and the club weren’t able to meet in the middle, and so Ramsey let his contract run out and freely traipsed to Juventus. But Ramsey never made a fuss on the training pitch over his contract negotiations. He was a professional on and off the field and let his play do the talking.

Koscielny, on the other hand, wasn’t having it. Perhaps emboldened by his stature at Arsenal and that a new manager was at the helm – would he have done this against Wenger? – Koscielny never got on the plane to America. One month later, he completed a permanent transfer to Bordeaux, and Emery never appeared to recover as Arsenal manager. Before the end of the calendar year, Arsenal fired Emery.

The Koscielny case – and other similar recent mishaps by Emery, such as the captaincy fiasco and freezing out Ozil only to bring him back in recently – paints a picture of Emery as a brilliant tactician with average to below average man management skills. We have that here in the U.S. There are plenty of brilliant minds who coach football and basketball, but devising clever plays is worthless if you can’t get your team to understand the plays and execute them. What makes coaches like Bill Belichick and Steve Kerr successful is getting the buy-in from their players and managing them along the way. Tactics is only half the battle.

On paper, even with a creaky defense and a young midfield, this Arsenal team shouldn’t be languishing in ninth place. But it was clear as the weeks went on that Emery was essentially powerless to stop the sieve of goals into Arsenal’s net. Each week it was a different culprit, whether David Luiz, Sokratis, new signing Kieran Tierney or Calum Chambers. Under another manager, perhaps those four could raise there level. Under Emery, with everyone seemingly playing just for themselves, their levels sunk below the opposition.

At the same time, despite the $87 million Arsenal committed to spend on new signing Nicolas Pepe to go with stars Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they didn’t click in attack as often as they should have. Aubameyang continues to score but his goals often grab a point or a late, often undeserved win, for the Gunners. They were not blowing teams apart even with their vast array of talented attackers.

Emery wasn’t all bad at Arsenal. He brought positivity back to the Emirates Stadium in the 2018-2019 season with his new energetic signings like Guendouzi and Torreira. Fans won’t soon forget the 4-2 win at home over Tottenham, where the roof nearly blew off on Torreira’s wonderful second half goal. There was also wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, plus Napoli and Valencia in the Europa League, but Arsenal was struggling in the Premier League around the time of the latter two wins.

Off the field, by all reports Emery was a true gentleman to everyone at the club. And although some disgustingly made fun of his accent, Emery always tried to communicate in English when he could have easily just brought along a translator for every interaction. He tried his best to integrate himself in the club and in England.

But this season, Emery could never find his mid-season momentum again from last year, and things began falling quickly. Emery will certainly get another opportunity to coach in top-flight football, and perhaps he’ll eventually learn from his mistakes. However, it’s a second-successive coaching failure in which Emery lost control of the locker room due to poor man management skills, and his firing was ultimately inevitable.

Transfer rumor roundup: Bayern Munich chasing Sane, Dembele

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A brief roundup of all the major transfer rumors sweeping their way across Europe and around the world, including the Premier League…

[ MORE: Friday’s transfer rumor rumor | Thursday | Wednesday ]

Bayern Munich appear hellbent on signing a young superstar this summer, and they might just have the opening they need to do so in the wake of Antoine Griezmann’s $135-million move to Barcelona. Just when Ousmane Dembele appeared headed for a regular starting spot alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, the 22-year-old Frenchman now figures to be the odd man out for a full-time starting spot.

There has been no indication that Dembele is looking to leave the Camp Nou in search of regular starting time, but just in case he is, Bayern are reportedly ready to offer him a landing spot. A bid of nearly $80 million was reportedly rejected last week, prior to Griezmann’s arrival. Dembele moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2017 for over $150 million.

If Dembele proves unattainable, Bayern have reportedly had their hearts on set on Manchester City’s Leroy Sane since the summer began. According to reports, Man City value Sane at more than $110 million.


Arsenal will demand a fee of $11 million from any club that wants to sign defender and captain Laurent Koscielny, according to the Standard. With one year remaining on his current contract, the 33-year-old refused to join his teammates on the club’s preseason tour of the United States as he attempts to force through a move back to France where he would like to see out his playing career.

Bordeaux, Rennes and Lyon are all reportedly interested in signing Koscielny, but none of the above have yet made a bid to Arsenal. Koscielny could also buy out his own contract, making him a free agent, and recoup that money over the life of a long-term contract featuring higher wages with the club saving millions of dollars on the front end.


Manchester United are still pursuing Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, but the Red Devils have a backup plan this year, according to French newspaper L’Equipe. While Maguire, who Man United pursued to no avail last summer, would reportedly cost $100 million, Monaco’s Benoit Badiashile is thought to be the fall-back option, for roughly $38 million.

The 18-year-old, who would be much more of a long-term investment than the 26-year-old England international, is also reportedly on the short list of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Koscielny refuses to go on Arsenal’s U.S. tour

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Arsenal’s captain Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel with the team on their preseason tour of the USA.

Koscielny, 33, has one year left on his current Gunners deal and the likes of Rennes, Bordeaux and Lyon in his homeland want to sign him.

It is believed Koscielny asked to be released from his contract a year early to head back to France, but that request was turned down and Arsenal’s captain has now decided to take this drastic step.

Arsenal have slammed Koscielny in an official statement, as the club have now opened disciplinary proceedings against the French international.

“Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel to the US for our pre-season tour. We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions. We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”

Flying out to California on Thursday, Arsenal will play against the Colorado Rapids in a friendly, then take part in the International Champions Cup with games against Bayern Munich in Los Angeles), Fiorentina in Charlotte and Real Madrid in Washington D.C. before heading back to the UK.

Koscielny’s decision to not turn up for preseason will surely see him stripped of the captaincy, but it also gives Unai Emery an unwanted headache. Last season Emery dealt with Mesut Ozil being unhappy and the Spanish coach was all about unity and having a collective spirit following Arsene Wenger‘s departure.

This decision from Koscielny will no doubt have a huge impact on the locker room.

Shokdran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers, Dinos Mavropanos and Sokratis are Arsenal’s current options at center back, but there’s no doubt Koscielny would have been a starter alongside Sokratis this season.

The Gunners are closing in on a deal to sign French youngster William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for $34 million then loan him back to the Ligue 1 club. Considering this situation with Koscielny, they may try and keep Saliba for the upcoming season instead.

Koscielny has been a fans favorite since he arrived in 2010 and his rise from the lower French leagues to the Premier League and UEFA Champions League while also captaining Arsenal is a great story.

However, in recent years injuries have hit him hard and although nobody really points the finger towards him with regards to Arsenal’s recent defensive frailties, Koscielny has been to blame with some major errors.

Arsenal should probably cut their losses here and let Koscielny leave on a free, as overall he’s been a good servant to the club and they are unlikely to receive that much for him in terms of a transfer fee. Then again, you cannot let one player dictate your transfer dealings as they sets a poor precedent.

What a mess. Koscielny hasn’t conducted himself well here, and Arsenal putting this out in the open has escalated the seriousness of the situation.

Transfer rumor roundup: New homes for Koscielny, Gundogan

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The transfer rumor mill is veteran heavy heading into the weekend.

[ MORE: U.S. falls in FIFA rankings ]

Borussia Dortmund doesn’t want to fizzle out again next season, and is hoping to lure a few special players to Germany this season.

Juve forward Mario Mandzukic, Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan, and Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny are all on BVB’s radar as the club looks to improve on the side that pushed Bayern Munich for much of last season.

Gundogan wants more playing time but City is said to be ready to let him leave on a free at the end of the 2019-20 season. Koscielny could be a victim of Unai Emery‘s need to flip his defensive script. Could both end up in Dortmund? Bild (subscription required) says so, and Koscielny could cost $13 million while Gundogan’s fee is unknown.


Bayern Munich hero Lothar Matthaus says James Rodriguez is going to find his way to a Juventus side which could become the favorite to win the UEFA Champions League.

Matthaus tells Spanish web site AS that James remains close with Cristiano Ronaldo, and that he’s ready for a reunion with good pal. Additionally, Real would benefit from the deal, as James was just on loan with Bayern and his rights remain at the Bernabeu.


Rumorinhos:

Antonio Valencia is being linked with a Premier League stay, as Sheffield United may want to bring the Ecuador captain aboard the good ship Blades.

— Would Jesper Cillessen leave Barcelona to stay a backup… at Everton? We doubt it, but maybe that says something more about the controversial season of Jordan Pickford than the status of Cillessen?

Aguero hits three, Man City sinks Arsenal (video)

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  • Aguero nets 10th PL hat trick
  • Sterling influential in win
  • Koscielny scores for Arsenal
  • City outshoots Arsenal 19-4

Manchester City put a little more heat on Liverpool with a 3-1 defeat of Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.Sergio Aguero scores all three City goals as the club went second, two points back of Liverpool. The Reds play West Ham on Monday.

Arsenal is now sixth, a point back of Manchester United following the Red Devils defeat of Leicester City.

Aguero is one league hat trick away from matching Alan Shearer’s Premier League record of 11.

Raheem Sterling‘s two assists put him level with Eden Hazard for the league lead.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Man City raged out of the gates, and Arsenal was very much under siege.

Aguero’s goal happened in double the time it took him to open the scoring at Newcastle, the dawdler, with his 48-second header serving as his 18th goal in all competitions and 12th in Premier League play.

He could’ve won a penalty on an ensuing Kevin De Bruyne ball, and Bernd Leno was busy early.

Arsenal made it 1-1 via a corner kick. Nacho Monreal beat Bernardo Silva to flick Sead Kolasinac‘s service back post, where Koscielny darted in front of Kevin De Bruyne to head home. Insane start.

Nicolas Otamendi stung an 18th minute shot at Leno, who caught it on the hop.

The teams continued to excite over the next 35 minutes, but few scoring chances really challenged either keeper.

That changed with Aguero’s second, as Raheem Sterling was key to a fluid team goal. The English winger took a diagonal dime from Fernandinho before working a 1-2 and passing across for Aguero to finish his 13th league goal.

De Bruyne then just missed a sliding Sterling with a spinning pass to the back post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Leno made a fine stop on De Bruyne 10 minutes into a second half that began with plenty of City control.

Sterling was excellent in the build-up to Aguero’s hat trick goal, his cross taking a turn off Leno before hitting the Argentine’s arm and skittering across the line.