Arsenal: With Laurent Koscielny Linked to Bayern, Gunners Must Hold onto Assets
Arsenal's France international defender Laurent Koscielny is a transfer target for Pep Guardiola and European champions Bayern Munich, according to the Sun. If true, the rumor would lend a new wrinkle to what is already an important summer for Arsenal.
Initially, this summer was all about building the squad with the £70 million reportedly available to manager Arsene Wenger, as per the Telegraph. But if Koscielny is in fact on Bayern's radar, the Gunners now have a familiar fight on their hands—another struggle to hold onto an important player when a European power comes calling in the summer.
It happened in 2011, when Cesc Fabregas returned to Barcelona. It happened again last summer when Robin van Persie left for Manchester United. Both of those departures affected Arsenal profoundly, and though Koscielny might not wield as much influence as Fabregas or van Persie, he has become one of Arsenal's most important players over the past two seasons.
Arsenal finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 10-match unbeaten run, with the defense playing a starring role. Koscielny and Per Mertesacker cemented their places as Wenger's first-choice central defensive pairing, and Koscielny was the more impressive of the two. Besides his improving defensive prowess, Koscielny contributed the vital winning goal on the final day of the season against Newcastle.
As Arsenal.com reports, the Gunners were unbeaten in the 15 league matches Koscielny and Mertesacker started together. In the final 11 games of the season—Koscielny played them all—Arsenal conceded just twice from open play.
Koscielny's performances earned him a second-place showing in the fans' voting for Arsenal's player of the season. Writing for Arsenal.com, Rob Kelly said of Koscielny:
If one player embodies everything the 2012/13 Arsenal team represents, it is Laurent Koscielny. Classy yet no-nonsense, resilient, strong and with an exceptional sense of timing, the France defender has developed into one of the finest defenders in Europe. The rise and rise of this unassuming character shows no signs of abating.
B/R's Sam Tighe called Koscielny the "catalyst" behind Arsenal's surge to fourth place and named him the Gunners' most influential player. That second part is debatable, considering Santi Cazorla's contributions this past season, but Koscielny's importance is undeniable.
That's part of the reason why keeping him this summer is vital for Arsenal. After a long period of decline and financial austerity, Arsenal could be ready to spend this summer to put themselves back into contention for the Premier League title. The potential investment of £70 million would surely improve the quality of the squad, but only if key components remain in place.
Arsenal have been linked with a move for Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, and such a move would put the Gunners in contention, as B/R's David Daniels argues. The Daily Mirror cites Wenger's comments to Al-Jazeera Sport indicating Wenger would welcome Rooney into the Arsenal squad. With Arsenal reportedly interested in several other players, this summer is potentially shaping up to be an exciting one for fans.
First, though, the Gunners must hold onto their most important players.
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