On Friday of last week, Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny signed a new long-term contract with the club, as per BBC Sport, in the latest in a line of extensions in a tight-knit squad, and this move serves to highlight the importance of the Frenchman to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
The Arsenal manager expressed his joy at Koscielny's commitment:
Laurent has proven himself to be an outstanding player since joining us in 2010 and has showed his quality once again this season. I am delighted he has decided to commit his future to the club.
Following speculation, courtesy of Matt Law of The Telegraph linking the 28-year-old with a move away from the club—with PSG, Monaco and Bayern Munich all potential suitors—this will be a big boost as Wenger looks to plan for next season in charge of the club.
Law suggests that Koscielny's new deal will put him in line with central defensive partner Per Mertesacker on a wage of around £90,000 per week.
At a club with a stringent focus on finances such as Arsenal, this is a significant investment; record signing Mesut Ozil reportedly broke the wage structure with a £140,000-a-week deal, according to The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson.
But this is a just reward for the Frenchman, who has once more impressed hugely at the heart of the Arsenal defence this season, becoming a key member of Wenger's first team.
Throughout the 2013/14 season, Koscielny solidified his status as one of the Premier League's very best centre-backs, and his partnership with Mertesacker was crucial to this.
When the Frenchman was paired with the lofty German, Arsenal kept 15 clean sheets, including a pair of impressive shutouts against North London rivals Spurs, and a 2-0 victory over league runners-up Liverpool towards the beginning of the season.
In the 1-0 away victory at Spurs' White Hart Lane in mid-March, Koscielny was outstanding.
As per Squawka, the ex-Lorient man made 20 defensive actions—second only to Mertesacker (23)—with 16 clearances, two blocks and two interceptions, as the pair looked to defend their goal at all costs.
Elsewhere, despite a sustained onslaught by the Spurs attack, the Frenchman kept a cool head throughout, and boasted a phenomenal passing accuracy of 96 percent.
This was a performance indicative of Koscielny's season, as he has been outstanding throughout.
No Premier League defender has a higher pass completion rate (93%) than Laurent Koscielny this season (Min 10+ games) pic.twitter.com/dxReeX8IoH— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 9, 2014
The 28-year-old actually shares this honour with his centre-back partner, Mertesacker, and it is their consistent composure at the back which anchored Arsenal's top-four bid throughout 2013/14.
Again, as per Squawka, on average this season Koscielny made 11 defensive actions per game—more than any other Arsenal player.
This includes 89 interceptions, ranking him fifth of the league's defenders behind Hull City's Curtis Davies, Stoke City's Geoff Cameron, and Swansea City pair Chico Flores and Angel Rangel, showing he is an excellent reader of the game.
If it weren't for the performances of defenders such as Gary Cahill and Vincent Kompany this season, Koscielny—along with Mertesacker—would surely have made many more end-of-season lists.
Arsenal's defensive instability in 2012/13 further proves Koscielny's importance to the side now, and the Frenchman has improved significantly due to a consistent berth in the first team.
That season, the Frenchman made 25 appearances in the league, helping to keep nine clean sheets—a rate of a clean sheet every 0.36 games pales in comparison to this season's rate of 0.5—but struggled as Wenger often preferred Belgian monolith Thomas Vermaelen.
Squawka attributes Koscielny with a comparatively low pass-success rate of 83 percent for the 2012/13 season, along with an average of seven defensive actions per game.
The Frenchman also made one costly defensive error that season, leading to a goal, opposed to this season's nil.
Interestingly, the 28-year-old won more tackles that season, at a phenomenal rate of 76 percent, and also won 64 percent of his headed duels; in 2013/14 Koscielny won 56 percent of his tackles attempted and 52 percent of headed duels.
As a last-ditch style defender, however—often relying on his pace to cover for the notoriously slow Mertesacker—his defensive actions are more of a marker of his game.
Laurent Koscielny: Has made at least 11 more last man tackles (21) than any other player in the PL in the last 4 seasons #AFC— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 9, 2014
Over his past four seasons with the club, and in increasing fashion, Koscielny has proven himself as one of the league's best covering defenders.
Worth to Arsenal
As mentioned previously, Koscielny's partnership with Mertesacker has been steadfast and crucial to Arsenal's progress this season, and the pair have established themselves as one of the best defensive duos in the Premier League.
Mertesacker also signed a new contract this season, in March as per BBC Sport, and it is clear that Wenger is attempting to tie down this important pairing due to their importance to his side.
A perfect mixture of pace and defensive solidity, the continental partnership will look to continue their dominance for years to come with Arsenal.
In tying down Koscielny for a further period, Arsene Wenger has shored up his back line for many years to come.