Arsenal Defence Dream: Are Koscielny and Vermaelen the Best Pairing in the EPL?
Arsenal have never enjoyed the luxury of compliments towards their defensive line.
Since 2005, the last season in which silverware was secured by the Gunners, there has been heavy criticism towards Arsene Wenger's fragile back four.
To an extent this criticism has been justified with Arsenal becoming renown for their aerial and set piece frailty intensified by their inability to handle physical presences. However injuries and inadequate veterans, including Mikael Silvestre and the poisonous presence of William Gallas, also have played a pivotal role in Arsenal's defensive weakness.
Arsene Wenger appears to be on the verge of constructing a more-than-powerful central half roster that by no means possesses the lingering woes that England has become accustomed to when watching the Gunners.
Belgian Thomas Vermaelen, the defensive leader, boasts full fitness after an ankle injury and a severe Achilles injury that restricted him to five games last season; the 25-year-old has reinforced his presence that was so strong during 2009-2010. The debut season for the former Ajax defender ended with 45 appearances and eight goals and a place in the PFA Team of the Year.
Vermaelen easily can be considered one of the best defenders in the English Premier League. Fast, tenacious, strong and aerially dominant, few attackers manage to get the better of the Belgian international.
With the Gunners amassing four consecutive Premier League victories following their weekend thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, Vermaelen was paired with Frenchman Laurent Koscielny in the centre defence.
Koscielny, who was a £10 million signing from Lorient FC last season, has rarely partnered with Vermaelen due to the Belgian's injury woes, but there was no denying an impressive connection between the duo on the weekend.
Many may argue that they were rarely challenged by the Albion attack, which in truth was feeble and unadventurous. Nonetheless they had a combined physical dominance and tenacity complemented by a superb work rate.
The duo have similar styles of pace and strength; despite both lacking significant height to conquer set pieces, both are able to provide great service and protection in the air.
The pairing is yet to deal with a defiant challenge from a side in the top six of the Premier League, but from the outset it is evident a powerful partnership could be emerging.
Manchester United are struggling to find defensive security with Rio Ferdinand looking far from his best whilst Johnny Evans appears unlikely to enjoy first-team football for some time. The presence of Nemanja Vidic is of course immense but to say United boast the best defensive partnership in the Premier League appears wrong.
However, could Koscielny and Vermaelen be the best partnership in England?
Wenger has the gigantic and quality presences of Johan Djourou and Per Mertesacker to ensure constant pressure is on the two to perform.
The Arsenal defence is immensely vulnerable to mistakes and lapses, but with the squad further adapting each week and confidence growing rapidly, it is obvious the Gunners are in a strong place after their early-season blunders. For once the defence appears to be a position not engulfed and assaulted by criticism and calls for change.
With Vermaelen leading the charge and Koscielny, whose consistency and work ethic is sensational, could it be that Arsenal have the best defensive partnership in the English Premier League?
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