Why Does Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny Give Away so Many Penalties?

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014


According to Opta, since joining Arsenal in 2010, no Premier League defender has conceded more penalties than Laurent Koscielny. In the last four seasons, he has given away six Premier League spot-kicks.

In the early days, Koscielny might have been able to blame adaptation to the pace of the Premier League. However, gaining experience doesn't seem to be helping. In fact, the problem seems to be getting worse. Opta's Content Director says that Koscielny has now conceded four penalties in the last two seasons.

It provides a significant handicap for the Gunners. Since the start of this season, no team has conceded more Premier League penalties than Arsenal. At Stoke on Saturday, it cost Arsene Wenger's team three points and significant ground in the title race.

The big question is: why is Koscielny so prone to giving away penalties?

It's not as if he's a poor defender. This season, Koscielny has been one of the most consistent centre-backs in the Premier League. Speaking to The Mirror earlier this month, Arsene Wenger declared:

Without any hesitation, Koscielny is one of the best defenders in the Premier League. He has a combination of qualities – good reading of the game, good anticipation, great commitment, great speed and he is quick on the turn. He is one of the very best for sure.

Koscielny's has emerged as something of a home-made star at Arsenal. He arrived from Lorient without a big reputation, and has transformed into an international-class centre-back.

His partnership with Per Mertesacker has been rightly recognised as one of the best in the Premier League, if not Europe. Only Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton have conceded fewer goals than Arsenal this season.

Graphic via Squawka

Koscielny is not a poor tackler either. According to Squawka, he has been successful with 62 percent of his attempted tackles this season. That is higher even than Mertesacker, who has won 52 percent of his attempted challenges. This is not a question or poorly-timed or ill-executed tackles.

Ill-fortune is certainly a factor. Koscielny was hugely unlucky to concede a penalty against Stoke. It's unclear how the referee could conceivably declare the Frenchman's handball was intentional, given the awkward positioning of Koscielny's jump and his proximity to the ball. Koscielny was sent off on his Premier League debut against Liverpool and seems to have been followed by a curse ever since.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal tackles Claudio Pizarro of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Arsenal and FC Bayern Muenchen at Emirates Stadium on February 19, 2014 in London,
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

However, there is a more logical explanation. Koscielny is a super-aggressive, proactive defender. He makes tackles that few other defenders would dare to make. He is very quick, enabling him to close down attackers who wouldn't otherwise be caught. Occasionally, this results in the occasional foul. It is something of an occupational hazard.

There is a comparison to be made with former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Lehmann would charge out of goal to claim or clear away balls in situations where few other goalkeepers would dare attempt intervention. Nine out of 10 times it was effective and gave Arsenal an assertive and confident presence between the sticks. However, it occasionally backfired.

That's the risk you take. Koscielny's style will probably mean he'll always give away a few penalties. However, Wenger has presumably decided the positives outweigh the negatives. Given Koscielny's exemplary form this season, it's difficult to disagree.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.


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