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ACHILLES' HEEL

What next for tragic hero Laurent Koscielny — the embodiment of modern Arsenal?

The Frenchman's 'Achilles' heel' is literally his achilles' heel...

All Shakespearean tragic heroes are ultimately undone by a fatal flaw.

The catalyst for such a downfall is more commonly known as ‘an achilles’ heel’ after the famous Greek myth.

Laurent Koscielny is undoubtedly one of current football’s tragic heroes.

And it just so happens that his ‘achilles’ heel’ is, well, his achilles’ heel.

Get well soon, Kos

REUTERS
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Get well soon, Kos

Arsene Wenger’s final European campaign with Arsenal ended in heartbreak last night.

The Europa League semi-final second leg unfolded in a swell of inevitability.

Of course the Gunners’ old tormentor Diego Costa scored the winner.

Of course Atletico Madrid kept a clean sheet at the Wanda Metropolitano.

And of course Koscielny was forced off with an achilles injury — the troublesome tendon has plagued his game for years now.

Arsenal’s captain on the night was visibly distressed

Getty - Contributor
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Arsenal’s captain on the night was visibly distressed

The moment he crumbled to the floor was difficult to watch.

It always is whenever a player goes down with nobody near them.

Credit to Costa for recognising the severity of his marker’s injury immediately.

The ex-Chelsea forward called for the ball to be played out so Koscielny could receive treatment.

Even the most partisan of Spurs fans would surely have felt a twinge of sympathy as the Frenchman left the pitch on a stretcher.

The club have confirmed their vice-captain has ruptured his achilles and will almost certainly miss the World Cup.

Koscielny’s interantional team-mates were quick to check on him

Getty - Contributor
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Koscielny’s interantional team-mates were quick to check on him

What now for Koscielny?

He’s been playing with a weakened achilles since sometime in 2015 and has missed games on at least three separate occasions because of it.

Arsenal fans have become accustomed to him limping off midway through games — something Gary Neville criticised him for on Sky Sports earlier this season.

You can understand the frustration; having your best defender depart games early on a semi-regular basis is far from ideal.

However, Koscielny deserves credit for playing through the pain barrier on numerous occasions.

We may never know just how uncomfortable playing football has been for him over the last few years

Getty - Contributor
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We may never know just how uncomfortable playing football has been for him over the last few years

It’s difficult to escape the feeling Koscielny is the embodiment of the modern Arsenal — a class act on his day but nagged by something seemingly impossible to shake off.

And he really is a world-class player when his body allows him to be.

It’s telling that Didier Deschamps still sees him as France’s best centre-back despite Les Bleus boasting the likes of Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Presnel Kimpembe, Adil Rami and others in that department.

Koscielny turns 33 at the start of next season and will return after a long lay-off with an even weaker achilles than the one that has hindered him in recent times.

Sadly, we may never witness him at his peak again.

How we’d love to be wrong.

Koscielny has been with Arsenal since 2010

PA:Press Association
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Koscielny has been with Arsenal since 2010

Wenger’s exit signals a new dawn for Arsenal.

The new manager, whomever that may be, has a lot of work to do and their toughest decision may involve accepting the tragic deterioration of the club’s centre-back of the decade.

There is an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and set a new standard, not only of quality, but condition.

A fully-fit Koscielny walks into almost every team in the world and such a talismanic defender would be perfect to captain the new-look Arsenal.

But a fully-fit Koscielny no longer exists.

And while the hampered version is still capable of playing at a high level, perhaps being the leader of a club of Arsenal’s stature is now a weight too heavy for his heel to bear?

He could adopt a role similar to the one Per Mertescaker will take on next season and pass on his experience to the youth players.

Or he may fancy a payday in the Chinese Super League or MLS — who would begrudge him a money-spinning send-off after years of pain?

France will have to make do without Koscielny in Russia

AFP or licensors
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France will have to make do without Koscielny in Russia

More than ever, the Gunners need a spine they can rely on.

Even if they assemble something half as good as Seaman, Adams, Vieira and Bergkamp, they would have significantly improved on their current backbone.

The notion of partially (or wholly) discarding Koscielny sounds harsh — such players deserve total respect.

But if Arsenal are to truly commit to a new era then they must do it wholeheartedly.

Walking off into the sunset?

Getty - Contributor
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Walking off into the sunset?

Get well soon, Laurent, we hope to see you back on the pitch before long.


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