COMMENT By Matt Farr
Fans will need no reminding, but Arsenal grabbed the headlines on Tuesday night for their capitulation against Bayern Munich in the second-leg of their Champions League kn0ckout round tie.
Arsenal were haplessly beaten 5-1 for the second time in the space of less than a month, with Bayern running out emphatic 10-2 aggregate winners.
The most pressing issue was Arsenal’s lack of leadership and fight, but on each occasion, they suffered after one pivotal moment – the absence of Laurent Koscielny.
The difference in Arsenal’s displays against the Germans both with and without Koscielny prove just how vital an asset he is to their chances of success.
During the first-leg defeat on February 15, Arsenal lost Koscielny to injury early into the second half with the game tied at 1-1.
But just four minutes into his absence, Bayern reclaimed their lead in what was only the start of a shocking capitulation from the away side.
Arsenal conceded two further goals within the next ten minutes, before Thomas Muller added a fifth just before the final whistle.
Then, in the second-leg, Arsenal emerged at half-time with a 1-0 lead – only to lose Koscielny again, this time through a red card.
The exact same pattern of events then ensued, with Bayern scoring another five goals to bring Arsenal’s participation in Europe to another abrupt end.
Bayern were brilliant, but Arsenal simply couldn’t handle the onslaught without their star defender barking orders and organising the defence.
Alexis Sanchez may be the star attraction in the Arsenal squad, but Koscielny must be held in equal, if not in higher regard.
The 31-year-old has been an ever-present member of the Arsenal defence since his arrival at the club in 2010, and has offered much-needed consistency to an area that has proven extremely problematic over the years.
Many Arsenal fans believed they had found the ideal solution with the acquisition of Shkodran Mustafi in the summer, as he had formed a strong bond with Koscielny at the heart of the defence.
However, it is clear that Koscielny is still the stronger of the two, and that without him in the line up, Mustafi is just as vulnerable as his predecessors.
If a host of first-team players end up quitting the club in the summer, Arsenal had best hope that Koscielny is not one of them.
The likes of Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez could be replaced. Arsenal would need a lot more than just a wad of cash, however, to find the perfect replacement for Koscielny.
In the latest Arsenal news, three things to expect from Arsenal when they face Lincoln on Saturday.