Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will have awoken from their slumber pretty happy with themselves.
Another three points thanks to Monday night’s 2-1 win at Aston Villa put Arsenal back to the top of the Barclays Premier League.
But that isn’t the only reason.
The formidable central-defence partnership maintained their remarkable record of not losing a league match they have started and completed since losing 2-1 to Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2012.
Yes, that’s right, almost two years.
From the 28 games in that period, Arsenal have won 20 and drawn eight times.
The duo are receiving heavy praise, and rightly so.
But the adulation surrounding Koscielny and Mertesacker is a far cry from last season’s difficulties.
Koscielny started last season on the bench while the criticism of Mertesacker seemed perpetual as the Gunners struggled to even keep pace in the race for a Champions League place.
So, what was sparked the emergence of arguably the best central defensive partnership in England at this moment?
The turning point came in last season’s demoralising 2-1 north London derby defeat to Tottenham on March 3.
Captain Thomas Vermaelen and Mertesacker started for the Gunners at White Hart Lane as Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon sliced through the centre of Arsenal’s defence, latching onto through balls with piercing runs to put Spurs 2-0 up.
Enough was enough for Arsene Wenger.
Five points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, and facing Champions League elimination following a 3-0 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium, something had to give.
And it did. Vermaelen was dropped for Arsenal’s next match – the second leg against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
Arsenal still crashed out of the competition that night, but a morale-boosting 2-0 win over the soon-to-be European champions provided a glimpse of what was to come.
Mertesacker and Koscielny were immense in Munich and the fearsome duo have not looked back since.
Mertesacker’s the uncompromising brute, Koscielny’s the diminutive and combative defender.
What Mertesacker lacks in pace, Koscielny can make up for. What Koscielny lacks in physical presence, Mertesacker makes up for.
Put them together and Wenger looks to have found the magic formula.
Not everyone’s a winner though.
Vermaelen, the man who was once wanted by Barcelona, has been left out in the cold.
But, at the moment, the Belgian simply has no argument. How can Wenger break up a partnership that has formed the foundation of their re-emergence as genuine trophy contenders? He can’t.
And while club captain Vermaelen is forced to wait for his chance, Koscielny and Mertesacker will lead Arsenal’s charge to end their eight-year silverware drought.
Can we put them in the same bracket as Wenger’s previous central-defensive partnerships of Tony Adams and Martin Keown and Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure?
Not quite yet.
Those two combinations won trophies; a feat Mertesacker and Koscielny are yet to achieve at the Emirates Stadium.
But if they continue the way they are going, it will not be too long before that changes.
Legends: Koscielny and Mertesacker are close to being considered in the same company as Arsenal’s previous centre-back partnerships of Tony Adams-Martin Keown (left) and Sol Campbell-Kolo Toure (right)
Source : Daily Mail