Koscielny sets sights on Prem title
Laurent Koscielny needed no persuasion to join Arsenal – and has set his sights on helping them reclaim the Premier League title.
The 24-year-old defender sealed a move to the north London club on a four-year contract from French side Lorient.
Arsene Wenger had tracked Koscielny, who is eligible to play international football for France and Poland, for some time as he impressed in Ligue 1. The Gunners boss has been in need of cover at the back, with Sol Campbell mulling over a new one-year deal and fellow veterans William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre set to leave after the end of their contracts.
And Koscielny jumped at the chance to link up with his fellow countryman and the chance to bolster a defence which conceded 41 league goals last term.
"It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. It is exceptional to have a club like Arsenal wanting to sign you," Koscielny told arsenal.com.
"I don’t believe any French player would have refused to come and play for Arsenal. It is a very big club that plays in the Champions League and it is always near the top of the Premier League.
"Arsenal is a reference for football and we all know the quality of their game. The decision was quickly taken – I took the decision the day after hearing about their interest in me.
"I know the club have the means and the ambition to get that Premier League title and to go as far as possible in the Champions League."
Koscielny, who will wear the number six shirt, is set to make his first appearance for Arsenal at the Emirates Cup at the end of the month.
He admits the French influence at the club, as well as the chance to work under Wenger, were key factors in his decision to join.
"It is nice for French players to come and join a team like Arsenal where there are so many other French players," he added.
"It will help me to integrate easily in the team. Arsenal is a club where many young players get the chance to play in the Premier League and that is one of the reasons I chose Arsenal. They have a lot of young players full of quality and there are plenty of French players too.
"I have great respect for Arsene Wenger. He has proved that he is capable of doing an excellent job. He uses lots of young players and he allows them to play.
"It is going to be a great pleasure to be trained by Arsene Wenger."
Koscielny, should he choose to play for France, will also be looking to impress the country’s new coach Laurent Blanc, whom he cites as a role model.
"The defender of my time was Laurent Blanc. I liked his style, he was calm and collected, he was serene. He had a great charisma on the pitch, everybody knew he was the boss," he said.
"There is no one in the new generation that I admire as much. I like certain qualities in players but so far there is no player that I really admire like Blanc."
Wenger added: "Koscielny is a central defender with great ability who performed extremely well last season for Lorient.
"We identified him as a very strong centre-half, who has made big progress very quickly. He has shown he is mentally strong, he’s a fighter and a very strong competitor. Koscielny is a great addition to our squad."
The signing of Koscielny follows the arrival of long-term target Marouane Chamakh, the Morocco striker.
Fulham’s Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has also been linked with a switch to the Emirates Stadium.
Keeping hold of midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who is wanted by Barcelona, will be Wenger’s biggest challenge of the summer, though.
The squad is set to head out to their Austrian training base before the Emirates Cup and by then Wenger, who has been in South Africa working as a pundit for French TV, will want the Spaniard’s future sorted out one one way or another.
Barcelona appear to be growing impatient in the pursuit of their former trainee, who new president Sandro Rosell maintains will not come at any cost.
Rosell is due to travel to South Africa shortly, where he hopes to meet with Wenger, and wants the issue sorted as soon as possible.
"It’s now or never," he said in an interview with Sport. "We will do it fast. It won’t be protracted.
"I’ll try to see Wenger in South Africa, then we’ll tell you what happens.
"We would not pay the 50-60million euros that I have read about.
"If Arsenal do not go crazy, he might play at Barca."