“He likes his duels": Koscielny backs partner Gabriel after Mertesacker axe

Laurent Koscielny has urged Arsenal to kick on from their vital win at Bournemouth and put themselves firmly back into the Barclays Premier League title picture.

“He likes his duels": Koscielny backs partner Gabriel after Mertesacker axe

Having been top of the table at the turn of the year, Arsene Wenger’s men slipped to fourth following a four-game winless streak before securing a 2-0 victory against the Cherries on Sunday afternoon.

The Gunners had gone almost five and a half hours without a league goal before Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck 88 seconds apart at the midway point of the first-half at the Vitality Stadium.

The victory takes Arsenal five points behind leaders Leicester, who visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday looking to keep their unexpected title tilt in full swing having won at Manchester City at the weekend.

But for Koscielny, he wants Sunday’s south coast success to set Arsenal on their way to a first Premier League crown in 12 years.

“It was important to win because we needed to stay high up the table with Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester City,” he said.

“We didn’t play well during January and we didn’t win a lot of points.

“We needed to start a good run with this game and we stayed strong at the back, and scored two goals with our first two opportunities.

“We had three games without scoring so it was important for our players.”

Koscielny has been partnered at the back by Gabriel for the last three games in all competitions, with Per Mertesacker only making the bench fo the last two having been banned for the FA Cup win over Burnley.


Gabriel has a turn of pace which Mertesacker lacks – something which has seen the German World Cup winner caught out more than once this season.

With a Leicester attack including the pace and explosiveness of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel may well keep his spot against the Foxes and Koscielny has praised his Brazilian defensive partner.

“You know Gabby, he is a very good player,” he added.

“He likes his duels and he can play with the ball and passes. He played very well but the whole back four played well because we stayed together.

“Sometimes in your game you have a difficult situation but we stayed focus on our job.”

Leicester continue to build on a scintillating start to the season but will be looking to avoid a second defeat of the campaign to Arsenal.

Wenger’s men were rampant as they won 5-2 at the King Power Stadium back in September and midfielder Aaron Ramsey admits Leicester’s rise has been an impressive one.

“It was important to bounce back from the few important results we have had of late. We needed to do that, especially with the result that Leicester got (at Man City),” he said.

“It was important to stay within touching distance of them. It is going to be an interesting game next week now.

“What they have done this season is quite remarkable. We have got to be right on it to get three points. It was important to win against Bournemouth and hopefully we can take some momentum into that game and come away with a victory.

“It is important to get a few wins now. We are in a good position now and hopefully we can maintain that.”

Bournemouth had been enjoying their own decent run ahead of the visit of Wenger’s side but they were undone by two quickfire goals and when they did create chances, they found the visitors’ goalkeeper Petr Cech in fine form.

Former Arsenal youngster Benik Afobe started in attack for the Cherries having scored three goals in his first four games for the club since his January move from Wolves.

The 22-year-old conceded Bournemouth allowed Arsenal to play their natural game and has backed his former team-mates to take their title challenge all the way.

“We gave them a bit too much respect in the first 20-25 minutes and it was game over,” he said.

“They have got a lot of world-class players and I have got nothing but good things to say about them. They showed their quality. It was a shame for us.

“I think they can (win it). It has been the same every year. This time of the season they normally fall a bit behind and lose games they should be winning. It can be different for them this season. No one believed there would be this many teams in it.”

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