Koz, Gabriel, BFG: Three Great CBs, but what is the best pairing?

The BFG: Passion and Brains - you got to love him! :)
The BFG: Passion and Brains – you got to love him! 🙂

Arsenal are blessed with three fine CBs and long may it continue. Koz and the BFG are still Arsene’s first choice CB couple but Gabriel Paulista is pushing hard to get in there. I love all three of them and am increasingly unsure what the best CB pairing is for us.

Koz is the most complete CB and his tenacity and excellent reading of the game are second to none in the PL imo. The BFG is a great organiser, reads the game supremely well and always plays with the right attitude. Unfortunately, Per turns like an oil tanker and is not particularly fast; he has managed very well to reach the very top of football despite these disadvantages. Paulista we know less well: he resembles more Koz than the BFG and he adds a healthy aggression much needed in our team. He is also pretty complete as a CB and a beast at tackling all over the pitch.

These Whoscored? stats show us how well all our CBs do (based on this season’s PL games – all stats are average per game):

Name Tack-les Inter-cep-tions Fouls Clear-ances Blocks Aer-ials won  
Per 1.7 2 0.3 6.3 0.5 2.8
Gabriel 2.2 2.2 0.3 4.8 0.2 2.5
Laurent 1.7 4.3 0.7 5.9 0.8 2.8

There is not that much between them. Per is the absolute champion in clearing the ball, but Laurent still does well in this discipline too. Gabriel is our tackling beast and is pretty good in the air but is behind Per and Laurent in terms of blocks and clearances. Koz is the king of interceptions and blocks and is as strong in the air as Per, but he also makes more fouls than the other two: making those blocks and interceptions comes with a (small) price.

In terms of CB pairing, I favour the combination of two types of defenders.

One needs to be a calm but brutal organiser of the game, who can read the game well and is master in the air. Ideally, they are also great at tackling and fast as a tiger, but the ability to organise and lead the defence and to remain calm under pressure is key. Tony Adams and, especially, Sol Campbell were great specimen of this kind of CB. Per is not that far behind but I reckon Koz, and possibly Gabriel, are less suited for this.

The other one needs to be fast, aggressive and excellent at interceptions and blocks, a great reader of the game and the first soldier in the team. Martin Keown and Toure are good examples of this type of CB, and with Koz we probably have the very best of them all right now. I have no doubt that Gabriel can do this too and he could possibly become as good as Laurent.

But, going forward, what is the best pairing?

I guess it depends on what sort of game we are playing and which team. Our current preference to sit a bit deeper and kill teams with a combination of quick turnovers and possession football in the opponent’s half, seems to suit our best (statistical) pairing: Per and Laurent. However, when we play teams that park the bus and we play predominantly ‘possession and strike’ football in their halve, we could do with two very fast and aggressive CBs who are very good at blocks and interceptions and are quick to recover the ball when being threatened by a counter-attack. In these sort of games, the Koz-Paulista CB pairing looks the strongest.

And then there are the games against fellow PL title and CL trophy contenders: how should we pair up against them in central defence? Well, I guess we will get the answer tomorrow when we play Bayern away. I reckon it will be Per and Koz, but Wenger might go for the Koz-Gab – the Vault of KoGa – combination. The BFG played full games on Tuesday and Saturday and I am not sure Wenger will play the 31-year-old for a third time in eight days. We will need Per’s organisation skills, calm and experience, but, on the other hand, the power and energy of the Vault of KoGa might be more effective in stopping the intricate passing game in and around our box by Bayern, and instigate the better turnovers….. All exciting stuff if you ask me and I cannot wait to see the CBs in action again tomorrow.

I am still not sure what our best pairing is but Paulista’s arrival on the scene is giving us options and healthy competition. With three such great CBs we have options to vary our game in accordance with the strengths and style of play of our opponents, which is great news.

By TotalArsenal.

22 thoughts on “Koz, Gabriel, BFG: Three Great CBs, but what is the best pairing?

  • urgh i see you still haven’t lost your penchant for statistics TA mores the pity, thanks for the rest of the post though 🙂

    I think Per’s organisational skills are over rated tbh, certainly didn’t seeing any commanding organising during that Capital One game and a lot of other times this season i simply see Kos and Bellerin playing out of their skin and pushing their pace to the max to get the oaf out of trouble and make him look half decent as a CB.
    I would have Per in the team for one reason only; height defending dead ball situations, and if your silly stats say his aerials won are the same as Kos’s and only 0.3 more than Gabriel then whats the point of having him there at all?

    The way i see it Kos is a great CB but aging and breaking therefore we have Gabriel ready to step in, i couldn’t think of a more Kos-like player if i tried. Per is also aging and whilst not breaking is certainly slowing down even further, who have we got in reserve to mold into this role?
    Even though i would love it to be Chambers (young English player and all that) he just isn’t ready yet and i don’t believe we will have much longer left before Per becomes completely obsolete for a title chasing team.

    If i was looking for a tall giant CB who commands the area, is a born leader and has captained his country i would look no further than Raphaël Varane, though i am sure Wenger won’t stump for that kind of cost leaving clubs like Man U to throw the cash at player like Varane or Stones.

    Certainly imo we need somebody in to fill that position within the squad and then Chambers at only 20 yrs of age don’t forget can be emergency cover at present and set up for future development into the team later on down the line.

    so i guess in answer to your question in the post my best pairing would definitely be Kos and Gabriel at this moment in time, there’s simply no weakness there apart from this imaginary lack of leadership that seems to be Per’s sole reason for being in the team.

  • Bellerin out injured for Bayern so i guess thats another candidate for the right wing position out of contention, i hope Debuchy does a better job there than he did against Wednesday.

  • Interesting question Total..?

    We’ve had footballing centre-back pairings in the recent past and have been vulnerable to the aerial route.
    BFG solved that, and Cechs response to Per after every game, shows how our goalkeeper appreciates his presence in the team…

    I guess if Arsenal get into a major final and all our centre-backs are fit, the obvious choice would be BFG & Koz…
    I certainly think that that’s the way Wenger would go…

    Gabriel is great, I love him and he is gonna be fantastic for us.
    But not quite yet, not in front of the other two.

  • Losing Bellerin is a real kick in the cobblers…

    But we’ll have to cope, Debuchy has to step up…
    It’s not as if he’s an idiot, it’s just a confidence thing…

  • Bellerin out is a big blow for me. Like Wenger, I fully trust Debuchy to deliver but now Bellerin cannot help him. I am warming to the idea of playing Flamini on the right in midfield: together they will sort the Lederhosen out.

  • Nice observation re Cech appreciating BFG after their games together, Allezkev. Between them they have a lot of experience and football vision.

  • Hello, people! 🙂

    It is a real blow to see Bellerin out for the game. I have a suggestion, however. How about Gabriel on the right full-back position? Debuchy is out of shape and looks pretty low on confidence too. Whenever he plays, he is the weakest link in the team. And we play against the team that is strongest on the wings. If he starts, I can put some money on his red card. I would like to see Debuchy back to his old self but I kinda doubt AllianzArena is the right place.

    As I wrote last week, at this rate, Arsenal will have to offer a trial to Nigel Farage for a right-wing position. “Farage on trial” – doesn’t sound bad. 😀

    @TA – I really, really like your idea with Flamini on the wing. 🙂 He has scored five goals from an open play since his return to Arsenal, he has a fine right foot and has enough aggression to offer us like-for-like replacement for Ramsey. I actually think that he shouldn’t be counted as a defensive midfielder anymore but as a box-to-box midfielder or a wide midfielder.

  • Admir 🙂

    Nice political joke.

    The Flame on the wing is not my original idea, but glad you like it. Two Frenchies on the right wing will deal with the German sturmtruppe 😳

  • Guys, as Bellerin is injured i would continue Campbell on the right as he tracks back and defend and is pacier.

    So, the same team for me as per last Saturday’s game, sans Bells.


  • For that vacant wide right slot, against Bayern, we do not need a good attacker who can track back. We need, instead, a good defender who can spring forward in attack. Let’s not forget we had only 27% possession against Bayern at the Emirate. Fingers should be pointing at Flamini. Or is it at Chambers?

  • Come to think of it, Chambers cameo appearance in that position against the Swans was quite commendable.

  • PE,

    Well, as rambo did against bayern few weeks back, its true that he mostly stayed within our half.

    The trick is this.. we need someone that is able to gain posession and defend against douglas costa if he is playing, as Debuchy will get flattened by him is no right winger is pacy enough to deal with costa.

    So, still Campbell for me.


  • JK,

    Playing compressed and narrow leaves only pockets of tiny spaces. That means that pace ceases to be as crucial in defensive duties as its wont to be in a normal open game. This is why Per is suited playing against Bayern. His slow pace is less of a liability. The counters of course always require pacy players.

  • yeah sorry TA but on the day of an away champions league match at Bayern the interest in discussing the merits of one CB over another is slightly lessened somewhat, i did give my views on it before i moved on to other more pressing stuff like the Bellerin injury.

    I was looking at our injuries today and when being pressed hard by Bayern and looking to counter we are going to need some actual pace in transition but with our top four speedsters all out where is that pace going to come from?
    All out:

    Our next three speedy players would probably be Gibbs, Sanchez and Campbell so why not play them all?

    —————-Le Coq———–Cazorla————-

    Campbell to cut in and provide a threat from the right and Gibbs simply to get down the line and cross for Sanchez, both have pace and defensive prowess on the flanks and Sanchez can act as a Theo substitute which still leaves us with the Giroud sub tactic we used last time to great effect.
    Bayern hated that pace we had up top last time and i think Giroud from the start would be handled much easier by them.

    Just a thought and most likely not one the boss will do but i thought i would share it with you lot nevertheless 🙂

  • Hey TA, Nice post but maybe not one for those caught up in the ‘tyranny of the moment,’ as AW once put it so nicely…

    Personally, I don’t go looking for stats but I appreciate it when people whose opinions I respect use them. F11ngers, unfortunately, using words like “silly” and “oaf” shows ZERO respect (for both this blog and our team…) so I have to wonder why he posts here and why he supports Arsenal. (I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions but I do..) Likewise, when he proposes that we buy Raphael Varane and then complains about Arsenal not ponying up the money for him (at least he’s aware it’s a money issue…) I wonder why he doesn’t employ the simple solution and simply start supporting Real Madrid. (Explaining the money issues, again, seems a waste of keystrokes…) They have Varane, they have Ronaldo, they have Bale, they have Isco and they will keep buying and buying and buying (and will get a new manager every season they don’t win the La Liga/CL double…) What’s not to like?… :shakes head:

    At least he kept on topic, however, as I will attempt here before fecking off to put together a little match preview… I’m an early riser to begin with, but I’m still coping with the big time change so something to do is a good thing. Later, maybe before the match (noon here) I’ll go for a little ski. 4″ on the back deck should give me enough over on the other side of the ridge for a good shuffle… 😀

    So, on the topic, I think it’s clear that Gabby, like Kos before him, is a great buy and somebody who 99.9% of Gooners–who fancy themselves smarter than Wenger–would never have known. I also love the BFG, who along with Santi (check my avatar photo), could be the player who has done the most with limited athletic gifts. He was a good buy as well, is a huge reason we haven’t finished worse than 4th and deserves a LOT more credit than blame-oriented fans ever give him. I also love the fact that he has given up the International football. We’re suddenly better in matches after the Int’l break and I believe that is no coincidence. We’re also better at set pieces and, again, I’ll point to Per as somebody who might take some credit. Am I making these ideas up? Probably, but they ALL seem more plausible than notions like Ozil cannot play the game and the Ox should be our main man,, etc., etc, etc.,.

    Finally, the point, TA, which appeals the most, is the idea that Gabby might (over time) become the best option when we need 3 points (i.e., goals, i.e., at home vs the lesser teams)… In those situations, like you, I’d rather see players with a bit of pace out wide and across the halfway line. The BFG ain’t that guy… Well observed, my friend… Shame that nobody else could even be arsed to notice it…

    Both pairings work best with Kos, our family favorite. Can’t wait for that kit I won… 😀

    OK, match tonight, off to write about it… L8RZ…

  • It’s good to differentiate between speed and acceleration. One can have acceleration but no good speed. One can have good speed but poor acceleration. For example Santi has great acceleration but very poor final speed. Sanchez has terrific acceleration, but his final speed is common place. Walcott has a great acceleration and a great final speed. Giroud starts like a coal fueled locomotive engine but given 80 meters his final speed might stun everybody. In football nobody is given 80 meters which tells us that good acceleration is the more desirable quality. Gain a meter at the start and maintain that lead over the available 10,15 meters.

    Counters require good speed in transition, which demands not necessarily individual speed, but intelligent runs and well timed, well weighted passes between the few countering players. Ozil, Sanchez, Santi are just what the doctor ordered. Giroud will act as the staging platform, as well as do the decoy runs. Imo we are equipped to hurt anybody using the counter strategy. Once we are focused in our defending, the brakes will come, and if the mix of the foraging players is right our counters can be quite telling.

  • Holy Moses, Seventeenho, it is only 6am in your kingdom and you are already up and writing! 🙂

    Good to hear you are all back and well, and thanks for the comment. Good to see that at least one fellow man on this blog can do two things at a time! 😀

    The stats only show how close these players are in terms of their performances and that they do a very good job at defending. The number of clean sheets, including high profile games, tell a story as well of course… and that is also a stat! 😀

    I like the point about Arsenal now performing better after the international break, possibly due to the BFG being rested and having time to work with Arsene in preparation of the next game.

    looking fwd to the match preview and there is plenty to discuss, still… which CB pairing, with right wing pairing, which attacker on the bench: Giroud or Campbell, who to cover the double DM, etc etc.

  • F11,

    Last comment deleted.

    the threat of punching somebody out, even if the guy you are threatening would have you for supper with one eye closed and one arm behind his back, is not acceptable here. You had your last chance to blog properly here: time to oaf off.

  • New Post

    Uh oh, I thought there could be trouble when my comment appeared at the same time as steve’s… Trust me, I’m not looking for a fight and I’m sure he’s a LOT tougher than I am. Luckily, I’m harder to catch, esp. now that I’m back in the States… 😀 All I was asking for was a bit of respect (for the post writer…and our players). Criticism and putting out your own ideas is fine, but it seems a bit of a two way street… If you’re just itching for a fight (and not to learn from or at least consider other folks’ perspectives), what’s the point?… 😦

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