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Laurent Koscielny v Arsenal: Why he came out fighting with shock snub

COMMENT: It's just the way of the modern game. The modern footballer. Want to leave? Quit? Just down tools. Throw a strop. Go AWOL. Sod the club. The fans. Even your teammates. Even when you're captain. At least that's how Laurent Koscielny is being portrayed today. But should he..?

It was a shock for the fans. And to pundits. Especially those not paying attention. But Arsenal? Management? Erm, not so much. Koscielny, the club captain, drew a line in the sand on Thursday. Refusing to board Arsenal's flight to the US. He's played his last game for the club. That we can be certain of. His final action now likely to be handing over a fortnight's wages to the club for his behaviour.

And on the surface, all those today throwing spite at the Frenchman would be right. This is no behaviour from a senior pro, let alone an Arsenal captain. He's still contracted to the club. He still has obligations to meet. Koscielny should've been on that flight.

But for management, this decision hasn't come out of the blue. Perhaps they didn't expect it to be in this form, but something was brewing. They knew Koscielny's plans. He'd even asked for assistance. But it had fallen on deaf ears. Any claim suggesting Arsenal were taken aback by this is the stuff of PR merchants.

Today in England, it's suggested Koscielny has three offers on the table: Lyon, Rennes and Bordeaux. And that's close. But the last 24 hours haven't been about the Frenchman sifting through offers and wanting time to negotiate. This is about Bordeaux, Koscielny and Arsenal's stand regarding contract talks.

As mentioned, Koscielny's actions weren't done on a whim. This column being told Arsenal have been well aware of their captain's wish to move to Bordeaux for months.

Indeed, as far back as April, Koscielny's minders informed the Gunners of contact with the Ligue 1 club. It was an approach that attracted the defender. A move which would take him closer to his family's home town of Tulle. The 33 year-old was keen, though wanted to know Arsenal's intentions before pressing ahead after the initial contact. With no response regarding new contract talks - and with a little over a year on his current deal - Koscielny continued the negotiations to the point where an agreement over a Girondins deal was settled.

At Bordeaux, he was wanted. Paulo Sousa, the club's new coach, stepping in personally to detail what he had planned for Koscielny. Having lost Jules Kounde to Sevilla, Sousa was in need of a centre-half. Given Koscielny's status and experience, the Portuguese has plans to build his system around the Arsenal captain. On the pitch. In the locker room. Koscielny's leadership would be sought.

The key now was to secure a release from that final 12 months of his deal. After nine seasons with the Gunners, there was an expectation that he'd be granted a free transfer.

Instead, Arsenal went the opposite. Not only refusing the release. Not only refusing to make a counter proposal. But slapping a £10m price-tag on the back of the veteran. A decision which left Koscielny stunned. Particularly when - at £90,000-a-week - it would cost less than half such a valuation to buy out the remaining 12 months of his contract.

"We all think he wants to come," one Bordeaux source was quoted Friday morning. "On our side, in any case, the work has been done for a long time. It is on the side of Arsenal that it's being blocked."

Does that excuse Thursday's actions? Perhaps not. For this column, the best move after Arsenal's response to a free transfer request would've been to go public. Make a formal transfer demand. In writing. So forcing everything out into the open.

Instead, this smacks of an act of desperation. Or better yet, exasperation. Arsenal's treatment coming 12 months on from that Achilles injury which ruled Koscielny out of the final international tournament of his career. Out of the opportunity to share a World Cup triumph with his country. A lost final opportunity that has left him bitter.

"I'll have it in my mind until the end of my life," Koscielny stated earlier this year. "But we must continue to live.

"Nobody can put themselves in my place. No player can put himself in my place. I was both super happy for them, but at the same time disgusted. At the same time I wanted them to qualify (for the final), but at the same time I wanted them to lose."

Given how hard he took last summer, it's understandable Koscielny has now come out fighting. It's not an excuse. And it could've been done better. But given the context, his actions can be understood.

There's more to this one than simply another modern footballer downing tools.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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