'I may not be the most talented but I'll never stop working'

Saturday 30 May 2015
Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny spoke to TheFA.com ahead of Saturday's Final

Laurent Koscielny is afraid to think about what might happen if he ever stopped working hard.

The Arsenal centre-back is preparing for Saturday’s FA Cup Final – the first trophy defence of his career – when he considers the moments that made him as a player.

Arsenal v Aston Villa

The FA Cup Final
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
5.30pm, Saturday 30 May
Live on BBC One and BT Sport

He is in his fifth season with Arsenal and a seasoned international, but there is no quenching the desire to improve that drove him to the French third division to get where he wanted to be.

"My career is unusual," admits the 29-year-old. "I arrived in professional football when I was 18.

"I didn’t play for the France youth teams. I never thought I would be here today at this club."

A young Laurent Koscielny challenges Emmanuel Adebayor in 2004

A young Laurent Koscielny challenges Emmanuel Adebayor in 2004

Equally, many would watch the fast, imposing defender and wonder how, just eight years ago, he was on the fringes of the professional game.

But it was a situation Koscielny had taken on willingly – and the roll of the dice paid off.

He said: "I started with Guingcamp, in the second division. But it was hard. The chairman bought a lot of players to play in the first division, who had lots of experience.

"I played at left wing-back, right-back or left-back and very few times at centre-back. It just wasn’t me."

Koscielny pauses for a second and thinks back to the skinny youngster who was shunted around the team.

He said: "I was gentle then. Quiet in my life and on the pitch, but when I left the club I changed."

The change was a move to Tours, a division lower but with desire to match his own.

"I took a gamble – I found a good club and a coach who believed in me," he said.

"I had more money at Guingcamp but it wasn’t about the money. I wanted to play in my position and get more experience, so I joined a team who had ambition to get promoted to the second division.

"We finished second and went up, we stayed together, and continued to progress.

"After I played lots of games and that brought me the experience and confidence I needed."

Laurent Koscielny challenges Fernando Torres in his first game in England

Laurent Koscielny challenges Fernando Torres in his first game in England

Koscielny’s performances earned him a move to Lorient in Ligue 1.

"I signed for Lorient and worked with the coach [Christian] Gourcuff who had worked with a lot of players from the second division and improved them," he said.

"Then after one year Arsenal came. The chairman said ‘yes, you can go but the price will be very high’. I said: ‘this is my only chance'.

"For the French, Arsenal is the 19th club of the French League.

"I said: ‘The train passes only one time, and after that I don’t know if it will ever happen again’.”

Laurent Koscielny with his daughter Maena

Laurent Koscielny with his daughter Maena

Arsenal paid around £8m for Koscielny, and apart from some debut nerves, he has never looked back.

"I remember my first game at Anfield – August 2010. The noise was unbelievable, and I had just played one season in the First Division in France.

"I think I played well but I received two yellow cards. I think it was harsh. But I’ve got better because I have worked hard and played a lot of games."

Now he and his wife Claire are parents to two children, Maena and Noah, and a life in England suits them.

He smiled: "My family are happy here. My children are English – they were born here.

"Sometimes I learn English from my daughter because she is better than me. She speaks with an English accent."

Softly spoken but with a remarkable memory for detail, Koscielny prefers to do his talking on the pitch, but says his recipe for success has been simple.

"Maybe I don’t have the talent of a big player – I just try to be myself, work, and improve my quality," he said.

"But then all the best players are the same. Cristiano Ronaldo – he works a lot too. He always wants more.

"He scores 50 goals one season and then the next he wants 60. I’m the same – I work hard because I want more. If you want to be better you need to work."

Koscielny’s goals at Arsenal are clear, starting with Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Aston Villa.

"I just want to win more trophies with Arsenal," he said. "I am happy here – it is my fifth season and I have a long contract.

"But I will never stop working hard. I believe in me, and it is difficult to predict what you can achieve in life."

By James Callow Content manager