The Curious Case Of Laurent Koscielny—Human Fallacies

Chelsea Fc

Lampard(14), Terry(45), Mata(80)

3 - 5


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Arsenal FC

Van Persie(36, 85, 90+2), Santos(49), Walcott(55)

In my last post I wrote that Koscielny is the first choice centreback. Adding:

The assumption is that Vermaelen will partner Mertesacker in the long run, however as far as I am concerned it will be Koscielny in the driver seat with others fighting for a game.

This morning I had intended to write more about Koscielny’s rise from Lique 1 to 1st choice at The Arsenal, however in my feed reader I saw that @dstonearsenal wrote an excellent piece on that topic, so I’m just going to add a few words about the man who according to the esteemed Mr. Redknapp had finally “arrived” in the 3-5 win against Chelsea.

As Darius Stone wrote, the first thing that fans use to judge a player is the nonsensical notion of equating transfer fee to quality. So Koscielny instantly fails in this regard with his £8.4m fee paling in comparison to top class defenders. I find it unbelievable than anyone would think that way.

The fact is the transfer fee has more to do with how much one party is willing to sell at and how mush the other is willing to pay. It has more to do with the particular needs of a club and that of a player. It has more to do with vanity than reality. It has more to do with timing.

It has little to do with quality. Anelka went from £500,000 to £22.3m and everything in between, yet his quality was consistent throughout. What does that say? We’re not comparing different players or positions. The same player was traded for:

  • £500,000 —Arsenal —Games per goal(2.83)
  • £22,300,000 —Real Madrid —Games per goal(9.5)
  • £20,000,000 —PSG —Games per goal(3.9)
  • £12,000,000 —Manchester City —Games per goal(2.4)
  • £7,000,000 —Fenerbahçe —Games per goal(2.8)
  • £8,000,000 —Bolton —Games per goal(2.5)
  • £15,000,000 —Chelsea —Games per goal(3.24)

What does this show? Transfer fee is a lottery. The performance of a player has nothing to do with his transfer fee.

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More than the transfer fee, the judgement on Koscielny’s quality is gratuitously skewed because of a few relatively high profile errors. No matter that he has kept an untold number of strikers quiet, or he as the best timing of tackles, recovery pace, or positioning. He will always be shit in people’s eyes because of that Carling Cup Final.

That is a classic human failing otherwise known as cognitive biases. In particular a Negativity bias – the tendency to pay more attention and give more weight to negative than positive experiences or other kinds of information.

Another form of cognitive bias that Koscielny suffers from is the Von Restorff effect – the tendency for an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” to be more likely to be remembered than other items.

An all action player who put in 1 or 2 crunching tackles in a game but not much else is held in higher regard than one who times and wins 5 or 6 interceptions. Yet it should be obvious that an interception is more valuable than the type of tackle that is more often than not a foul. Even when it is not a foul you’re hardly in a position to do anything with the ball if you’re lucky enough to win the ball.

I keep hearing that Laurent is error prone, when the truth is again linked to the Wembley final. An event that sticks out like a sore thumb, and one that is out of the ordinary for the defender. An own goal against Blackburn caused the old error prone line to resurface. Yet the fact that these errors stick out so much should lead one to conclude that he is infact not error prone and these events are extreme cases.

This is the same stick used to beat Arshavin with, using a 4 goal performance at Liverpool as the benchmark. Expecting him to put in that type of performance on a regular basis is foolish, it may never happen again. The benchmark for Arshavin is an assist every other game or a goal every 3-4 games, sadly every time he fails to score 4 it’s another poor performance—madness.

These cognitive biases are present in everyone, the trick is to acknowledge their existence and ask yourself  “am I being biased here?” Obviously as football fans we will have our tinted spectacles on and it’s fine as long as we realise that those specs are indeed on.


  1. Martin

    Wow! The Anelka transfer fees is crazy. Entirely opposite to the price=quality equation.

    The less you pay the better he performs.

  2. Darius

    Hey Wengerball.

    Great analysis of Koscielny and very insightful points on the link between transfer fees and quality.

    Unfortunately, the media, pundits and fans that follow their piss poor analysis like sheep actually believe that if you spend the money, then the player is top quality.

    I rest my case with Fernando £50 million Torres vs Robin Van Persie who cost £2.75 million in transfer fees.