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Arsenal Injury News: Emery hints at Koscielny’s return to playing

Under-23 game time but even still, Captain Kos is returning

Atletico Madrid v Arsenal FC - UEFA Europa League Semi Final Second Leg

When Laurent Koscielny went down with an Achilles tendon injury, Arsenal was a much different place. The team was pushing for a berth in the Europa League final, Arsene Wenger was in charge and they still employed Jack Wilshere. How fortunes all turned for the worse on all three situations (well, from Jack’s perspective, I guess).

Early in the second leg vs Atletico Madrid, Koscielny got injured, subbed off and that was about that. Atletico would defeat Arsenal, the team would remake both management and squad and Koscielny would face down at least six months out with a ruptured Achilles. At 32 years of age, worries about that being an accurate time-span were fairly legitimate, given his history of Achilles and calf issues he’s experienced over his career. It may have impacted his decision to retire from the French national team, although did not dissuade the decision to make him Arsenal’s club captain.

Today, new boss Unai Emery confirmed that, after returning to training last month, the French centerback was ready to return almost right on schedule:

“Koscielny is close to starting to play minutes little by little. Our first idea is to start [him playing] with the U23s.

”But these two weeks [during the international break] in training with us, he is looking well with a good performance, good feeling, and I think today he is close to play with us as well. But maybe Monday he will play with the U23s.”

OK, so it’s not the first team and these stints can easily result in setbacks but this is a very positive first step. Getting game time under his belt is a crucial to figuring out what type of player Koscielny will be going forward. Mobility has always been his strength as well as his Achil—wait... uh... weakness, often being caught out as much as making aggressive defensive plays. Whether he can return to that form or need to adjust his game remains to be seen.

Either way, it is a big boost to Arsenal’s defense. Shkodran Mustafi has had an up and down season so far. Sokratis solid enough but not spectacular. Only Rob Holding seems to have made a step forward to keep any sort of solidity in defense. Arsenal, despite sitting 5th, are firmly midtable in goals allowed and will look to Koscielny’s experience and leadership to shore up the backline. The push for a top four position might very well rely on it.

It’s also a new man for Emery to work into his vision for the squad. How he’ll trust Arsenal’s second longest serving player will be interesting, given that their longest appears to be out the door. May Laurent avoid the captain curse of just being the “old guy” on the team who is not long for it.