Unai Emery is wary of asking too much, too soon of Laurent Koscielny following the Arsenal defender’s long-awaited return from injury.
Arsenal’s paucity of defensive options may not be enough to tempt Unai Emery into risking the fit-again Laurent Koscielny in Sunday’s clash with Southampton.
The 33-year-old centre-back made his first appearance since rupturing an Achilles tendon in May as the Gunners beat Qarabag 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.
Koscielny completed 72 minutes at Emirates Stadium and would be a valuable inclusion in the weakened squad that will venture to St Mary’s.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, Rob Holding has been lost to a season-ending knee injury and Konstantinos Mavropanos has not featured at all this term.
“Today is another step for [Koscielny],” Emery told reporters.
“We need to [find out] tomorrow and Saturday how he is going to feel after this match to see if he can help us on the pitch on Sunday.
“It is good he has recovered and in a good time. Every supporter and player from Arsenal is happy.
“He can take confidence again, take rhythm and then we are going to continue our process. Maybe [he can play] Sunday, but I want to wait to see how he will feel.”
224 – Laurent Koscielny will make his first competitive start for Arsenal since last season’s UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg against Atlético de Madrid (May 2018), 224 days ago. Return. pic.twitter.com/FaHfCDMQsQ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 13, 2018
The Spaniard handed teenage midfielder Bukayo Saka a first professional start in the straightforward win and was impressed with what he saw.
“We give young players the chance to train with us, we give chances like today when we can and they show us positive things,” the Gunners boss said.
“Saka played with a good performance, with big personality. His personality is very important, [he tries] to take players on and break lines.”