Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny to start in Europa League against Qarabag
By Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 12/12/18 2:46pm
Laurent Koscielny is in line to start for Arsenal against Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday for the first time since May.
The French defender suffered a serious Achilles injury playing in the semi-finals of the same competition against Atletico Madrid last season.
He subsequently missed the World Cup, but has featured for Arsenal's U23 side in recent weeks and has now proved his fitness to manager Unai Emery.
"We are going to use tomorrow (Thursday) some players from the Under-23 team. Also tomorrow our plan is to start with Laurent Koscielny," said Emery.
"Our first aim in this competition we have done, which is to be first in the group. But we respect this competition and Qarabag. Tomorrow our objective is to win.
"We are going to give players chances tomorrow to take responsibility, rhythm, confidence. Also, we are going to play a lot of matches in the next 10 days. We have four matches and every match is very important."
Following the clash with Qarabag, Arsenal travel to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday with a severe shortage of available centre backs.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, while Konstantinos Mavropanos and Rob Holding are both injured.
However, Emery is reluctant to pencil in Koscielny for an appearance against the Saints, and says he has alternatives.
"We are going to decide after tomorrow's match, because it is the first match with us Laurent Koscielny is going to play," said the Spaniard. "We are going to look if he can play 90 minutes or less minutes in this game. We can use other players in this position, like Nacho Monreal or Stephan Lichtsteiner. We need to know how Koscielny feels after tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Emery confirmed Arsenal have spoken to their players to remind them of their responsibilities after several of them were caught on camera appearing to inhale nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas.
"The club says this discussion stays inside between us," he said. "The most important is to not lose our focus, and the focus is now the match tomorrow and on Sunday.
"I trust in my players. Every day I am seeing every player training with us with big commitment."