Unai Emery says he doesn’t know whether Laurent Koscielny will be ready for Huddersfield on Saturday, and the club’s current plan is to bring him back into the first-team against Qarabag.
Arsenal have been hit by another centre-back injury crisis after Rob Holding was stretchered off against Manchester United. Laurent Koscielny and Konstantinos Mavropanos are still yet to return to the first-team, Julio Pleguezuelo is injured too, leaving Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos as the only options.
Considering Emery is playing three-at-the-back at the moment, only having two fit centre-backs is a bit of a problem. If Koscielny is fit, then problem solved, but Emery suggested on Wednesday that the Frenchman is aiming for a return next week against Qarabag.
“Laurent’s very close to playing for us,” Emery said. “He played two matches for the u23s. When are we thinking he will start playing with us? I don’t know if Saturday is a possibility, but we’re thinking the Europa League game vs Qarabag could be a good match for him.”
There are alternative options for Huddersfield. Nacho Monreal is back in full training, so he could play centre-back with Sead Kolasinac remaining out on the left. Stephan Lichtsteiner could also fill in as he did against Manchester United. Emery might simply decide to switch to a formation with two centre-backs.
Unless Arsenal really feel Koscielny is ready now, the Qarabag game is a much better option. The Gunners could perform terribly and get thrashed next Thursday and they’d still finish top of the group, so there’s no real risk, and it gives the 33-year-old a few extra days to prepare. We’ll see what Unai Emery decides this weekend.