Arsenal have received a massive injury boost ahead of Saturday’s trip across London to West Ham United with the club revealing on Wednesday that Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi and Konstantinos Mavropanos all returned to full training.
But with the likes of Bellerin, Monreal and Mustafi all having had a massive influence on Arsenal’s season so far, it is the return of Mavropanos that should excite manager Unai Emery the most.
The Greek hasn’t played a minute of football yet this season after making his presence felt in the Premier League towards the latter stages of last season.
Mavropanos got the nod by Arséne Wenger to start in a few of the Gunners’ final matches before the end of the season and he certainly looked the part in that short period of time.
His physicality has been something very different to what Arsenal fans are usually expecting to see from the club’s defenders.
In his first ever start for the North London club, the 21-year-old put in a heavy and clean challenge on Romelu Lukaku, which saw the Manchester United striker leave the field with injury as a result. A similar situation was experienced by Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, who also got off second best after colliding with Mavropanos in the air.
A groin injury at the beginning of the season halted the centre-back’s bright start at the Emirates and it will take time for him to regain his fitness again.
But Emery has proven to push his players to their limits in order to get the best out of them and the prospect of having Mavropanos back in the Arsenal first-team should improve the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
Given his young age, the manager should use Mavropanos to prepare for Arsenal’s future alongside someone like Rob Holding, who performed really well before getting injured in December.
Arsenal have struggled with their defensive depth in recent months and the return of Mavropanos should also be of high value with the FA Cup and Europa League still to compete for. Forget the transfer targets, Emery can mould a real leader with hard work at London Colney.