Arsenal’s club-captain, Laurent Koscielny, made an emphatic return to the Premier League on Sunday with a clash at Southampton, but his first appearance in the league since April turned out to be somewhat of a nightmare as the Saints ended the Gunners’ unbeaten run with a 3-2 win.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery were again forced into defensive changes with Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos missing the encounter at St Mary’s due to suspension, while Sead Kolasinac was ruled out with injury. Indeed, apart from Koscienly leading the team out and left-wing Nacho Monreal also returning from injury, did Emery opt for a back-three formation again with Stephan Lichtsteiner and Granit Xhaka partnering Koscielny at the back.
But the Frenchman was quickly reminded of the pace and physicality of the Premier League as two positioning errors in defence saw former Liverpool striker Danny Ings outsmarting the Arsenal captain and finding the back of the net twice before half-time.
While some Arsenal fans might have slated Koscielny for his lack of judgement in defence on Sunday, Emery should rather not see it as a matter of not ‘good enough’ for his system.
One Europa League match last week before the clash at the South Coast were the only two occasions that Koscielny has worked with the new Arsenal manager on a matchday and will it take time for both player and manager to understand each other in terms of expectations and execution on the pitch.
Koscielny is still one of the most experienced players in the Arsenal squad and would it be foolish of Emery to snub him after one match. Instead, the manager should continue to back him this week as Arsenal host rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday, before welcoming struggling Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.
Both of these matches will be prime situations for Koscielny to continue his comeback from that horrible ankle injury he suffered at Atletico Madrid in May.
The Spurs clash especially will present the 33-year-old with a great task of defending against the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
Proving himself against attackers like that will only increase his confidence and help him get back to his known best.