Arsenal: Europa League return for Laurent Koscielny is 'start of new chapter'

Laurent Koscielny
Koscielny played 72 minutes of Thursday's home match

Laurent Koscielny said he "started a new chapter" in his career after returning from injury in Arsenal's easy Europa League win over Qarabag.

Captain Koscielny, 33, had not played since rupturing his Achilles in May's semi-final defeat by Atletico Madrid.

He had little to do against a weak side the Gunners had no difficulty in beating 1-0, having already qualified for the last 32 as Group E winners.

"It was very important for me today," the French centre-back said.

"It is difficult being out injured. It was the first big injury of my career and I had to take a long time out, but you learn a lot about yourself and I am very happy. I am focused mentally, and I can smile and enjoy the rest of the season."

Alexandre Lacazette scored the only goal of a tame match with a slick 16th-minute winner from Mesut Ozil's pass.

Victory over Azerbaijan's champions extends Arsenal's unbeaten run into a 22nd match. It is their longest run without defeat since a 28-game stretch that ended in November 2007.

Koscielny made one tackle and two clearances, also finishing with a 100% pass success rate when he was replaced in the 72nd minute.

"It was very important to keep our unbeaten run going for the confidence and now we start a big challenge ahead of Christmas. Today we played with many young players and they showed lots of determination and focus on their jobs," he told BT Sport.

"For me it is important to enjoy the game with my team-mates, and it didn't matter about the result, it was just about being on the pitch with my friends.

"It was my last day of rehab, so now I start a new chapter in my career."

'Maybe he will play on Sunday'

Koscielny had already featured for Arsenal's under-23s on his road to recovery, in a 2-1 defeat by Portsmouth in the Checktrade Trophy on 4 December.

Arsenal next play in the Premier League away to Southampton in a 13:30 GMT kick-off on Sunday.

Gunners boss Emery said Koscielny would "maybe" feature.

"Today was another step for him," he said.

"We need to know tomorrow and Saturday how he is going to feel after this match. When a player comes back after a big injury, a very big injury, it can give the player different moments.

"I think for Koscielny it's good that he's recovered and I also think he recovered in a good time. Every supporter of Arsenal is happy, and also the player."

Top Stories