Emery: Koscielny no certainty to face Southampton

The manager is wary of asking too much, too soon of the Frenchman following his long-awaited return from injury

Arsenal’s paucity of defensive options may not be enough to tempt Unai Emery into risking the fit-again Laurent Koscielny in Sunday’s clash with Southampton.

The 33-year-old centre-back made his first appearance since rupturing an Achilles tendon in May as the Gunners beat Qarabag 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.

Koscielny, who said his season began in earnest on Thursday, completed 72 minutes at Emirates Stadium and would be a valuable inclusion in the weakened squad that will venture to St Mary’s.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, Rob Holding has been lost to a season-ending knee injury and Konstantinos Mavropanos has not featured at all this term.

“Today is another step for [Koscielny],” Emery told reporters.

“We need to [find out] tomorrow and Saturday how he is going to feel after this match to see if he can help us on the pitch on Sunday.

“It is good he has recovered and in a good time. Every supporter and player from Arsenal is happy.

“He can take confidence again, take rhythm and then we are going to continue our process. Maybe [he can play] Sunday, but I want to wait to see how he will feel.”

Arsenal’s victory over Qarabag rounded out their successful Group E campaign on a high note as Emery remains in the hunt for a fourth Europa League crown.

The Spaniard handed teenage midfielder Bukayo Saka a first professional start in the straightforward win and was impressed with what he saw.

“We give young players the chance to train with us, we give chances like today when we can and they show us positive things,” the Gunners boss said.

“Saka played with a good performance, with big personality. His personality is very important, [he tries] to take players on and break lines.”

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