Koscielny an injury doubt for Gunners

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny lies injured as Southampton's Fraser Forster checks on him during their match on Sept 10, 2016.
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny lies injured as Southampton's Fraser Forster checks on him during their match on Sept 10, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny and Mohamed Elneny training before their clash with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Koscielny is troubled by an eye injury after taking a kick to his face against Southampton.
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny and Mohamed Elneny training before their clash with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Koscielny is troubled by an eye injury after taking a kick to his face against Southampton.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Wenger short on options as French defender may be sidelined due to injury around his eye

LONDON • Laurent Koscielny is a doubt for Arsenal's opening Champions League group game against Paris Saint-Germain today after suffering an eye injury during the climax of Saturday's dramatic stoppage-time 2-1 win over Southampton in the English Premier League.

The defender was unable to complete training on Sunday with his right eye almost completely closed. He will be assessed by Arsenal's medical team before going to Paris.

Koscielny's absence for Arsenal's most difficult game in Group A would be a huge blow for Arsene Wenger and leave him with little alternative but to hand a Champions League debut to Rob Holding in daunting circumstances.

PSG have made a stuttering start to their Ligue 1 campaign, but remain formidable at home and have only been beaten once at Parc des Princes since April last year.

Arsenal are eager to make a strong start to this year's competition after two opening defeats 12 months ago left them struggling to qualify for the knockout stage.


Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Mohamed Elneny training before their clash with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Koscielny is troubled by an eye injury after taking a kick to his face against Southampton. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Koscielny suffered the injury when he was kicked in the face at full speed by Jose Fonte, with two studs believed to have made an impact with either side of his eye.

The Frenchman has been captaining Arsenal in the absence of Per Mertesacker this season and would be badly missed against PSG, as Wenger conceded, particularly given the lack of alternatives.

Mertesacker will be out until next year with a knee injury, Gabriel Paulista has just returned to training after sustaining ankle ligament damage and Calum Chambers joined Middlesbrough on loan at the end of the transfer window last month.

Holding performed well enough in Arsenal's first three league games to ensure it was his England Under-21 team-mate Chambers sent out on loan. But the Champions League would represent another big step up for the 20-year-old.

Kieran Gibbs could make the squad for Paris after being left out on Saturday, which would give Wenger the option of moving Nacho Monreal to centre-back.

"Koscielny is a concern," Wenger said. "It's already very swollen and the eye is closed up. It's difficult. He is one of the most experienced players we have and I think one of our best players."

UNSIGHTED

Koscielny is a concern. It's already very swollen and the eye is closed up. It's difficult. He is one of the most experienced players we have and I think one of our best players.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager fretting over the condition of his defender.

The manager has more options elsewhere on the pitch and will make several unforced changes.

Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Granit Xhaka are all expected to return to the starting line-up after being rested, with Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin likely to miss out.

PSG were also involved in late drama last weekend, with visitors St Etienne scoring in the final minute to force a 1-1 draw. That left the champions three points behind Monaco, who had beaten them 3-1 in the previous league fixture.

New coach Unai Emery, who arrived from Sevilla to replace Laurent Blanc, lost important players to the Premier League in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz but managed to keep influential midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

One of those he recruited will be familiar to Arsenal. Hatem Ben Arfa spent four years in England with Newcastle United and Hull City.

"It's a squad that has won a lot and that has developed while winning," Emery told Uefa's official website. "I've arrived at a club that want to keep on winning and kick on to the next level."

In a section also featuring Swiss side Basel and Bulgaria's Ludogorets Razgrad, nobody at PSG is envisaging anything other than progress to the knockout stage for a club that have reached four successive quarter-finals.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Koscielny an injury doubt for Gunners'. Print Edition | Subscribe