How will Arsenal line-up if Laurent Koscielny is ruled out of their PSG clash?
Laurent Koscielny trained today for Arsenal, according to Sky Sports, after needing heavy treatment to his face towards the end of Saturday’s win over Southampton.
The Frenchman was instrumental for the Gunners at the weekend, scoring a stunning equaliser and putting in a captain’s performance at the back.
Partnering Shkodran Mustafi for the first time, he showed that he is a vital part of Arsenal’s side, and is therefore desperately needed for the big game in Paris on Tuesday night.
Since the Frenchman’s return to the side against Leicester, Arsene Wenger’s men have only conceded two goals, one of which was a set-piece. The Gunners have looked much more composed at the back, and the addition of Mustafi will only take that further.
The centre-back partnership at Arsenal now contains experience and plenty of pace and strength – factors lost with the injuries to Gabriel and Per Mertesacker. Both Koscielny and Mustafi will be vital on Tuesday night.
The clash with PSG offers something intriguing. While the French giants are the champions of the group, Arsenal may feel they can beat them and win it themselves. They do not hold the same fear that Bayern Munich did, when they were in the same group as the Gunners.
Paris have lost both Zlatan and David Luiz, and have had a change of manager, and this should all favour Wenger’s men. The clash tomorrow could be an opportunity for them to put in their best performance of the season and send a real message to the rest of Europe.
The centre-backs will be especially key to this. This is why it is such a relief for fans to hear that Koscielny is training. Wenger’s press-conference this afternoon should tell the fans more about his condition and if he will be ready in time to face the Parisians.
If he fails to make the match, the Gunners could turn once-again to young Rob Holding. The man from Bolton made a composed and exciting start to his career at the Emirates, and will jump at the opportunity to play in the Champions League. This would be his biggest challenge yet, but would maintain a significant risk.
A partnership of Mustafi and Holding – who have no experience playing together – would be dangerous to say the least. This would be a big night for both, and to have them playing together could be too much of a gamble.
Alternatively, Wenger could turn to Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard has played at centre-back before, and would be less of a risk alongside Mustafi. Kieran Gibbs could come in at left-back, and offer plenty of pace and experience.
While this might be a makeshift defence, it would have much more composure and experience to it than putting two new players together. Furthermore, Francis Coquelin could drop back and offer his defensive qualities.
If Koscielny is out, fans should probably expect a defensive looking midfield from Arsenal. Both Coquelin and Granit Xhaka would probably play, in order to help out the back-line, with Santi Cazorla either dropped or pushed further forward.
If the Frenchman is fit, then the Gunners could go back to their usual attacking line-up, with perhaps only Xhaka playing as a defensive minded player. One thing is for certain, this is a game that Arsenal can win and so they will be hoping dearly that their best defender is fit and ready.
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