Unfortunately, it was not a happy return for the Gunners captain, as it coincided with Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run coming to an end, Unai Emery’s side losing 3-2 to Southampton.
Koscielny’s own performance came under the scanner during the game as he was arguably at fault for all three of the visitors’ goals.
Here’s a closer look at his display.
Goals conceded – 3
Tackles – 3
Tackle success rate – 100%
Aerial duels won – 3
Aerials won % – 75
Interceptions – 1
Blocks – 2
Koscielny slotted straight into the back three that Emery has been using for most of the past month, though he was the only recognised central defender in that three-man defence thanks to injuries and suspensions.
With right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and midfielder Granit Xhaka alongside him, it was up to Koscielny to provide the solidity in a makeshift defence. Instead, Southampton took advantage of Koscielny’s lack of match fitness to become only the second team to score three goals against Arsenal this season.
Laurent Koscielny is starting a Premier League game for the first time since April 22nd 2018.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 16, 2018
The comeback continues. ✊ pic.twitter.com/itoV5EtFXK
From a possession point of view, Koscielny looked like he’d never been away, helping Arsenal build from the back with ease. His passing accuracy of 92.4% was the best of any outfield player for the Gunners, and he completed more passes than anyone bar Xhaka. He also had the second-highest touches of any player.
Those stats show that he’s an instant fit in manager Unai Emery’s system offensively. But he has rust to shake off to be an effective defender again.
For all three goals, Koscielny was caught out on a cross. Admittedly the same can be said for his defensive partners, and, in the case of the third goal, goalkeeper Bernd Leno as well, but Koscielny’s positioning was especially poor.
That’s likely a result of being out of the team for so long, as he continues to work his way back to full match fitness. But on Sunday, when he was the only recognised centre-back, it cost his team.
Three goals conceded - all scored by the player that Koscielny should've marked. Also, that was terrible goalkeeping from Leno. He has been making too many mistakes recently.— Henrik Hindby (@HenrikHindby) December 16, 2018
Koscielny’s return for Arsenal is a welcome one, but on Sunday he showed how much work is left in his recovery. Arsenal’s crisis at the back obviously didn’t help, as his first game back in the Premier League since May saw him playing alongside Xhaka and Lichtsteiner, neither of whom are regular centre-backs.
If anything, the Frenchman was hung out to dry, though Emery also had no choice given his first-choice centre-backs weren’t available. But this was a chastening comeback for Koscielny.
RATING – 4/10
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