Arsenal will be without Laurent Koscielny for their top-of-the-table Premier League clash with Chelsea on Monday. The central defender was forced off during the Gunners’ heavy 6-3 defeat to Manchester City last weekend when he sustained a deep laceration to his right knee in trying to prevent City’s second goal.
However, the injury does not appear to be as severe as first feared. While there were initial suggestions that Koscielny could be ruled out for up to four weeks, leading French publication L’Equipe have reported that the France international may well be back to take part in Arsenal’s Boxing Day contest at West Ham.
Still, his absence in the vital contest with Chelsea comes as a major blow. Koscielny has started all-but two Premier League matches for Arsenal this season alongside Per Mertesacker and the pair have formed an impressive partnership. Indeed, Arsenal have yet to lose a match in the league this season when the pair have completed the 90 minutes. Having so long lacked security at the back, their current combination complement each other well, with Mertesacker a powerful leader and Koscielny having the pace to generally cover for either players' mistakes.
Thomas Vermaelen will now take Koscielny’s place. The man who remains club captain has barely featured for the Gunners since losing his place after a derby defeat to Tottenham in March.
Also absent against a Chelsea side that will go above them in the league with a win will be Jack Wilshere. In what was a bad day all-round for Arsenal against City, Wilshere was shown by television cameras raising his middle finger in the direction of the home fans at the Etihad. While referee Martin Atkinson and his officials missed the incident at the time, the Football Association retrospectively handed the midfielder a two-match suspension. Although Arsenal tried to claim that the punishment was excessive, it was upheld on Thursday by an independent panel.
On a more positive note, Monday maybe the day when Arsenal welcome Lukas Podolski back to their match-day squad. The German forward has been missing since tearing his hamstring in the second leg of August’s Champions League qualifier with Fenerbahce. He has now been back in full training for a couple of weeks and, having narrowly missed out on being involved against Manchester City, could be handed a place on the bench against Chelsea.
Arsenal are set to welcome back two other long-term absentees next month, with Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo due to return in January from knee and back injuries, respectively.