Bernd Leno has welcomed the impending return from injury of club captain Laurent Koscielny and revealed the Frenchman lectured the Arsenal squad on the importance of winning the north London derby.
Sidelined by a ruptured Achilles since May, the defender is set to make his first team comeback on Thursday against Qarabag in the Europa League. Assuming he comes through that tie unscathed there’s a high chance, given the suspensions to Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis and injuries to Rob Holding and Dinos Mavropanos, that he’ll also get game time at Southampton on Sunday.
It’s a big moment for the 33-year-old, who’ll be under pressure to help the Gunners extend their 21-game unbeaten run into the hectic Christmas period.
“In training you see how he is talking to other players,” Leno told Arsenal.com.
“We have many young players and he talks to them and for me he is a big personality in the team, in the dressing room.
“Before Tottenham, he was not in the squad but five minutes before the game he said many, many good things about the history of the game, how important it is for the fans, the club, every player, so he is the perfect captain for us.
“He is a big personality and of course he has big quality. I think we should give him the time [to play]. The coach is calm with him because he was a long time injured.
“I am happy for him that maybe he will play [against Qarabag on Thursday], I think he will play because he needs the confidence to play. His body needs also the feeling for the game.
“Of course, he trained a long time for us but the games are more difficult because the game is different for your head. I am happy for him that he will maybe start on Thursday and of course he will be an option for the next weeks in the [main] starting XI.”