1. ITV Report

Laurent Koscielny aiming to start 'a new chapter' after making long-awaited Arsenal comeback

Photo: PA

Laurent Koscielny made his long-awaited comeback from injury in Arsenal's Europa League win over Qarabag and is now aiming to start "a new chapter" in his career.

The Gunners won 1-0 in a dead rubber at the Emirates Stadium, Alexandre Lacazette scoring the only goal of a forgettable contest.

Already assured of top spot in Group E, Unai Emery made nine changes from the weekend win over Huddersfield - one of which included Koscielny's first appearance of the season.

The 33-year-old ruptured his Achilles in a Europa League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid in May and came through 70 minutes unscathed against the Azerbaijan Premier League champions.

Koscielny made his first appearance since injuring his Achilles at the end of last season. Credit: PA

"It was very important for me today," he told BT Sport.

"It was my last day of rehab, so now I start a new chapter in my career. For me it is important to enjoy the game with my team-mates, and it didn't matter about the result, it was just about being on the pitch with my friends.

"It is difficult being out injured. It was the first big injury of my career and I had to take a long time out, but you learn a lot about yourself and I am very happy.

"I am focused mentally, and I can smile and enjoy the rest of the season."

Lacazette scored the vital goal as Arsenal beat Qarabag. Credit: PA

Emery, whose side have now gone 21 games unbeaten across all competitions, was also pleased to see his captain play under him for the first time.

"When a player comes back like Koscielny, after a big injury... a big injury can give the player difficult moments," the Arsenal head coach said.

"I think for Koscielny it's good that he's recovered and I also think he recovered in a good time for his big injury. When he comes back like today with us, every supporter of Arsenal is happy, and also the player."

Koscielny's return to fitness could prove timely for Emery, who has something of a defensive crisis heading into Sunday's Premier League trip to Southampton.

Despite Koscielny's return, Emery admits Arsenal may need to sign a new centre-back. Credit: PA

Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos are injured, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are banned - meaning Koscielny is Emery's only fit recognised centre-back, but the Spaniard is keen not to ask too much of his skipper.

"This process with him is to take confidence again, take rhythm for playing matches like today," he added.

"We are going to continue this process maybe on Sunday. I want to wait tomorrow and Saturday for how he will feel after this match, for if he will play or not on Sunday."

Lacazette's early goal settled the game as Mesut Ozil, returning from a back injury, teed up his fellow big-name starter with Emery taking the chance to blood several youngsters.

Mesut Ozil started his first game after missing out the last five due to a back injury. Credit: PA

Teenage forward Bukayo Saka particularly impressed against a Qarabag side who offered very little in the way of an attacking threat.

The game saw one controversial moment as it drew to its conclusion, a supporter running onto the pitch waving a flag of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region - antagonising the small number of Qarabag fans.

The area has caused conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov was not impressed with the stunt.

"I would like to not talk too much about this," he said.

"Only cowards will act like this. We must respect everybody at football, this provocation I would call it cowardice. You want to stand there, you don't want to run away. It's not good to provoke. Only cowards provoke."