'A better person, a better man' - Arsenal's Koscienly says injury made him stronger

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The centre-back made his return to action for the Gunners against Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday following a six month absence

Arsenal's club captain Laurent Koscielny claims he is "a better person" and mentally stronger after coming back from a six-month injury lay-off.

The defender ruptured his Achilles tendon during last season's Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid in May, causing him to miss France's 2018 Wolrd Cup win in Russia. 

Koscielny admitted he struggled to come to terms with missing out on the tournament, and even rooted against France at times.

The 33-year-old finally returned to the pitch on Thursday, starting Arsenal's Europa League win over Qarabag at centre-back, and said his "season starts now"  when speaking to reporters after the game.

When asked about his spell on the sidelines, Koscielny told the Gunners' official website: “It makes you a better person, a better man.

“I talked to a lot of people who had been injured like me, or in their knees, so it’s like six months [out], and they told me that you miss football a lot and when you come back you are so hungry. You want to eat everything and grow on the pitch and just enjoy and be happy with what you can do on the pitch. 

“These are real things that I have in me. I’m hungry to play football again and to play with my team-mates, so I don’t think people will say ‘you have been injured and will be less stronger than before’. I think you are mentally stronger than any people who didn’t have an injury like you’ve had."

Koscielny is expected to feature against Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday as Arsenal are without Sokratis and Shkrodan Mustafi through suspension, while Rob Holding is injured.

A return to league action will mean a lot to the Frenchman, who admitted he missed spending time with his team-mates while absent.

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“When you are fit, you have a lot of friends and a lot of people who love you and everything, and when you are injured all these people forget you," he continued. "But it’s nice because for me I don’t forget and I can realise which people are with me and love me, so it’s important for my life to know about this.

“You miss everything. You miss the love you can have with your team-mates, you miss the pitch, you miss all the conversations with your team-mates during treatment or gym sessions."

The Gunners will be looking to keep pace with Tottenham, and bring the gap between themselves and their London rivals back down to two points. 

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