London: Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny said he finally had a smile back on his face after making a successful comeback from a seven-month injury layoff in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League victory over Qarabag.
The French defender sustained an Achilles tendon injury against Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of last season’s competition and underwent surgery in May.
More disappointment followed when he missed France’s World Cup-winning campaign in Russia earlier this year but the 33-year-old said he was now ready to start afresh.
“I have my smile back and I’ll enjoy it with my club. I’ll start my season now,” Koscielny told Arsenal’s website.
Koscielny had little to do on Thursday as Arsenal, who have already qualified for the last 32 of Europe’s second-tier club competition, eased past the Azerbaijani side thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s winner.
“It was an important day for me. It was the end of my rehab, so I am happy to play with my team, for this club, and to enjoy it with them on the pitch,” Koscielny added.
Victory against Qarabag extended the club’s winning run in all competitions to 22 games and manager Unai Emery could turn to his captain again when Arsenal return to Premier League action with a trip to Southampton on Sunday.
Chelsea, meanwhile, said fans found guilty of racism would face the strongest possible action following allegations of anti-Semitic chanting by their supporters during their final Europa League group game against Vidi FC in Budapest on Thursday.
The incident came days after four Chelsea fans were banned from their matches pending a police investigation following the alleged racist abuse of Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling last Saturday.
“Anti-Semitism and any other kind of race-related or religious hatred is abhorrent to this club and the overwhelming majority of our fans,” the club said in a statement.
“It has no place at Chelsea or in any of our communities. We have stated this loud and clear on many occasions from the owner, the board, coaches and players.
“Any individuals that can’t summon the brainpower to comprehend this simple message and are found to have shamed the club by using anti-semitic or racist words or actions will face the strongest possible action from the club.” European soccer’s governing body UEFA has launched an investigation into the alleged chanting, British media reported on Thursday.