When Laurent Koscielny was carried off the field during Arsenal’s Europa League semi final versus Atletico Madrid back in May 2018, many wondered whether he’d ever play for the club again. However, after spending the best part of eight months sidelined and missing France's World Cup victory, Koscielny returned to first-team action last December.
Koscielny played his way back to full fitness and featured heavily in the Gunners' disappointing run-in, but failed to convince most supporters of his ability to continue playing regularly at the standard required for another campaign.
Subsequently, it’s been widely reported throughout the summer that Koscielny and Arsenal could part ways during the close season, the Frenchman linked with potential moves to the Bundesliga, Serie A and his native France.
The news that Koscielny has refused to travel to the United States for the club's pre-season tour has come as a huge surprise to all. The statement released by Arsenal this morning confirming the reports and condemning his actions has sent shockwaves through the fanbase with many quick to criticise the club captain’s actions on social media.
The club's official statement was brief, failed to divulge much detail, and read as follows: “We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions.
We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”
The vague nature of the statement has left the situation open to all sorts of interpretation but, as the situation develops, what's gone on behind the scenes will no doubt become clearer.
Out of character
David Ornstein of the BBC has reported talks between the player and club were positive towards the end of last season but upon his return to pre-season training Koscielny asked to be released. He adds that the Frenchman’s decision to sit the tour out was communicated to the club as late as yesterday.
Koscielny and his representatives are yet to comment on the matter but the club's decision to go public suggests things have turned hostile between the two parties. Arsenal have been known to keep things ‘in-house’ and during the days of Arsene Wenger the club would have dealt with the situation in private for as long as possible.
Is this the first sign of the club adopting a more ruthless approach? You will need to reserve judgement on that until this latest drama reaches its conclusion, but given what we know about Koscielny’s career to date, his refusal to participate or even travel to this summers tour is certainly out of character. Equally, the club's action to discredit their skipper publicly feels out of the ordinary, too.
For Koscielny to return to pre-season training and demand he is released for free despite having another year left on his current contract, one would have to assume that the discussions reported to have taken place last season were not as positive as we’ve been led to believe.
Koscielny clearly feels he has a strong case as to why his contract should be terminated, prompting the question as to why a 33-year old who’s never displayed the slightest sign of unprofessionalism has suddenly had a personality shift and is now seemingly throwing his toys out of the pram.
Perhaps the Frenchman was promised he could leave this summer on the basis that Arsenal would replace him. Maybe the club's inability to recruit an experienced central defender thus far has led to a change in stance on their part, leaving the defender frustrated.
At present we can only speculate, but one thing that's for sure is this latest saga will be an unwanted distraction for Unai Emery and his team with the rest of the squad having departed for the United States this afternoon.
What's next for Koscielny
Whether or not the relationship between the player and the club can be mended remains to be seen, but it's safe to assume Koscielny will be stripped of the captaincy sooner rather than later.
After clearly expressing his desire to leave, if Arsenal are able to sell the Frenchman to any of the clubs reported to have shown an interest it will be good business for a 33-year old very much in the twilight of his career.
The concern for Arsenal fans all over the world will be whether or not the club will move to replace him with experience and quality. The lack of transfer activity so far continues to cause unrest amongst supporters and this latest revelation will do nothing to ease the widespread concern.