Arsene Wenger has hailed Laurent Koscielny as one of the world’s best defenders after confirming the France international is fit to face Paris St Germain on Tuesday night.
The 31-year-old centre-back celebrated his birthday by scoring a stunning equaliser in Saturday’s Premier League win over Southampton but also suffered a facial injury which could have ruled him out of Arsenal’s Champions League opener in the French capital.
But Wenger has confirmed the France international is fit and ready to go at the Parc des Princes and believes Koscielny is now one of the best defenders around.
“I’d like to say yes,” he replied when asked if Koscielny was one of the best defenders in the world.
“No one is indispensable, but he has taken on a new status with us. He has experience, self-confidence.
“He’s always had talent, and that hasn’t always been recognised in France because he left Lorient, not a big club.
“So he didn’t have the reputation he deserved. But he’s made his name in English football. I think he’s one of the best in the world. I hope he proves that (against PSG).”
We're at our #PSGvAFC press conference – and there's good news
?"Koscielny is alright, he has recovered quite well" pic.twitter.com/DNld4ZCErC
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 12, 2016
The last-gasp victory over Southampton at the weekend means the Gunners have won their last two league games having taken just one point from their opening two fixtures.
PSG have started the season in similar fashion and the reigning Ligue 1 champions sit seventh after failing to win their last two.
And Wenger admits both sides will be looking to kick-start their respective campaigns with a victory in what will be seen as a key encounter in Group A, with Basle and Ludogorets expected to play second-fiddle.
Asked if both sides were yet to hit their peak in the early weeks of the new season, Wenger said: “Yes, that’s fair. Both sides are looking to find the right tempo and rhythm to their play.
“We had a slightly tough start with a few players late back. We also had a tough fixture list with regards to our fitness levels, but thankfully we are mentally strong enough to make our way gradually into better form.
“Mentally we are ready. Physically we are not quite ready so far.”
The clash with PSG will mean even more to Wenger, a proud Frenchman, after the club have been trying to lure him to the Parc des Princes since being taken over by the wealthy Qatari Sports Investments group.
According to L’Equipe, they have tried three times to recruit Wenger but were knocked back in 2011, 2013 and 1014 as he opted to remain at the Emirates Stadium – despite enduring a decade-long run without silverware in recent times.
And Wenger insists it is his passion for Arsenal which has kept him in north London rather than take him back to his homeland.
“Because I love where I am,” he replied when asked why he had turned down PSG’s overtures.
“I know well the owners (of PSG), but I feel always I remained loyal to Arsenal Football Club because I think it’s a club that has the qualities I love. And, that’s why.”