Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny is set to make his comeback from an Achilles injury next week.
Frenchman Koscielny has not played since rupturing the tendon in the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid in May, an injury that caused him to miss the World Cup.
He has ramped up his training over the international break, however, and Gunners boss Unai Emery is hoping the 33-year-old can take part in an under-23 game against Derby County on Monday.
“He started to train with us, every day, one month ago,” Emery told a news conference.
“The process with him in this international break is to finish training with us every day to start playing, little by little.
“First, our idea is to start with the under-23s. He is well, with good performances, good feeling and I think he is close to also playing with us.
“But the first idea is, and maybe on Monday, he can play with the under-23s.
“We are going to decide on Saturday the plan with him, but we are thinking for him to start to take minutes.”
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Koscielny’s enforced absence has created an opportunity for Rob Holding which the former Bolton Wanderers defender has seized with both hands.
“I think in pre-season, every player had chances to show us how they can play and little by little, with his work every day, I think Rob Holding is improving,” added the Spaniard.
“He is taking confidence and with confidence he is at his best. He is helping us like we want.
“His chances are coming in the matches and now Koscielny also is working with us every day and he is close to playing in the next matches.
“Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] is working better every day also, I think his adaptation is better now than in the first two months.
“We need every player and Rob Holding is very important with his spirit, with his commitment with us and with every player.”
Holding was linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium in pre-season but Emery instead opted to loan Calum Chambers to Fulham.
“In pre-season we also had [Konstantinos] Mavropanos – but he is injured now, we had Chambers and we decided to let him go on loan to Fulham and we decided that Rob Holding stayed here,” explained Emery.
“When he [Holding] had chances, he played well and he helped us with big performances.”
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