Laurent Koscielny’s last appearance in a Europa League semi-final was a traumatic one.
It was on May 3 last year that our captain crumpled in a heap at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.
In that moment, Koscielny lost his chance of guiding us to a cup final or playing in France’s triumphant World Cup campaign. A long rehabilitation lay ahead.
Fast forward 12 months and Koscielny was sat alongside Unai Emery at a busy press conference, relaxed and ready to make a rather happier semi-final memory.
Not that the Frenchman has any regrets. On the contrary, his personal battle to return to fitness and return to our team has been an enlightening experience.
“Sometimes in life we are focused on small things and it can’t be good for you,” said Koscielny.
“I learned about my life [while I was injured], about the people around me. It’s a difficult experience but I loved it because sometimes your eyes are opened more than before.
“When you don’t have the injury, it’s difficult to know about this situation. [When you do have it], you grow up as a footballer but also as a man.
“You fight with yourself because you are a competitor and you want to come back to your level or maybe even more. I did this over seven months and I continue to fight.
“It’s not about my age or my injury, it’s because you want to win everything when you are a competitor.
“It was a big challenge for me to fight against my injury and I think I did well. I’m positive about this. It’s a new semi-final against a new Spanish team, but my life is now moved on from this moment and I need to live with it.
“Now it’s OK and it’s behind me. I’m very positive about where I am. I will always fight for my club, for me and my family as well. I’m just happy and enjoying my time on the pitch.”