The 33-year-old, angry at being denied a free transfer return to his homeland, is set to be stripped of the captaincy, with the club immediately opening disciplinary proceedings. Koscielny’s decision to press the button marked ‘player power’ had been against “clear instructions” according to his employers.
His stance represents a big headache for the club’s new technical director Edu, who was only appointed on Tuesday, as it directly affects already-complex transfer negotiations.
Arsenal’s furious reaction
While 29 of his team-mates were posing at Stansted Airport in front of the Emirates Airlines Boeing 777 that was to take them across the Atlantic Koscielny was training at the club’s London Colney base.
Arsenal’s US tour fixtures
Colorado Rapids (16 Jul)
Bayern Munich (18 Jul)
Fiorentina (20 Jul)
Real Madrid (24 Jul)
That was to avoid being in complete breach of a contract that has one year still to run and that the player had repeatedly asked to be terminated so he could take up one of three offers to return to his native France.
Arsenal were quick to release a statement of condemnation after the defender made it clear on Thursday morning that he was prepared to play hardball over his future by refusing to fly.
“We are very disappointed by Laurent’s actions, which are against our clear instructions,” it read. “We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time.”
That stance pleased many Arsenal fans, who felt betrayed by a player who has worn their colours for almost exactly nine years and remained a key figure on his return from a serious Achilles tendon injury that prevented him from helping his country win the 2018 World Cup.
Sympathy for Koscielny
Some were able to appreciate the player’s position however. The player has offers from three French clubs of contracts in excess of the length of his current deal which, given his age and injury record, would have been unlikely to be extended anyway. None of the trio was prepared to pay a fee, for precisely those reasons, however.
Bordeaux, Rennes and Lyon are understood to be the clubs in question, with Bordeaux offering the veteran two seasons with an option of a further 12 months.
Koscielny decided such a prospect was worth fighting for but Arsenal, who will play Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in two of their Trans-Atlantic fixtures, had already adopted a similar stubborn approach.
That was because rebuilding the defence is the number one priority for manager Unai Emery and the Gunners were adamant Koscielny should honour his contract to smooth the process.
Arsenal have been busy negotiating a £25m deal for St Etienne defender William Saliba but that would see the 18-year-old loaned back for a season.
Emery has also been hoping to offload Germany international Shkodran Mustafi – a move that would delight many fans – but Koscielny’s actions may now have scuppered hopes of that.
The Gunners are also trying to coax Crystal Palace into parting with Wilfried Zaha, with centre-back Calum Chambers a potential makeweight to get the price down for buyers who were unable to make a single permanent signing during the previous transfer window.
Arsenal have been bullishly upfront about an incident other clubs might have tried to cover up, but it nonetheless reinforces the impression that the club, and Edu in particular, have a lot of negotiating to do before the new Premier League season begins.