HAVIN’ A CAF! Pals liken Ko­scielny to Brazil­ian leg­end

Midweek Sport - - SPORT - By FRANK MCCAULEY

LAU­RENT KO­SCIELNY has re­vealed his mates call him the “white Cafu”.

The Arse­nal cen­tre-back has been used at full-back in re­cent games to help ease the Gun­ners’ in­jury cri­sis.

And he says his friends have grown so ac­cus­tomed to see­ing him in that po­si­tion that they liken him to the le­gendary right­sided Brazil­ian.

Arse­nal head to As­ton Villa tonight with­out any recog­nised full-backs af­ter a spate of in­juries de­nied Arsene Wenger the ser­vices of Kieran Gibbs, An­dre San­tos, Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenk­in­son.

Jo­han Djourou filled the po­si­tion in Sun­day’s 1-0 de­feat at Manch­ester City but he had to come off in the sec­ond half af­ter suf­fer­ing a groin in­jury and will now be out for three weeks.

Wenger heads to Villa Park with Per Merte­sacker, Thomas Ver­mae­len, Ko­scielny, Se­bastien Squil­laci and Ig­nasi Miquel as his only fit de­fend­ers – all of whom are pri­mar­ily cen­tre-backs.

Wretched

Ko­scielny has filled in at right-back with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess this sea­son.

But he in­sists he’s happy play­ing there – even if it means get­ting a rib­bing from his pals.

“My mates tease me, call­ing me the white Cafu,” Ko­scielny said.

“It’s a po­si­tion I knew as I started as a pro­fes­sional in France at left-back.

“At the time, I was play­ing with Guingamp in the sec­ond divi­sion and I was very young.

“It’s not my favourite po­si­tion but I’m happy to help the team and do my best there.”

Ko­scielny, a reg­u­lar for most of this sea­son, has played a big role in help­ing the Gun­ners turn around their cam­paign af­ter a wretched start.

The north Lon­don club won one of their open­ing five games be­fore a re­cent good run of form – the de­feat at City aside – has put them right back in the hunt for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion. The game that sparked Arse­nal’s down­ward spi­ral came in Fe­bru­ary last sea­son when, de­spite be­ing over­whelm­ing favourites, they lost to Birm­ing­ham in the Car­ling Cup fi­nal.

Ko­scielny was re­spon­si­ble in large part for that de­feat – the French­man’s embarrassing mix-up with goal­keeper Wo­j­ciech Szczesny al­lowed Obafemi Martins to tap home the win­ner two min­utes from time.

And Ko­scielny ad­mits it’s hard to keep that gaffe out of his mind.

“I do think about it some­times,” he said. “But mis­takes hap­pen in life.

“It was hard for the fans and for the club but life goes on.

“There are things more im­por­tant than los­ing a fi­nal. There will be plenty more fi­nals to play and win.

“It was tough to swal­low but it made me a bet­ter player and a bet­ter per­son.”

JEEP­ERS KEEP­ERS: Ko­scielny and Szczesny’s cock-up gifts Birm­ing­ham Car­ling Cup fi­nal vic­tory in Fe­bru­ary

DEAD RINGER: Cafu won the World

Cup with Brazil

TAR­GET: Mceachran

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