There is no doubt that since his recall from loan at Charlton Athletic Francis Coquelin had a great impact on the team.
Playing as the long awaited defensive mid-fielder, he has helped stabilise the centre of our team. He is very good at breaking up opposition attacks, winning back the ball and playing simple but telling passes to our more offensively minded mid-fielders.
Having joined Arsenal in July 2008 he got a few games during that season and became a regular in the Reserves the following season 2009/10. He also played in the League and FA cups without really distinguishing himself. He then opted to go out on loan and played for Lorient, for the whole of the 2010/11 season before returning to Arsenal where he made his debut for the first team in the 8 – 2 defeat by Manchester United. At the end of the 2012/13 season he went out on loan again this time to Freiburg and then on to Charlton Athletic. At this stage it did not look as though he had much of a future at Arsenal.
Since his recall last in December 2014 he has been a revelation, playing in the most difficult position he has become an “ever present” and established himself as one of the top defensive mid-fielders in the Premiership.
Playing in the centre of the field as he does, there is a fine line between winning the ball with a clean tackle and being a fraction of a second late thereby “catching” the player and receiving a yellow card.
His position is made harder by the fact that Arsene Wenger’s choice of Santi Cazorla as his partner leaves too much for him to do. Santi is a wonderful player but is not the most defensively minded of characters and too often drifts too far forward leaving Coquelin to fight the fires behind him alone.
We have an excellent array of gifted, attacking mid-fielders, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain and, when fit, Wilshere. The temptation to fit in as many as possible seems to be too great for Wenger to resist. Consequently we see too often Coquelin fighting a lone battle in mid-field and picking up yellow cards on too many occasions. Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace being a case in point, only a surprisingly lenient referee allowed him to remain on the pitch to commit a further series of fouls even after being booked.
If the present situation is allowed to continue opposing players will start to look for opportunities to go down at the merest touch and Coquelin will become a card magnet.
Last season the manager introduced a slightly more pragmatic approach to defending, the result being a fine run into third position in the league and another FA Cup triumph. Perhaps it’s now time to take a step further and sacrifice one of the attacking mid-fielders in favour of, perhaps, Mikel Arteta to play alongside Coquelin.
Written by Norfolk Gooner.