The saviour, the policeman, the enforcer, exactly what we needed – just a FEW of the phases used to describe Francis Coquelin last season.
Francis Coquelin quickly established himself to be a key member of our first team, let along squad and forced the club to change their thinking with regards to the transfer strategy this summer.
Arsene Wenger has always been loyal to his players and if he thinks someone has done well to get a place in his team, more often than not, he will give them a real and genuine chance to cement their place.
It was quite a story too – he was recalled on loan and suddenly appeared to be coming on against Newcastle at home in December; many supporters didn’t even know he had been recalled and were asking who this was that was about to enter the field. Then he got a few minutes at Anfield and on boxing day at home against QPR and we thought he was purely there as some additional cover and will be back on loan again.
He then started a few days later at West Ham which the majority of the away end may have thought was a bit of a risk. As the game went on, he got stuck in, Arsenal were leading and we all thought ‘hang on, what’s going on here’. He then started on New Year’s day (less said about that result the better I think) and played a vital role right till the end of the season.
Some would say he was largely responsible for Arsenal finishing the season so strongly – he was hugely influential in the away win at Man City alongside Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of midfield. Suddenly, ‘it was like a new signing’.
Fast forward to this season and after the West Ham cock up, suddenly Francis Coquelin no good and not good enough to win the league.
Over-reaction? Maybe, but to be fair, the Francis Coquelin of last season wasn’t keen to ping the ball around like he was Pirlo and instead, just gave the ball to the technical players whenever he won it; more Gilberto then Pirlo was the order of last season and you would hope would be the order of this season too.
I personally was extremely impressed with Francis Coquelin last season and am glad he has got a chance to cement his place in this team – I think buying a £25m DM would have perhaps brought some unrest to the squad and I can see why the manager decided against it. You could argue some backup is needed as many believe Arteta may be losing his legs and not be in a position to fill in long term if Coquelin got injured and that is another debate all together. For what it’s worth, we probably do need some cover but rather then to take over from Coquelin, more to support him, play for him and cover for him.
Francis Coquelin hasn’t changed in 8 weeks however, he needs his manager, coaches and fellow players to keep him grounded – to remind him he is not Zinedine Zidane but more our Gilberto Silva and not to follow the ‘Alex Song’ way of life by forgetting what his role in the side is.
If Francis Coquelin remains Francis Coquelin or our Gilberto Silva and not Pirlo or Zidane, then Arsenal have a real player in there – he can tackle, he can read the game, he can cover a lot of ground and can defend. He perhaps does need to retain some self-control or as someone in the away end at Palace put it ‘Chill out when he is on a yellow card’ but my opinion hasn’t changed on him – he can be massive this season but must remained focus and let the others play and concentrate on the dirty role which is essential to a title challenge.
Up The Arsenal.