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Francis Coquelin's return pivotal to Arsenal's success and run of form

Francis Coquelin's return to Arsenal has seen their form improve tremendously, and has seen them sustain a push for the Champions League positions in the Premier League.

Feature 18 Feb 2015, 12:07 IST
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Francis Coquelin has made the defensive midfield role his own in Arsenal’s midfield

When I visit the fitnessmosaic, a gym in Camden, I spend a lot of time thinking about the Gunners, and today, I pondered the surprising return to the front line of Francis Coquelin.

Prior to Arsenal’s match against Newcastle on 13 December last year, Francis Coquelin had mostly spent his career at Arsenal in the shadows. But his performance on the pitch that day has catapulted the young French player from an exiled player on his way out to an important mid field player in Arsene Wenger’s side. In recognition of this fact, Coquelin has just signed a new four year contract deal with Arsenal, thus heralding a new and exciting era at the Gunners.

Coquelin came to Arsenal after being scouted by Gilles Grimandi when he played in France’s Under-17 team. He showed early promise having been part of the winning French team in the under-19 European Championship; he was also part of the victorious Arsenal FA Youth Cup side in 2009. But thereafter it seemed to all go horribly wrong for the young French player.

An Alex Ferguson dismissal

Watching Coquelin now, it is hard to believe that Sir Alex Ferguson once dismissed him completely, after seeing him play as a young midfielder in the 2011 match where Arsenal were beaten into submission 8-2 by Manchester United.

“Arsenal played a young boy in midfield; Francis Coquelin,” wrote Ferguson in his autobiography. “He was completely out of his depth. I had hardly heard of him and he barely played again.”

For the next three years, it wasn’t only Alex Ferguson who had written Coquelin off. Arsene Wenger had too it seemed, with several long loan spells at Charlton Athletic and German side, SC Freiburg and very little action at home. But all this changed when Wilshire and Arteta were side lined due to injury prior to the game against Newcastle and Wenger had no choice but to call upon the services of Coquelin.

Under Wenger’s nose 

Coquelin’s performance against Newcastle has apparently opened Wenger’s eyes to the talent sitting right under his nose. Prior to Coquelin’s permanent inclusion in the Arsenal team, Wenger was having a problem with his midfield line-up thanks to Arteta’s injury woes, amongst other things. Things are now much improved, however, with the line-up at Arsenal firmly cemented with a mixture of young and more experienced players defending the backline, plus a strong midfield and forward line that will take some beating.

A different strategy

It looks like things will be very different at Arsenal going forward. Previously the Arsenal strategy was all about attack, but this proved to be ineffective on a number of occasions. The team was unbalanced with a weak midfield, which affected their results. Now, though, with Coquelin playing in the middle of the field, the Gunners are much more balanced, with a strong defence as well as a formidable attack.

The future looks bright

With Coquelin firmly in control of the midfield, Wenger has found the right balance in his team and everything looks rosy for Arsenal. Some think that Arsenal are in such good form that a crack at the Champion’s League this season could be on the cards, but that is maybe a bridge too far at this point in time.

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