As the dust settles on the aftermath of transfer deadline day there are undoubtedly many upset Arsenal supporters out there. I am not wildly disappointed that we did not bring in another midfielder but regular readers will know that. I do feel we have enough. I am surprised that Wenger did not bolster the forward line with 3 on loan and Vela and Nico leaving. Additional pressure on our 2 new strikers, our frustrating Moroccan and the enigma that is AA23. Although I have always maintained we need to share the goals threat do be successful this season.
However today is not to dwell on the whole squad, numerous other writers have done this already. I would like to return to the one aspect of the squad that seems to be frustrating most Gooners, which is the surprise lack of addition of a deep-lying midfielder to provide cover for Arteta. It seems to me that most of last season no one had anything but fulsome praise for Francis Coquelin and most predicted a great future for the young Frenchman. Is my recolllection wayward? Yet he came back from a long injury lay off and made a few mistakes at the end of last season and in pre-season and now he is not Arsenal level and ready? So why the change of heart? This is the same lad who turned in a man of the man performance against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup and then again out of position against Spurs at the Lane. He then dominated the midfield against a close to full strength Manchester City again in the League Cup and another dynamic display at right back as we destroyed Blackburn scoring seven, one asssited by ‘Le Coq.’
All I keep hearing is that he is not ready to step up in the Premier League and he needs more experience. Well I can guarantee you now if he does not get game time between now and January he will be seeking a move and he will get regular first team football in France or Spain and simaltaneously double his £15k a week salary. My open question is, how on earth will we truly know if he can perform unless we play him when Arteta rested or moved further forward or we sell him? I will come back to this from what I hope is an innovative angle later but can I first share a few excerpts from a blog I wrote the day after I first saw Coquelin play live on September 20th 2011.
…………..In 2008 we should have won the Premier League. Why we failed can be argued. The loss of a flying Tomas Rosicky, the Eduardo incident and resulting implosion at St. Andrews, or the resulting loss of the dressing room by then skipper William Gallas.
However, what is certain is that we had an incredibly talented and fluid midfield with Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas, playing in a foursome anchored by a certain Matthieu Flamini.
So good was the 2008 ‘French Enforcer’ that he kept the World Cup Winner and ‘Invincible’ Gilberto out of the team. His performances and form behind Fabregas made him undroppable.
The reason for this history lesson is quite simple. I was blown away by the quality of Francis Coquelin last night against Shrewsbury.
He along with Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the show and I am wondering whether it might be Coquelin and not Frimpong pushing Alex Song for the enforcer role this season and further. Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that Frimpong has come through the ranks at Arsenal and I admire his drive, determination and enthusiasm. However, seeing the two talents alongside each other last night it was the Frenchman, rather than the Anglo/Ghanaian, who did it for me. His tackling was crisp and well timed, and his distribution was intelligent and simple when required, but I also counted at least six 25-30 yard cross field balls as well. So do we have a new Flamini style ‘French Enforcer’ in our ranks?
There is little doubt that Arsene Wenger rates him highly, because there was talk of him returning to Lorient on loan or permanently this past summer, but the manager ruled it out. Last year, whilst not an automatic starter in the French top flight, Coquelin did play on 13 occasions for Lorient, scoring once and assisting once also. Let’s bear in mind he was only 19 last year.
Over the summer he starred for France in the Under-20 FIFA World Cup, playing every game (7 in total) on a run that saw France make it to the semi-finals before defeat to Portugal. Now without turning into a complete statto what interested me was that in those 7 matches, in which he played all 90 minutes, he committed 11 fouls, but did not get booked on a single occasion. This would appear to be in stark contrast to the over exuberant Frimpong, whose double yellow and subsequent red probably cost us two, points against Liverpool at the Emirates earlier in the season.
Wenger was certainly delighted with both Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain who he singled out for praise last night:
‘We took a gamble and it worked because you could see some players, who we haven’t seen so much of like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Coquelin, have done extremely well and that is positive for the future.’
I knew about Oxlade-Chamberlain and have absolutely no doubt at all that he has a huge future for Arsenal and England, but before last night I had not really seen Coquelin in the flesh.
I was more than impressed and repeat my contention that he looked a more complete midfielder then Frimpong at this stage. Having said that, we have seen many players shine in the Carling Cup in the past few years and not progress, but I would be interested to hear your views.
Can Coquelin follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman and become a new ‘French Midfield Enforcer’ in the Arsenal first-team?
So that is what I was inspired to write on the following day. As you can tell I was seriously impressed after the Shrewsbury game, despite the level of the opposition and in the next round saw the young Frenchman dominate an experienced Manchester City pairing as the BBC reported:
“But it did not stop Coquelin and the muscular Emmanuel Frimpong imposing themselves on central midfield opponents Nigel de Jong and Owen Hargreaves.”
So for me not strengthening the midfield with Wilshere and Rosicky to return and Oxlade-Chamberlain be tried there was far from a disaster, as I have retained my belief in Coquelin. I am well aware that many do not share my faith and consider him too much of a risk but what if he really is a Flamini in the making? Come on Dave you say how can we trust a 21 year old in his second season with our 1st team squad?
Well as usual I will use facts to play devil’s advocate. I thought it might be interesting to consider at all the players we were linked with by the media or perhaps just by the fans. If these guys are the signings you all wanted, perhaps take a moment to consider how they got to be the special defensive midfielders the majority raved about and are now crying into their beer that we failed to sign.
Javi Martinez – 35 La Liga appearances for Athletic Bilbao 2006/07 aged 18.
Yann M’Vila – 33 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennes 2009/10 aged 19.
Lucas Biglia – 31 League appearances for Anderlecht 2006/7 aged 20.
Etienne Capoue – 32 Ligue 1 appearances for Toulouse in 2008/9 aged 20
Cheik Tiote – 27 Eredivisie appearances for Roda JC Kekrade in 2007/8 aged 21
And just the one we weren’t linked with for fun:
In short all the players the fans wanted Arsenal to buy to replace Alex Song had managers who showed faith in them early on. Between the ages of 18 and 21 were fist team regulars in top European Leagues. These are not random players selected by me to prove a point they are the players ‘we’ wanted.
I am not saying throw Francis Coquelin in at the deep end now and push Arteta back to the pivot bit I am saying I believe Wenger trusts him, every time I have seen him live he has impressed me and I have no reservations, as many do having him on the bench to play each week or to start when required. He hinted last November that if he did not feel part of the first team plans he would look to leave Arsenal in January 2012. Wenger convinced him to stay and gave him a new deal but he does need to play a regular part I feel or we may lose this huge talent, in the one department we can ill afford to lose cover.
I am not sure how he must feel now on £15k a week, seeing a Japanese school boy on £5k a week more than him, when that player is not ready for our squad and senbt out on loan. For crying out loud Mannone earns more than Coquelin, Ramsey earns nearly four times as much and Fabianski nearly 3 times as much.
Just think on the above and remind yourselves of the old adage which always holds true as we have seen with Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain – ‘If you are good enough you are old enough.’ Of course there is only truly one way to find out if you are good enough!
Here’s a reminder of how much quality he showed in his breakthrough season 2011/12 courtesy of
Until next time thanks for reading.
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