You can’t play Coquelin at right back he’s a midfielder!

Who will play right back at the start of the season as Sagna will not be match fit? This question had fired the debate amongst Gooners the past few weeks. Should it be Jenkinson who is a right back, Koscileny who was right back, Coquelin who is not a right back but can play there or Yennaris who isn’t either, but did a job for 45 minutes v Man U? You notice I am not adding Djourou into the mix!!

I have been involved is similar discussions about Cazorla. For me he will be play central attacking midfield, but for others a classic 10 in a 442 and for some he will be on the wing.  Add to this Santos – Left back, left wingback of left midfield and of course we can discuss young Theo all day – Striker in a 2 or a winger in a 3?

Well you will be delighted to know that I don’t have the answers to all the above, although I have a view on all, as you would expect, so what is the point of this article today? So here’s the deal Coquelin is a top footballer and if Wenger chooses to play him at right back it’s because he can do the job. If Wenger selects Cazorla in the Cesc role it’s because he thinks he can pull the strings and if we play 442 and Santos plays left midfield I won’t bat an eyelid.

This long winded introduction does have a point and that is that we don’t actually know what these top footballers can do but Wenger and his coaching staff does.  So when you argue with fellow Gooners about players positions and you debate formations as we all love to on twitter can you just read what follows and take a pause for thought before you next argue about where a player can play:

Arsenal FC 1st 11 2003/04     – EPL Champions – Unbeaten  W 26 D12

Goalkeeper – Jens Lehman

Right Back – Lauren Mayer – Central or right midfielder star of Cameroon Olympics triumph in Sydney. Lauren was signed as a direct replacement for Petit to play with Vieira. After a first season plagued by injury he began season as our first choice right taking over from Lee Dixon and leap frogging a specialist international right back in Crazy Horse Luzhny. He played there  impeccably for the rest of his career. Nice conversion Arsene!

Play right back boss – Are you crazy?

Left Back – Ashley Cole – The best left back in world football according to many spent his whole youth career as a left winger and began there when he joined Arsenal at 17. It was not until he was in the reserves at Arsenal that he was pushed back to left back (by Pat Rice) and even when he went on loan to Palace in 99/2000 they were still playing him left midfield. Nice conversion Arsene  and Pat!


So let me get this straight you want me to play centre back with Sol? Are you insane boss?

Right Centre Back – Kolo Toure – joined Arsenal in February 2002 from ASEC Mimosas and was used as a utility holding midfielder behind Vieira or as a right back. Summer 2003 Keown is injured on England duty and the fans and media cannot believe Wenger is going into the season with Pascal Cygan to partner Sol Campbell. Wenger however knows and he pulls Toure out of his magic hat as a centre back. Only Lehman and Henry play more game as Toure starts 36/38 and he never looked back.

Left Centre Back – Sol Campbell – Yes he was always a centre back, although in his teens he played full back for a lesser side in London.

Right Midfield – Freddie Ljungberg – Signed by Wenger after he saw him play on TV for Sweden v England. Although our scouts had watched him, Wenger signed him without seeing him play live. He was signed as an attacking centre midfielder, where he has played for Halmstads and for Sweden. Indeed for the first 2 seasons Freddie was never a regular starter but he came into his own in 2000/1 when ‘Le Boss; gave him a regular birth on the right flank. Indeed at the end of the 2001/2 he switched the left after Pires was injured. He remained often the central attacking midfielder for Sweden but to the Arsenal faithful he will always be a right midfielder. Nice conversion Arsene!

Left Midfield – Robert Pires – To be fair this genius could player anywhere but he was signed from Marseilles as a direct replacement for Overmars on the left so no conversion here from Arsene.

Defensive Centre Midfield – Gilberto  – signed and as holding player and always played there so no conversion.

Attacking Centre Midfield – Patrick Vieira – Please don’t ask me to remember which red top it was in 96 when underwhelmed with Vieira being purchased on Wenger’s instruction before he arrived, lead with this: “Arsenal sign yet another defensive midfielder. Most probably the same tabloid that had the back page ‘ARSENE WHO?’  Well if he had started at Cannes as a DM, then lost a year at Milan, Wenger soon had him playing at the head of his diamond in front of Petit and his legacy at Arsenal, in my view has him second to Liam Brady as the best attacking centre midfielder I have watched. Nice conversion Arsene!

Second Striker – Dennis Bergkamp – Always a number 10 and to be fair Arsene you can take little credit for this genius.


Don’t tell anyone Thierry but I am changing you back to main striker

Striker – Thierry Henry – well you all now this one but Wenger converted Henry twice. As a kid at Monaco he converted him into a left winger from a centre forward at youth level. As Wiki will tell you he thought his pace and trickery would be more effective against full backs than centre backs. It was a s a wide player he made his international debut and from there scored 3 in the 98 World Cup win. Juve signed him as a winger and then failed to play him so Wenger, now at Arsenal swooped in 99 for his prodigy. Now he was bigger stronger and Wenger was playing with 2 up front so the time was right to convert TH14 back to a central striker. The rest as they say is history. Nice double conversion Arsene.

A bit of fun really but a semi serious point and I hope it adds to the debate. I am not for one minute suggesting that Coquelin will be the Lauren of 2012/13 but I am saying that you certainly cannot rule it out.

Until next time thanks for reading and next time is back to Global Gooner Passion in INDIA.

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    1. Who say they cant?. Lauren waz a midfielder b4 he waz convertd rit back, k. Even do i will lyk wenger to buy a natural rit back. Read d guy post well, ok, b4 commentin

  1. Le coq is a better player (attack and defence) than Jenko (big fan of his) so i’d rather we use them both interchangeably ‘pending on the opposition! Can’t wait for the start of the season

  2. A very good read, and nice to see someone has done there research. The only quibble I have is wasn’t Pires bought from Metz? I could possibly be completely wrong but nethertheless I good write up. Keep up the good work my friend.

  3. Interesting take on Le Coq debate. Although Flamini switched back to Centre Midfield, you could also add him to that mix as a left back, as he also played at full back for Milan a few times too. Still think Wenger will go with Jenks first though, because he’ll want to give him his chance, but you never know!

    1. I could have used other examples. Manu who had never played in midfield before Arsenal. Also Flamini only a few months when Cole injured. So I just used 04 team to make the point

  4. Great piece mate. I think the key thing to remember is that the players mentioned were all permanent transformations. Playing a versatile player in a position they can do a job in for a few games is okay if there are no other options. If Arsène wanted to make Coq a permanent FB then I’d happily play him over Jenks but for the sake of long term solidity I’d rather Jenks played to gain the experience. I do agree with your thoughts on Koscielny at RB for the first few games to get some wins on the board but then I’d want Jenks at RB until Sagna returns.

    1. Daniel my point is that there were other options. Wenger had Luznhy but chose Lauren. He had Cygan but chose Toure. He has Jenko he may select Coquelin.
      The point is he will see in traiming what we as fans do not.

      1. I totally get your point Dave but I think it’s a completely different situation. Wenger had Luzhny but he was 31 when he joined(and he left before the invincible season at any rate) so Wenger probably felt he needed replacing also and by the invincible season Lauren had already been a right back for almost 3 years.
        With Toure we could argue that he didn’t have a fixed position so was played where Wenger felt he was needed most but I agree that he was picked ahead of more experienced heads in the 2003/04 season.
        I totally understand that players can play other positions and have indeed played other positions but I don’t think we can point to a player who has been played out of position for Arsenal in place of someone else who is a specialist. Wenger bought Lauren to be cover for midfield and defence. He impressed in defence and Dixon was ageing (as was Luzhny) so Wenger decided to convert him permanently. Toure didn’t have a fixed position and Wenger said on many occasions that he felt he did not have the engine to be a midfielder so was best suited in defence. Naturally centre back would suit him more than full back because he would hardly have the engine to get up and down the flanks if he can’t handle midfield in Wenger’s eyes. Flamini was played in defence because we had no other options. Gilberto, Song and Petit the same.
        It’s very fair to say that Wenger has often converted a player and he has done so extremely well but I don’t think it’s fair to say that he’d choose a versatile player over a specialist if the specialist was available and I think the evidence on that is clear. When Jenks was available and Sagna wasn’t he played, indeed he even had a few games at left back.
        Coquelin can certainly play as a full back, as can Yennaris but to memory he did not choose either to play ahead of Jenks but as you say we can’t second guess Wenger.
        If Wenger wants to convert Coq I’d happily have him over Jenks but if it’s just a utilitarian solution I’d rather Coq focused on getting into midfield.

      2. Daniel I did not say Luzhny was there in 04. I said he selected Lauren to plat there in 01/02 ahead of Oleg. I disagree with most of what you have said but heh that is what it is all about.

      3. I never said you did but I must admit that I believe it was inferred as you have used the invincible team as your point of reference but even then by the invincible season Lauren was our specialist right back but even when he he leapfrogged Luzhny it was because he was being converted to be a fullback whereas Coq has played out of necessity. You may well disagree and hey you’re right that is what all of this is about but I still cannot see where Wenger has ever played a utility player ahead of a specialist because for me it’s always been out of necessity.

      4. The only point it that from that many team at some time and not in that season, with exception of Kolo had changed role from there original playing position. I used that team as there were so many in that side and it is an easy point of reference. If I was to expand I could and Manu would be the best example. He had NEVER played in midfield until he came to Arsenal and within 12 months he had won double an world cup. My point is not only about Coquelin more that we the fans should not assume anything. The blog was at the end of the day a but of fun to make a valid point. You are taking it way too seriousy my friend

      5. I’m not taking too seriously mate but I do think you are entirely missing the point of my comment. I do not disagree that we have played players out of position nor that we have converted players. What I am saying is that Wenger has made permanent conversions (Manu for example was a defender but Wenger bought him to be a midfielder. What he played before is irrelevant as Wenger only had eyes on him as a midfielder. The point being is that Wenger has either made permanent conversions or it has been a stop gap. You can use any player you like but you’ll see that it was because there were no other options (Flamini, Coq, Song, Gilberto in defence, Arshavin as a striker etc) or because he wanted to permanently convert them like Lauren, Manu, Toure, Ljungberg, Hleb, Nasri etc so Coq may well play a few games in defence but it’s because of necessity not preference. If Jenks is fit Wenger will play him and I don’t say that because it’s my preference it’s because historically Wenger has never played a player out of position if there was a senior option in the role available. I, like you, would actually prefer that he broke this tradition of his and plays Koscielny at RB at the start of the season for solidity (but only for a while). Hopefully I’ve got my point across better as I obviously didn’t do it the last time and I apologise for that.

  5. I swear Toure came on as a right midfielder a couple of times when he first signed – scored a couple of goals too.

  6. I’ve liked Le Coq since I first saw him, I think he’s a tough little cookie, who, if given the chance will fulfill any expectations. Then again, I’m not AW, so will have to wait & see. As you said, he sees him in training. Thanks Dave a great read as usual.

    1. Your sarcasm cutting but I suggest you read the blog properly mate as I have not at any point said or suggested that Wenger bought Dennis.

  7. I think the premise that Arsene knows more and is better placed to make judgments does not sit well with Amateur and professional pundits alike.
    I mean I bet Wenger has never won the Champions League with Accrington Stanley ,as I have.

  8. I bet the other thing Jules knows is that “Pickles” found the World Cup.

  9. Good article. I agree Coquelin can fulfil the job at RB as comptently as Jenkinson, if not more! Also didn’t realise how versitle our team was that Unbeaten season, bit of an eye-opener.

  10. For me Coquelin is much better as fullback rather than as a midfielder. I think he has what it takes to become a much better righ-back than Sagna is.

  11. Really enjoyed the post, great to know about the actual and converted positions of our invincible team. I think if a team is better playing le coq at right back (which I think will be better) than Jenkinson, then we shall forget about specialists in that position and let le coq do the right thing at right place.i.e right back. What matters is good performance and results which I think playing le coq or nico ahead of jenkinson is better for the team. However I dont agree the idea of koscielny in RB position until sagna returns, not because he isnt good there, but we dont have anyone else as good as boss to play at centre back.

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