In recent history Arsenal have often been accused of lacking quality in midfield – certainly under Arsene Wenger, at least – with the glory days of Patrick Vieira now nothing more than a distant memory.
Francis Coquelin was one of those who regularly featured in the XI towards the end of his compatriot’s reign, and he can therefore feel directly targeted by those judgements.
The former France U21 international is no longer at the Emirates, having joined Valencia in 2018 for £12m.
Some will have raised eyebrows at the €80m (£74.9m) release clause he has in his contract, but he has had the last laugh since moving to the Mestalla.
Here, we take a look at how he has fared since leaving north London for Valencia…
Coquelin joined the Gunners for £900k – as per Transfermarkt – in 2008 from Stade Laval, but it wasn’t until a 25-game loan spell in his homeland with Lorient that he began to make any headway in professional football. Even after that, he wasn’t a regular at Arsenal until the 2014/15 season following another temporary spell away from north London, this time with Freiburg.
In each of the next three campaigns, he would play at least 20 Premier League games for Wenger’s men, but during the 2017/18 term, he would feature in just seven before January.
His time at the Emirates Stadium was quite clearly over, and many will have been happy to pick up the £12m they received when he moved to Spain.
Since he has made the switch, though, he has looked rejuvenated.
Even in just over two years, he has already played more than half as many games as he was able to muster up during the ten years he spent on the books of Arsenal.
He has played a big part in the team’s improvement, as well – they qualified for this year’s Champions League after finishing fourth in La Liga last term, even making it to the first knockout round in the process.
All in all, he has played 82 times, including 19 in the league this season as Valencia once again fight for a spot at European football’s top table. The quality of his performances in big games is noticeable – this term, he picked up a solid 7.03 WhoScored rating against Barcelona as his side won 2-0, whilst he managed a huge 7.62 as Los Ches beat Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam in the Champions League.
Last term, he was particularly impressive – he had the third-highest average rating of all of Valencia’s players in La Liga. His importance is clear for all to see.
At 28, Coquelin has a few years still left in him and, if it wasn’t for the fact that the likes of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba are also French, he may even have picked up a senior cap for Les Bleus.
Currently valued at £21.6m by Transfermarkt, he has arguably shown the Gunners up since leaving – there is no reason to believe why he wouldn’t be in their squad now.