Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that he was set to sell Francis Coquelin before the New Year, but now deems the defensive midfielder irreplaceable for his side, according to reports from the Express.
Coquelin suffered a broken nose during their win over Everton on Sunday, but Wenger has demanded his medical team to build a mask that will allow him to play against Queens Park Rangers this Wednesday.
Only brought back in November, the 23-year-old was loaned out to Charlton after failing to break into the Arsenal first team during the first part of the season.
However, an injury to club captain Mikel Arteta forced Wenger to drag him back from the Valley, and the Gunners boss cannot believe his upturn in form.
“It is a surprise to everybody,” he said. “I never say never to anybody. In my job you have to be open-minded. You have to make decisions at times but never close the door completely for anybody.
“Was he in my plans for the season? No he was not. I told him, at the start of the season, to give absolutely everything from the start of the season until Christmas. Then we will see together and see where you are.
“In my own mind I thought if he doesn’t play at Christmas at all, and there’s only six months of his contract to go, I will let him go somewhere else. So he wasn’t happy when I called him back early. He was playing at Charlton and he thought I had just called him back as cover.
“He at least expected to play in the first match back against QPR but didn’t so he was surprised when I played him against West Ham.
“He knew it was an opportunity for him. Sometimes when you wait for such a long time to get your chance and you get it, the more you have suffered before the more you enjoy it. The human being is a strange animal.
“He has gone through a lot of doubt, questioning himself. Now that he has a chance he doesn’t want to let it slip away. But he is a winner – that’s why he is so committed.”
Wenger also revealed that he believes the Frenchman’s improvement was attributed to the midfielder playing at his best position, which at first he was still unsure of.
“He analysed well what he is good at, defending in midfield,” he said. “He was in between the playmaking position and a box-to-box player. He is not that, he’s a sitting player who can win the ball.
“You don’t always have all the qualities but you have to express what you’re good at. And he’s good at that. Now he has restricted his game to that and you make success in life with what you’re good at.”
Coquelin has played nine league games for Arsenal this season, but has yet to score a goal.