January, so far, has been a little quiet on the transfer front in the Premier League. Aside from Manchester City’s addition of Wilfried Bony, who is currently in a different continent representing his nation at the AFCON, there have been few headline-grabbing moves, yet one ‘addition’ appears to have been a very good one. Francis Coquelin was re-called from a loan deal at Charlton in mid-December, and since then he’s been so impressive for the Gunners that there’s talk of Arsene Wenger renewing his contract.
Although not strictly a ‘January signing’, the bulk of Coquelin’s minutes for Arsenal this term have been in 2015 – he started once prior to Christmas this season – making him one of the best newbie’s of the month. Has Wenger’s call been a masterstroke? We think so, and here’s why…
Wow! On an average of the 90 minutes played, Coquelin is better than some of the most established and respected holding midfielders in the Premier League. The young Frenchman has well and truly out-shone Fernandinho and Fernando of Manchester City as well as Nemanja Matic at table-topping Chelsea and even Southampton’s sought-after star, Morgan Schneiderlin. Coquelin has played fewer games than his foes, but he registers in excess three tackles and intercepts per game and boasts the best percentage of duels won – both aerially and on the deck. His shorter passing distance also contributes to Arsenal’s silky style of play.
For some years now, fans have been calling for Wenger to bring in an orthodox holding midfielder. For too long the Gunners have had a soft underbelly, which has been exposed on the big occasions, with a lack of physicality, work ethic and desire all major issues. Although nowhere near the level of the north Londoners’ last true general in the engine room, Patrick Vieira, Coquelin does indeed do the work others in the Gunners’ set-up have been less willing to do, with his can-do attitude, mobility and bravery all vital tools.
At 23, Coquelin’s best years are ahead of him. The Frenchman has been knocking around the Arsenal set-up for some time, but the past few weeks have been, arguably, his most successful on the red and white (or yellow and blue) shirt. He may not be the name some in the Emirates Stadium stands have been calling for, yet the man who spent some of the season on loan with Charlton my be a long-term answer to a big, big question in north London.
A number of targets – chiefly William Carvalho and Morgan Schneiderlin – have been linked with Arsenal as solutions to the midfield ‘crisis’ Wenger has suffered, yet Coqulein seems to be doing the job. The aforementioned duo are valued at upwards of £20m, making the current Gunners flavour of the month a cost-effective option… and we all know how Arsene loves a bargain.
17 points from a possible 21 and an FA Cup third round win, not bad at all. The last eight games have been fruitful for the Gunners, and have coincided with Coquelin’s return on the 12th December. Okay, the Frenchman didn’t start a game until the final few days of 2014 – he had been a late sub until then – but his influence has since been great, and bar the loss at Southampton, so have the Gunners. The presence of an energetic midfielder and the upturn in results are surely linked, illustrating the 23-year-old’s importance.