Since the days when Patrick Vieira ruled the roost, Arsenal have struggled to find a central midfield combination good enough to lead the side to consistent Premier League title challenges and silverware. Alex Song has come and gone, Mathieu Flamini has aged while Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby have been on the treatment table more often than on the pitch.
However, the signs are there that Arsene Wenger may well now have a double act with the range of positive attributes to help the Emirates Stadium side reach its potential. Although the Arsenal manager has experimented with Santi Cazorla in a deeper role at times this term, the partnership between Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey looks to have the hallmarks of a top-class central midfield pairing.
The Frenchman has been mightily impressive since the turn of the year, with the 23-year-old taking his chance in the first team with aplomb and proving himself as a top-drawer and diligent enforcer. The Gunners have been crying out for a physical presence in the ‘boiler room’ that has the necessary discipline and the ability to win the ball back when the side does not have possession.
The signs are that Coquelin can fill this role in the long-run with the former Charlton loanee also signing a new long-term contract with the club. Ramsey has had his injury problems throughout his career, with this season proving no different. Due to an inability to consistently play and string together a run of games, the Wales international has not been at his blistering best this season but there have been recent reminders of his calibre.
In the first half of last season the former Cardiff box-to-box man was arguably the form player in the Premier League, showing a seemingly never-ending willingness to run, while adding an abundance of goals from the middle of the pitch. Injury blighted his purple patch last term and played its part in Arsenal’s season derailing, while the Welshman has had to deal with further setbacks since.
The signs in recent weeks are that Ramsey is starting to reenact last season’s stellar performances, with a couple of important goals by the 24-year-old. In Coquelin, Ramsey has the ideal midfield partner to anchor the ship and allow him to go forward at will, knowing that Arsenal will not be overrun as a result.
Keeping the Welshman fit and increasing his time on the pitch will be crucial in the North London club becoming consistent title challengers, as on his day he is one of the most complete central midfielders in the Premier League. With Coquelin an effective and no-nonsense partner for him, it appears that Wenger finally has a youthful, exuberant and functional central midfield duo to compete with the division’s best.