Analysis of Coquelin and a suited transfer target by VR
Good day all! Well, we all wanted a proper DM. Now – through planning or good fortune – we found a gem in the dust of the Championship that is Francis Coquelin, or Le Coq as he is affectionately known in online chats. Le Coq, through hard work, self belief and a no-nonsense attitude has shored up our midfield and really hit some heights, also against the so called “big teams”. Together with him and a more more healthy squad, a new signing at center-half, and a continued run for Ospina in goal Arsenal have put together a more impervious defense in comparison to the start of the season.
It is clear for everyone to see that we have needed someone disciplined to anchor our creative midfield for a long time – frankly since the likes of Gilberto and Vieira left the club. But is Le Coq the solution for seasons to come? Is he enough for Arsenal to push on win the EPL?
Judging by what I have seen and his statistics, I think he is – and at the same time he is not. Let me elaborate.
Le Coq is statistically the best defensive midfielder in the EPL at the moment. Note I say “defensive”. He is an absolute “beast” (to use the word that has been thrown at talented players on social media recently) when it comes to defending. He has won nearly 59.9% of his duels including an amazing 67.6% of his ariel duels. For his height this is quite remarkable. I think this was clear watching him at Old Trafford. He had the 6’4″ Fellaini in his pocket all day long, and this against a Man United who were reverting to long balls to Fellaini for large parts of the game.
Coquelin is also adept at reading the game. He will make an impressive 3 interceptions per game and nearly 4 clearances. Coquelin has focused mainly on defending and has been very successful because of his simplistic approach. He is the answer to Arsenal’s needs from a defensive view. All the aforementioned stats also are superior to those of Chelsea’s Matic, whom many deem to be the best holding mid in the league.
Now, on the other hand, Coquelin completes 83% of his passes. Let me be clear: this is not bad by any stretch, but he is not a ball-playing midfielder. Hence I emphasized he is a “defensive” midfielder. Again, to be fair, he remarkably has completed all of his take-ones – he is clearly comfortable on the ball – if he has to be. Still, when you compare his passing ability to Matic you see the difference.
Typically, center-backs have a very high passing success rate. Matic has a pass accuracy of 90%, like a good ball-playing center-back. Per game he will also average 40 forward passes to Coquelin’s 28. Matic gets on the ball a lot more and gets involved in build up and this is key to Chelsea’s success. That is the difference. He gels the defensive side more to the offensive side.
L eCoq is not as sound in this aspect. He does not get on the ball as much, and doesn’t make as many passes, that aid the build up, even though I have seen him attempt to make things happen lately. Yes, of course that is a comfortable issue to have – he can play the ball if necessary, but is disciplined and gives the ball to others who are more than capable to take care of build up. Also, at 23 he can still improve.
Let me give another comparison to reiterate the importance of a ball player. Arteta has his faults, but he is a true passer of the ball. He racks up a pass completion rate of 92% and an immaculate passing range with an average pass length of 17.6 meters to Le Coq’s 14.5. He is comfortable in possession and makes us tick (when fit). The captain is intelligent in getting the attack started and takes many, many touches, enabling us to stay in possession and a play a possession-based style of football. He opens up play from deep making about 45 forward passes per game. In all ball-playing aspects he easily beats Matic. It is not a coincidence that we concede a lot more possession in his absence. To manage this and to fit Özil into the team, we have deployed Cazorla in a deeper role this season to help retain the ball.
With all of Arteta’s offensive brilliance, he has clear weaknesses without the ball at his feet. Ideally I would like to merge the abilities of Arteta and Coquelin into a “beast” of a holding midfielder, but since I am not God, that is sadly not possible.
Coquelin may not have a high price tag or be a big name, but he is doing the job better than anyone in the league for now. I think Coquelin has covered our needs for a defensive midfielder, but we still need another option in the team with a more ball-playing approach, especially because Arteta is coming to the end of his career and Flamini will, I think, be moved on this sommer. I don’t mean to bench Le Coq, but he alone can’t hold down Arsenal for a whole season. His position demands that he tackles for a living, earning cards and he will no doubt miss games for that reason or another. We need someone who can either be paired with him or compete for a place in the first XI. This will ensure quality and stiff competition for all positions and Arsenal would look good for the next season.
But what options are there or examples of players that fit the requirements?
Many Arsenal supporters have been calling out for Schneiderlin of Southampton. Schneiderlin himself has made it clear that he wants Champions League football and is willing to move.
He is a more sound passer than Francis and also a tall and physical presence at that. He can play a more defensive role if necessary and at the same time be more of a help going forward. In comparison to Le Coq, he wins less duels by far 42%, but he usually plays higher up the pitch which encompasses being challenged more vigorously and not dishing out challenges. He does however complete 89% of his passes and makes nearly 41 forward passes per game – very close to Matic’s numbers. Not to mention he is EPL proven and could also well be paired with Coquelin. He is however worth around 25 million Euros and has a contract running until summer 2017. But again, he wants to leave if a good offer is made.
The second option I want to present to you is Geoffrey Kondogbia. Kondogbia showcased his talent when Monaco knocked out Arsenal in the Champions League this season. In the fixture at the Emirates, I believe he also scored against us. The 22 year old is not EPL proven, but has held his own in Europe. He is very talented – not to mention he has impressive stats. He wins 58.9 % of all duels, which comes very close to Coquelin, while at the same passing with an accuracy of 86%. Importantly 34 out of his 54 passes will result in forward passes – Kondogbia gets on the ball much more than Coquelin, but less than Schneiderlin.
He is worth 14 million Euros and under contract until summer 2018. A very good offer would have to be made to lure him away from Monaco.
Please feel free to critique my article and let me know who you think represents a good option in that area of the pitch!
I hope you enjoyed my analysis, I as usual am procrastinating writing a paper for Uni
My stats regard averages per game for the season 2014/15 (barring Arteta, 2013/14) and are from squawka.com
Contract, player info and player values are from transfermakt.de