Just over a year ago, Arsenal visted the Etihad stadium to face Manchester City in a hugely important Premier League game and were in need of an excellent defensive performance to keep out the star-studded City attack. While the Gunners produced a collective effort to keep a clean sheet, one player who really stood out from the rest was Francis Coquelin.
Having been recently recalled from a loan spell in the Championship as a result of the Gunners’ depleted midfield, the Frenchman came in and made an instant impact enroute to establishing himself as a regular in Arsene Wenger’s starting eleven. On the night, Coquelin completely bossed the midfield and countered the Citizens’ flair with his high work-rate and robust defensive play.
With Arsenal going into the crunch Champions League game against Barcelona at the Emirates, the Gunners will need exactly that kind of performance from the combative midfielder in order to contain the Catalan attack. Simply put, Coquelin will have the job of trying to stop the European champions playing from midfield.
An advantage for the Gunners is that the Barcelona midfield will not be used to playing against a midfielder like Coquelin on a weekly basis. The Spanish game is not nearly as physical as it is in England and with Arsenal having one of the most combative players in the Premier League in Coquelin, it may well give Arsenal a small edge.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Mesut Ozil has the ability to unlock any defence in the world, and Barcelona are no exception. The challenge for Arsenal will be in trying to defend against the Spanish club’s attacking play and while that task applies to the team as a unit, it is perhaps Le Coq who holds the key to a solid defensive performance.