Is Francis Coquelin a long term solution to Arsenal’s need of a solid No.4? by SE
Francis Coquelin has been a revelation for Arsenal this season, coming in at a time when both Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey sustained ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively, during that mid-December period and Arsene Wenger had no choice but to recall his prodigious midfielder, who was on loan at Charlton Athletic, to Arsenal duty.
Since making a substitute appearance in the 4-1 demolition of Newcastle United at the Emirates last December, the 23-year old midfielder has gone on to make 20 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions. He has looked lively and chock-a-block with energy during those 20 appearances, and been one of the crucial players in Arsenal’s renaissance over the last couple of months. In the long term, however, can the Frenchman be the solution to Arsenal’s need of a solid No.4?
In 15 Premier League games he has played in so far, Coquelin has won 51% of his attempted tackles and an impressive 68% of his aerial duels. He has read the game well more often than not, and took up proper positions ahead of the backline, which has been crucial to his success this season. He has yet to make a defensive error in the Premier League, though he has committed 17 fouls and picked up 4 yellow cards. Coquelin hasn’t rendered much to his team in an attacking sense, as expected, completing 83% of his attempted passes and creating 3 goal scoring chances in 15 league fixtures.
In the two Champions League games against AS Monaco, the Frenchman’s form has been equally impressive as his domestic form. He managed to win 6 of his 9 attempted tackles over those 2 games, while winning 4 of his 7 aerial duels and completing 6 of his 9 attempted take-ons. He also committed 3 fouls during 131 minutes of action against the Ligue 1 side.
Coquelin’s most impressive game of the season came against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, which Arsenal went onto win comprehensively by 2-0. The 23-year old was alert to every danger the hosts tried to cause, as he marshalled his troops authoritatively and nullified David Silva’s threat completely. Over the course of 90 minutes against the reigning English champions, Coquelin won all of his attempted tackles (3) and an astonishing 7 of his 8 aerial duels, indicating the control he had over proceedings that day. In addition to his tackling and heading prowess, Coquelin made 6 interceptions, 11 clearances and didn’t commit a single foul.
Looking ahead to the upcoming games for Arsenal, it will be interesting to see how he fares against Liverpool and Chelsea, two teams that travel to Emirates during April. The Merseysiders and London derby rivals, with the power and mobility they possess in their midfield ranks, will pose a fresh challenge to Coquelin who definitely will be looking forward to playing in those games.
That is going to be his real test, at least in the near future, to see how well he can play when pitted against the likes of Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho. Coquelin has been rather impressive so far, showing plenty of promise for the years to come. However, his performances against Chelsea and Liverpool will prove to us whether or not he belongs to this stage.