Why Francis Coquelin is so important to Arsenal

Saturday proves Coquelin is invaluable in the current Arsenal set up by OJ

The last time I wrote about Francis Coquelin not many fans were actually in tune with my arguments. Then, Xhaka was very much new. Bought for 31 million pounds, there were lots of vibes around him. The British media do not rate Coquelin high; after all he was an academy brought up. This is easy to see, with loads and loads of derogatory reviews and commentaries. But my argument was simple; that beyond the commentaries which were subjective, Coquelin is the one of the best if not the very best in his position in EPL. Just compare statistics with every other player in his position, and this becomes evident to you.

The other day against Chelsea, Conte chose to line up 4-3-3, playing Matic and Kante who are defensive, and Fabregas who is attacking. Arsenal set up with Cazorla and Ozil, both attacking and Coquelin as the only defensive. Yet, Arsenal outplayed them, out-defended and out-attacked them, before Le Coq was injured. A lot has been said about that match and the understanding between Koscielny and Mustaphi. But since then Coquelin has not played two matches, and the base of Arsenal midfield has become a concern again. I don’t know who else notices this.

Now, let us look at it again from the point of view of Arsenal set up. Arsene Wenger plays Coquelin at the base of three man central midfield which includes Ozil and Cazorla. Of these three, only Coquelin is the defensive minded. The other two are not just forward minded, but many who watch the premiership would tell you they range from lagging to sluggish when it comes to defending. That means the onus falls on Coquelin to do more to cover them and give balance to the team. Wenger knows this and has also said it.

But many of us, Arsenal fans, do not buy into this. Our first notion is that Xhaka is a better player. I am not contending this; I am only saying that strength varies and Coquelin has his own, which serves Arsenal set-up better for now. And I asked that fans do not join the British press to clamour against him. This will not bode well either for Coquelin or Arsenal. Le Coq needs his confidence to remain at a robust high it is at the moment. And Arsenal need the calmness they play with when Coquelin plays.

I think that the argument I made then has been strengthened by the last game against Swansea on Saturday. Wenger chose to start Xhaka rather rush Coquelin who was coming back from injury. We can ignore the gifting of ball to Siggurdson, which could happen to anybody, but then note that Coquelin has not committed such costly mistake before — unless I missed that and would love to be forgiven if I did.

Rather let’s focus on the rash tackle and the red card. Coquelin is such an effective tackler that even when he gets a yellow, Wenger is not often tempted to pull him out of the match, because there is little fear he will commit two bookable errors in one match. This is something many Arsenal fans take for granted. And he plays so many games without having a red, and helps us maintain balance, either when we are chasing a game or needing to score.

I wrote in my piece then that Xhaka’s discipline on the pitch is still a doubt. And despite his wonderful passing skill, one silly error could cost us games, something Wenger knows very well, and decides to keep Cazorla/Coquelin partnership which has delivered in many big matches. Well, Saturday proves that Wenger was right, and my argument too has been right.

Meanwhile, Le Coq’s statistics are still high, but the media will never hype him. The love-hate him the way they love-hate Arsenal. They like us in the measure people like something they think has a natural default, something they know is good but will not pass their rating for excellence, something deep down in their minds they don’t really want to be the best, because it represents to them the classroom example of something one level short of perfect. Le Coq has outplayed all the defensive midfielders in England in the last one year. Yet they rate him below some of the worst of them. I need not say more.

Let us at Arsenal ignore them and rally behind our own.

Okeke Job Izuchukwu,
Pukyong National University, Busan, South Korea.


  1. Malayali Gooner says:

    Petit “Arsenal still needs 40-goals-a-season striker”

    Yes and also a 45-clean sheet-a-season goalkeeper…

    Jeez, some people can never be satisfied

  2. John Legend says:

    Yes! Le Coq is very important to us. I quite agree that his partnership with Cazorla is formidable. I however believe that if Xhaka also gets his rhymes and rytheme right, he can form a different but likewise formidable pairing with Cazorla.
    I am personally happy we have quality players in midfield. We can continue to build our team around this area for years to come.

  3. RSH says:

    Coquelin gets less credit because he was free, and Xhaka we spent big money on. Coq has earned his place, no doubt, and I’ll admit Wenger was right to start him over Xhaka, who is still an error prone player, and despite costing a lot of money, isn’t done with his development. Overall Coquelin is the more reliable player, and works his butt off every game (even if he can go overboard once in a while). I’m glad to have him back in the XI. Xhaka’s time will come.

  4. Incarnate says:

    Xhaka was our shiny new toy and every one wanted to play with him and relegate Coquelin… now its obvious why Wenger was easing him into the team… at Mochengladbach, he was quite poor on arrival, but stepped up so much so that he was made captain eventually leading them to a third place finish

  5. ruelando says:

    Coquelin is the only true DM we have at arsenal, all the others are box to box midfielders. Many fans do not understand the importance of this position in front of the Arsenal back four and only pays attention to what glitters and shine. Therefore they do not pay attention to the hard work that certain players put in that allows these players to glitter and shine.

    But i am of the opinion that Coquelin does not have to play all the games, base on the fact that all the teams will not be offering the attacking threats. Swansea was one such example after going ahead by two we started show boating, then gifted swansea a goal which build their confidence, then we allowed barrow to build a head of steam, when we could have double team that threat. It is something that has to be done by the players on the field to recognise the danger early and neutralise that same danger.

    If arsenal is to become champions we have to promote a kill mentally and realise that the time to take it easy is after the match is over

    1. sAMa says:

      You and ‘show boating’ though ?

  6. sAMa says:

    Nice post, I think Coquelin is underrated.

  7. Hardave_90 says:

    Coqueline did get a red card against Tottenham(Sh7t) last season. Since then he’s learned his lesson. No doubt he’s almost flawless when it comes to defending but everyone makes mistakes. Let’s hope xhaka learns his lesson asap which I know he will and be more cautious. No point getting too much into who’s better or who’s more important. Both Xhaka and Coq will be needed throughout the season.

  8. Wilshegz says:

    take it or leave it Xhaka is a far more complete player to Coquelin.
    Coquelin is just the destroyer DM like Masherano was in EPL, Xhaka combines both destroying and deeplying playmaking role as Xabi Alonso was and still is.

  9. Twig says:

    “Le Coq has outplayed all the defensive midfielders in England in the last one year.”

    Including Kante?

    1. Shah of Arsenal says:

      How has Kante done vs. Arsenal?
      2015-2016 Season – Arsenal won 2/2 games against Leicester (5-2) (2-1)
      2016-2015 Season – Arsenal won 1/1 games against Chelsea (3-0)

      1. Shah of Arsenal says:

        2016-2017* whoops

  10. AndersS says:

    It doesn’t hav to be either Coquelin or Xhaka. They are different to one another and could in fact complement each other, especially when against strong opponents and when we need to close out games. Against Swansea we had the chance to see how it would work, but unfortunately Xhaka made his stupid mistake and was sent off. It could have been very interesting to see it.

  11. T2T says:

    I agree to the overall argument; Coquelin is important to us. However, we must not forget Elneny who came in last January, and if I’m not mistaken, was voted Arsenal’s player of the month twice for the reminder of the season. We now have the players to be able to rotate, even if we get an injury or two.
    We have a very strong Ssuad. There is one area I’d really like to see us strengthening though and that is up front. We could do With a WC striker; an Aguero. There are really no deadwood in the current squad – maybe with the possible exception of Debuchy whose form has fallen dramatically.
    Chech (Ospina)
    Bellerin (Jenkinson), Mustafi (Mertesacker), Koscielny (Gabriel), Monreal (Gibbs)
    Xhaka (Elneny) Cazorla (Ramsey)
    Walcott (Ox), Özil (Cazorla), Iwobi (Sanchez)
    Sanchez (Giroud)
    We have so many players competing for the same starting positions, even being selected as a sub is difficult if you’re a CB or MF. Holding did well, Bielik ditto. As a back up striker we have Perez who is still being eased into the PL.
    We have yet to see the best of Arsenal except some spell during a couple of the matches and still we’re sitting pretty at the top of the pile (only behind on GD).
    I’m so looking forward to game tomorrow.

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