This mornings Arsenal transfer / contract news surrounds Star of the Moment Francis Coquelin and his new contract, with reports that he has signed a new contract with the club.
If the reports are true, firstly well played to the lad. He is now 23 years old and, since the age of 19, has been shunted out on loan throughout European, with spells at Lorient in France, Frieburg in Germany, and Charlton in South-East London. Between loan deals, he has also had a false start to his Arsenal career – making 39 appearances for the club in 2011/12 – 2012/13.
Throughout his time at Arsenal, he has kept his head down, never complained, been played out of position, and shown a good professional attitude.
He was part of the all conquering 2008/09 Youth Cup winning team, which contained the likes of Craig Eastmond, Henri Lasnbury, Emmanuel Frimpong, Jay Emmanuel- Thomas and, of course, Jack Wilshere.
Coquelin did not stand out in this team. He was often playing full back, rarely in the middle of the park. It perhaps highlights the problem with English football, and young English footballers mentality, that Coquelin got his head down and is starting to forge a career at Arsenal, whilst the young English lads fell away, despite having more talent.
It looked like when he was loaned to Charlton, his Arsenal career was over. But luck and a good professional attitude got him an opportunity, which he has since taken.
With new contracts for Coquelin and Mikel Arteta, and young Krystian Bielik joining the first team, what does this mean for Arsenal’s central midfield?
Previously, we have discussed how the emergence of Coquelin has partially solves the problems Arsenal have in the middle of the park, and my view has on him has not changed.
Coquelin’s future at Arsenal is still, in my opinion, as 2nd choice. He will provide good back up, and has the ability to come in when we need extra cover in the middle when playing the better teams. His contract does not mean we should stop looking for a top midfielder, with reports that a £15million deal for Morgan Schneiderlin was agreed with Southampton last summer but delayed for a year.
So if we buy, and Coquelin becomes 2nd choice, what does this mean for the rest?
Mathieu Flamini’s contract has another season to run after this year. He has shown he is no longer Arsenal class, a bit of a liability. I would be surprised if he see’s much more game team this season, or much more throughout his Arsenal career.
In a Football Manager world, you would ‘Offer to Clubs’ for nothing and get him off the wage bill for 2015/16. In the real world, this is unlikely. He will be 31 in March, so I doubt there will be too many clubs on the continent willing to take on his £75,000 a week. We are unlikely to be able to move him on, unless he we let him go on a free transfer, and supplement his wages for a year. What is more likely is he sits and ‘rots’ for a year, before leaving in 2016.
Mikel Arteta is an interesting one. Just 2 days ago, he signed a 12 month extension seeing him through to 2016. He will be 34 by the time this extension comes to an end, and he has shown in recent times that Father Time is catching up with him.
This season he has played just 11 games, and there is a strong possibility that he might not play again this season.
Offering a new contract and keeping him on for another year would usually be a crazy idea. However, there are things in his favour.
The fact he is club captain is important. We have instability around the captaincy of the club over the last few years. Without a stand out captain to replace Arteta, we would be better off keeping the stability for another year, rather than handing it to, say, Mertesacker, who might find himself out of the team in a seasons time.
Many players have previously spoken about Arteta being a ‘father figure’ around the club. He is more an important captain off the pitch than on. Helping new players to the club settle, taking time to pass on advise to the reserves/youths, and ensuring that when young players are invited to train with the first team, someone puts an arm round them. This is an important role at the club.
I am sure that Arteta has assisted the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla settle so quickly, being fluent in Spanish and English. He will also be key in the development of Gabriel.
On top of this, he is still good enough, when fit, to play against 60% of Premier League sides at home. He still has a place in the squad as a player.
We would be crazy to let his experience and calming influence leave the club. We saw in the late 00’s when we let a lot of experienced players (Lehman, Campbell, Henry, Pires, Ljungberg) leave in a short period that at times, the young players looked lost. Keeping the likes of Arteta and Rosicky around will only be good for the entire squad.
Arteta has a role to play at Arsenal, as club captain and 3rd choice midfielder.
As for Krystian Bielik, he is still just 17. He has arrived with a lot of hype, with many people labelling he is ‘the New Vieira’ based on a single article in a paper. It is important to no hype him up before he has even played a game. Afterall, he had only played 5 senior games in Poland.
I think it is still important to see Bielik as a youth player with potential, rather than someone ready to go now, until we see him play.
Having not seen him play, I think 6 months training with our 1st team this year, then going out on loan to a Premier League side next year to play 38 games, ala Alex Song at Charlton will do him the world of good. We would then see him return in 2016/17 as a 19 year old with Premier League experience under his belt. By that point, Arteta would likely be gone, and he would have a genuine opportunity to compete with our first choice central midfielder.
Despite the 3 dealings in central midfield – new contracts for Arteta and Coquelin, signing Bielik – a new central midfielder, for the 7th summer in a row (since Gilberto Silva left) should be top our our shopping list.
Congratulations Francis Coquelin, you deserve your new contract and it is testament to your hard work and professionalism. Hopefully you can be a good example to those younger who will now realise not to give up on their dream, and that hard work and good attitude is as important as talent.