An apology is needed. I am sure I am not the only one who needs to issue one.
Francis Coquelin, I am sorry.
Back in November, when it was announced that Coquelin was to join Charlton on loan, I blogged that “The only logical reason for such a short term loan as that it is to get him match fit for January, when he will be sold.” I have been proved wrong.
Others went a lot further:
Since he got his opportunity in the middle of December, he has gone from strength to strength and is now arguably one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Luck plays a big part in footballers getting their breakthrough.
Ashley Cole was due to be sold to Crystal Palace when Silvinho ‘lost’ his passport. Gareth Bale (+£15m) was on its way to Middlesbrough in exchange for Stewart Downing, until Boro rejected the offer. Harry Kane was getting pimped around English football 18 months ago, there were no takers. Football is littered with these stories of players getting a little bit of luck helping them with their breakthrough.
Coquelin is certainly another to add to this list. When he was recalled, Arsenal were without Koscielny, Monreal & Chambers, Arsenal were short at the back. The original suggestion was the Debuchy would move to centre back and Coquelin would cover full back. But at the same time, Arsenal were also without Wilshere, Ramsey & Arteta, meaning we had gaps to fill in midfield. Recalling Coquelin, in the short term, was the only option. It gave him his chance.
What was not luck was how Coquelin then applied himself after getting recalled. He showed passion, has worked hard and been disciplined.
His heart, desire and positional sense was highlighted the best in the recent Cup match against Manchester United. Despite giving away 6 inches to Marouane Fellaini, he won 10 of their 12 aerial duels. He wanted it more and read the ball better.
The stats speak for themselves. Since the turn of the year, no Premier League player has made more tackles (4) or more interceptions (43) than Francis Coquelin. His statistics compare favourably to other defensive minded Premier League midfielders:
What has impressed me most recently is his discipline. After 4 yellow cards in his 1st four starts, he has since only got 2 yellows in his last 14 appearances, and none in his last 6.
He is clearly a player who understands his role in the team.
Coquelin influence is also a frustration. We all knew we needed a top defensive midfielder at the beginning of the season. We failed to buy one. You have to think had we bought what we needed, we would be closer than the 7 points (having played a game more) to Chelsea. We would be in the title race.
Some stuck with Coquelin. One of the lads I travel with always backed him. “You can not comment until he plays” and “If he breaks through you will realise” he repeated to me on numerous occasions. I disregarded his opinion – he has also been speaking about Kondogbia for a few years – and have been proved wrong.
So Francis Coquelin, I apologise. You do have a future at Arsenal.