Arsene Wenger says Francis Coquelin’s defensive efficiency brings balance to his midfield but the boss won’t be fielding the 25-year-old as cover for Hector Bellerin as he doesn’t believe his compatriot has the physical profile to carry out the job.
Only Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have made more starts this season than Coquelin, who has once again proved himself integral to the Gunners despite the arrival of high-profile midfielders in the last two transfer windows.
Speaking to Arsenal Player ahead of the trip to West Ham United, a fixture that two seasons ago afforded Coquelin the opportunity to establish himself as a first team player, the boss played up his midfielder’s qualities.
“Francis has improved a lot,” said the boss. “Every year he’s getting better and he’s very focused, very committed and conscious of his responsibilities in the team.
“He’s certainly the most defensively efficient midfielder, so it allows me to balance the team around him. We are an offensive team and to have someone who can break things up and whose first pass is very good, helps a lot for us to be efficient.”
An underrated cog in the Gunners machine, Coquelin isn’t exactly one for grabbing the headlines. It’s not a state of affairs that Wenger believes should matter, given the respect he commands from his peers.
“I think what is most important when you’re a footballer is that you play and you get the credit from the technical people,” he said.
“If you can also get the credit from the crowd and the fans [that’s great]. You have to take that challenge as a long-term issue when you’re not a spectacular player.
“Offensive players are very spectacular and with defensive players I think you sometimes get a silent recognition. They take it for granted that every week you do this job. I think on a longer term, these people are rated.”
In the absence of Hector Bellerin and Mathieu Debuchy, it has been suggested that Francis Coquelin could be fielded at right-back on Saturday should the boss drop the nervous-looking Carl Jenkinson. It’s an idea that the boss has shot down.
“It goes through your mind,” Wenger admitted. “I don’t do it because I feel he doesn’t have the physiological profile of a full-back. The physiological profile of a full-back is more about big accelerations and long distance runs and coming back.
“Francis is a guy who is very explosive in short distances. Every time I played him as a full-back he got muscular injuries because you have to get used to that kind of effort. He doesn’t have the physiological profile to do this kind of job.”
So that’s that. Arseblog News is pretty certain Gabriel will get another run out on Saturday alongside Koscielny and Mustafi.
Extra reading – if you missed it recently, this interview with Francis Coquelin is excellent.