Arsene Wenger says Francis Coquelin’s willingness to make the most of his comparatively narrow skillset should be an inspiration for all aspiring footballers.
The Frenchman’s aggression, quick distribution and discipline have all caught the eye since his surprise inclusion away at West Ham on 28 December with the Gunners since winning 17 of the 22 games he’s appeared in.
Speaking at a Barclays event (quotes via Arsenal.com), the boss shed light on his young compatriot’s breakthrough year at Arsenal praising the 23-year-old’s patience following six years as a slow-burner at the Emirates and beyond.
“I explained to him that what I liked most was his ball-winning potential rather than his playmaking potential, so I sent him out on loan to France for experience,” revealed the boss. “He played without being convincing in the box-to-box role.
“He then went to Charlton and I sent somebody to watch him. The reports were positive and I called him back after five weeks, and he wasn’t happy. I said to him, ‘why are you not happy?’ and he said, ‘I was playing regularly for Charlton and you called me back just to cover and not to play me’.
“We went into the first game and I didn’t start him. Then we went to West Ham United and I started him. He was surprised because we played at home against QPR and I didn’t play him, but I did away at West Ham.
“Since then, he has not moved out of the team because he sticks to what he is strong at – winning the ball and using it well. What is also surprising is that he’s very good in the air because he has a very good leap.
“I always remind him that we have gone through a long period of suffering and I tell him not to forget that – always remember who you are. That is a very great example for young kids because you make a career with one dominant quality, but sometimes you forget who you are.
“He’s a good example but the other good example is that he arrived at 17 and has finally made it at 24. It’s unbelievable how patient and open-minded you have to be.”
Until Coquelin’s revelatory performances the overwhelming belief on the terraces was that Arsene Wenger needed to buy a defensive midfielder to compete with Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta. The number one candidate in January was Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin; a player who continues to be linked despite the rise of our Coq.
ESPN.co.uk report today that Arsenal have already made contact with Southampton stating their eagerness to sign 25-year-old French international this summer. Schneiderlin has been at St Mary’s for seven years but has repeatedly hinted in recent months that he’d be open to moving to a bigger club.
No doubt this is a story that will gain even more traction once silly season gets out of first gear…