Another tricky away game out of the way, another own goal, three more points. We stumble onwards, a disorganised march to likely disappointment.
Wenger doesn’t seem to be able to address the glaring weaknesses and so this will be another ‘nearly’ season. And we know how our fans love those. Fun nights ahead losing on away goals because Giroud fluffed his lines. It was a pleasing line up, full of change and electric hope. Sadly, it didn’t pay off. Sadly, Ozil picked up an injury. Sadly, Theo gave everybody reason to doubt him. It’s been a dreary start to the season, clumsy wins or not, this is not the Arsenal we were expecting. However, there will always be light to cling on to. This light is Francis Coquelin. He’s been excellent for the opening games. He’s saved skins and snapped at legs. Player of the Week, with a certain Brazil nut pushing close in second.
Our French battler has been key since the last half of last season. Coquelin has played almost every available minute. He’s forced Ramsey out wide on multiple occasions, simply because this Arsenal squad can’t function without someone of Coquelin’s strengths. He reads the game brilliantly and puts out the fires. His passing is sometimes excellent, sometimes dodgy. He doesn’t really need to play those cross field balls too much, but it’s nice that he trusts himself to do so. The thing that’s great about him is his ball winning. More often than not, he’s first onto the loose ball, and can cover ground if he needs to, all with snippets of technical ability that flash every now and then. He has better feet then you’d ever give him credit for. As we saw with Liverpool, when he needs to commit to the last-chance saloon then he’s the player to take that responsibility. He pulled it off twice against Liverpool and it’s becoming a regular occurrence in his game. Wenger’s recent comments about him doing a ‘very good job’ suggest no back up is coming in for our defensive midfielder. A kamikaze approach, but that’s Wenger. It’s poor because it offers Coquelin no competition, which is vital for maintaining performance, but more worrying is the event of an inevitable injury. It’s going to happen and the team is not prepared. This season is set up to crash and burn. Only incredible luck will see Arsenal through to the end, something history would dictate is more improbable than Wenger signing the players the team needs.
Coquelin was lucky not get hurt amidst the crazy tackling from Newcastle, which awarded cards all round, red and yellow. The tackles were bad, but not as crazy as Wenger’s transfer policy. Coquelin stayed alive, great news for us. He was solid all game, flying out the blocks to squash danger. Alongside Cazorla, (only in certain games) he can really help dominate. Coquelin breaks up the play, our Spaniard distributes it coolly. It won’t be like that all the time, and there will be times when Coquelin will need a rest and won’t be able to. He’s too crucial to the big picture. Take him out and the pieces come tumbling. For now, I find it hard to believe any Arsenal fan isn’t thrilled with Coquelin’s performances and role in the team. Grit, level-head, sometimes hot, he’s what we’ve always wanted. Wenger needs to protect him by providing help. I fear it won’t happen, and so I fear for the season crunch.
It’s difficult to extract all the little things he does in games to be awarded Man of the Match, it’s not like a striker where they score goals, or a midfielder creates chances. But if there’s a sense that the game is feeling safe, and controlled, then it’s largely a result of the French midfielder’s relentless output. It’s the general improvement in Arsenal that shows Coquelin’s immense impact.
I mentioned Gabriel was showing promising signs. He’s growing with each game and looks mean on the pitch. The Brazilian is pretty dominant and has every attribute a defender needs, strength, awareness and pace. He could build a great wall with main man Koscielny. They don’t complement each other like Mertesacker and Koscielny do, but maybe the individual talent of Gabriel could serve our defence better in the long run. The signs are positive.
Hopefully, Coquelin won’t suffer from fatigue or injuries. Pray for good fortune and we might get away with something this season.