Arsenal are working at their optimum level. The players are healthy. The football is flowing. The collective atmosphere is electric. There is excitement at the prospect of every Arsenal game. Alexis fills the stadium with fire and the team reacts.
He’s been the catalyst for Arsenal’s fear and new found fireworks display. But it’s Francis Coquelin who is the glue holding this Arsenal resurgence together. Take him out this team and we’ll fall apart. The reason Arsenal have never been in this position for a long time and with such authority is because we haven’t had that steely figure to lead us there.
We’ve chased heavy weights without a shield, and got hit in the process. Those days are gone. Once more, Arsenal find themselves with a French leader on the pitch. Coquelin is the undoubted player of the week.
The French midfielder’s return to Arsenal colours is nothing short of a fairy tale. And one that isn’t ending soon. Coquelin is here to stay. He owns that defensive midfield position. Nobody’s going to take it away from him and I don’t think he’d let that happen either. He’s been given a chance and he’s snatched it away with a desire old Arsenal players have so fatally lacked. The players know it, too. There’s a respect surrounding Coquelin because of how he’s took his one last chance and dominated ever since. Even if we were to sign another defensive midfielder, I can’t imagine people would readily see Coquelin on the fringes of the team again.
It seems difficult to imagine this Arsenal side without him. The foundations have become too strong and even if a Schneiderlin were to come in it would be a risk towards the long-awaited puzzle piece. There’s no need to disrupt it now. Wenger’s found his man. Besides, on current form is Schneiderlin or someone of that calibre better than Francis? I don’t think so. Besides, he’s developed into a leader on the pitch, a much more effective one than Arteta or Flamini. Ever notice when Arsenal start panicking at the back or a game starts with too much intensity?
It’s Coquelin who’s ushering the players to relax, slow down and think. He’s as much captain material as any of our players, and more. Arsenal’s brittle spine is a thing of the past. And if it wasn’t for our star names in Alexis, Cazorla and Ozil, then Coquelin would sweep up every man of the match award. Even when our big names are lighting it up, more often than not Coquelin is the player that’s still stood out among the giants. So what does that make him?
One thing that’s clear is he’s crucial to this Arsenal team. How many games has he played following his heroic return? He’s the sheep that got lost, found his way back as a different beast.
The perfect example of Coquelin’s impressive performances was again seen away at Burnley. He saw the danger, the loose ball and he reacted ahead of everybody else, something that has become integral to his game. Thierry called him a policeman. In a sense, he’s also a fireman. The French midfielder puts out the dangers before they have a chance to catch alight. So, he pounced on the ball and charged onwards to goal, another aspect of his game.
He’s leggy and can carry the ball. He’s rapid over a short distance and his recovery rate is often remarkable. His pass wasn’t good to Alexis, but it doesn’t matter, without Coquelin the issue would have never been forced, the goal never created. That’s his clear contribution, but it’s everything else that makes him such an impressive cog in this machine.
He cleans up the loose balls and halts attacks. Arsenal’s ball retention has also improved since Coquelin’s reintroduction and the reason is alarmingly simplistic. Francis Coquelin plays simple balls and plays like a protector should – with his head fixed on and his brain working. Without Coquelin, Arsenal probably don’t come away from Burnley with three points. This is one of many impressive displays for the Frenchman and he utterly deserves to be in the mix for Arsenal’s player of the year. He might even win it.