Is Francis Coquelin Enough for Arsenal to be Champions?


Francis Coquelin is without a doubt the greatest transfer Arsene Wenger never had to make. After so many years putting off the purchase of bonafide, bruising defensive midfielder, Wenger made the move to bring Francis Coquelin back from his loan at Charlton Athletic and ruthlessly thrust him into the Arsenal starting XI like an ill-planned, last-minute science fair project.

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The result? A blue ribbon.

However, now that Francis Coquelin has established that he is, almost without a doubt, the best defensive midfielder in the league (step aside, Matic), the Evening Standard is reporting that the ‘hierarchy within Arsenal’ is divided over whether or not Francis Coquelin is the answer that Arsenal have sought after for so long. I don’t think they would say that to Francis Coquelin’s face, but I digress.

Francis Coquelin’s qualifications are being based off of half a season of football. I will admit, that’s an incredibly small sample size. Even Nicklas Bendtner had a good half season (I think?). But Francis Coquelin looked like a player who had been in this Arsenal system for years. His timing with slide tackles is impeccable and his brutish physicality is literally one of the most welcome sights to come from Arsenal in quite some time.

What’s impressed me even more about Coquelin is how quickly he learned. Charlton Athletic and Arsenal are two completely different ball games, but it took him all of a couple weeks to fit in. One of the main drawbacks to his physical, confrontational nature was discipline. Yellow cards were always a concern.

When Francis Coquelin returned from loan, he featured as a sub in three straight games for Arsenal playing only 13 minutes. However, he manged to get a yellow card in the third of those matches in just 2 minutes of play. He followed that up with three straight games with yellow cards. It appeared that this dream reunion wasn’t so dreamy after all.

However, as if the word Wenger had in his ear had taken effect immediately, Coquelin’s game changed…. immediately. He would go another six matches before getting another yellow card and though he did get another in the match directly following, it was clear that his discipline was improving.

Then, in the last 15 matches of the season, Francis Coquelin acquired just one yellow card, proving that he had learned and he had learned quickly, just like Arsenal needed him to (stats via WhoScored).

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Some were not at all shocked by the emergence of our masked midfielder. Wojciech Szczesny made the claim that Francis Coquelin was always the best. Szczesny, who had been with Coquelin for seven years, said (via 90min): “Every time out there on the training field he was always the best player, back in the under-18s or the reserves.” So from our Polish goalkeeper’s perspective, it is a marvel that it took so long for Francis Coquelin to achieve this high level of performance.

That kind of testament lends immense credibility to the half season of success that he had. This doesn’t appear to be a fluke.

All that being said, the question remains: Is Francis Coquelin enough? I believe that we can all agree that Francis Coquelin should be starting as often as possible, but even he cannot start every game. If Alexis Sanchez can get fatigued, so can Francis Coquelin. Plus, injuries are always an issue as well. While he did break his nose and remain in the game, stuff happens.

Another aspect to consider is the need for internal competition. We’ve seen it at the striker position this year, where, up until Theo Walcott’s blistering emergence, we really did not have any options other than Olivier Giroud. If he went through slumps, we had no alternative and the team suffered because of it.

Francis Coquelin is only 23 years old, he is going to go through slumps and Arsenal can’t be forced to just weather the storm. They need an alternative to plug in the spot until he recovers. And not only that but nothing will keep a player on top of his game like some friendly internal competition, something that can be solved this summer, should Arsene Wenger deem it necessary.

I think that Francis Coqualin is enough to win with, but why leave it up for chance? One smart signing of a holding midfielder would provide so much peace of mind.

Next: Would Grzegorz Krychowiak solve the question?

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