During a Q&A session Arsenal held on Twitter with Francis Coquelin and Chuba Akpom, the Frenchman described his “incredible” return to The Emirates.
Coquelin joined the Gunners in 2008 from Stade Lavallois and went on a series of loans before staking a claim for a place in Arsene Wenger’s side.
Joining Arsenal at the tender age of 17, Coquelin spent a couple of seasons in Arsenal’s youth team before going out on loan to get more experience in order to give himself a better chance of playing for Arsenal in the Premier League.
The midfielder was asked in a tweet by one follower to describe the last few months of his career going from playing at Charlton to coming back to Arsenal and getting a place in their starting line-up.
The Frenchman responded on the official Arsenal Twitter account saying: “It’s been incredible! Playing at Charlton, coming back and being a starter. Just unbelievable!”
After loan-spells at FC Lorient and SC Freiburg, Coquelin came back to England for a stint at Charlton Athletic, but only managed five appearances before being called back to an injury-hit Arsenal.
On December 12, Arsenal cut-short his loan at Charlton due to an injury to Aaron Ramsey and their lack of available central midfielders; that was just in time for him to make a late substitute appearance in the Gunners’ 4-1 win over Newcastle United.
Two more appearances coming off the bench against Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers led to him getting his first start for Arsenal in 23 months as they faced West Ham at Upton Park.
It came after Wenger had noticed a vast improvement in the midfielder’s ability during training sessions and decided to send him to Charlton for match practice. Five games isn’t a lot of practice but Wenger needed a replacement for Ramsey and had obviously seen enough in Coquelin to trust him to do well in the Premier League.
So he started against West Ham and played well in defensive midfield, but it wasn’t until Arsenal’s next Premier League game that praise was heaped on the young Frenchman.
Arsenal travelled to the Etihad Stadium to face the champions and Coquelin found himself in the starting line-up, a huge difference to only being on the bench for Charlton’s game against Leeds in November.
But had the 23-year-old really come that far, that quickly?
A meteoric rise
Well his performance against Manchester City certainly gave the impression that he had. In a game that saw Santi Cazorla grab all the headlines for his outstanding display in which he scored one and set up another for Olivier Giroud, it was Coquelin who had the pundits talking.
It was Arsenal’s best performance of the season up to that point, and it was Coquelin who was instrumental in allowing Arsenal to execute a near-perfect game plan against City.
Sitting in front of Arsenal’s back four that had been troubled all season, he gave them security and stability. Earlier on in the season, Arsenal threw away established leads in games that you expect them to win, for example against Anderlecht in the Champions League and Swansea City in the Premier League.
The likes of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were being hounded for their woeful defensive displays, Arsenal lacked a leader in defence and whenever a team attacked them through the middle, they panicked.
Coquelin gave such an assured performance at the Etihad against the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero, James Milner and Fernando that he made playing as a defensive midfielder against the champions look easy.
He broke up play, protected the ball and used it well in the middle of the park; one of the best performances from a central midfielder this season, without doubt.
Garnering a lot of attention after that performance meant the 23-year-old had to maintain such a high level of performance from then on. In fairness, he has played well since, at such a young age it is quite impressive to see such a transformation in such a short space of time.
Arsenal were crying out for a defensive midfielder owing to their defensive frailties and the fact that the likes of Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were injured. Coquelin has provided them with that missing link. He provides the protection Arsenal’s defence needs when the rest of their midfield love to attack.
Is he the answer to Arsenal’s problems in the long-run? only time will tell, but hasn’t done himself any harm with his performances since returning from Charlton. he has kept his place in the side and for good reason too. At this time Arsenal do not another player in their squad that can play his better than the Frenchman, that is not saying that aren’t better defensive midfielders around because there are.
But given time, there is nothing stopping Coquelin becoming a top player for Arsenal as he is already a vital part of their team and with him in the side Arsenal look more likely to push on and secure a place in the top four.