28th August 2011, a date that will be sure to evoke mixed feelings for Arsenal midfielder Frances Coquelin. Marking the day he made his full Premier League debut, he is sure to look back on that occasion with a smile, however as that game ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Manchester United, his memory will be somewhat tainted by the result.
Fast forward to 9th March 2015, and Coquelin was named man of the match for his performance during Arsenal's 2-1 FA cup quarter final-victory over Manchester United. Many would assume that the intervening years show a significant rise to prominence for Couquelin, in which he will have established himself as a permanent fixture in the Arsenal team, yet that couldn't be further from the truth.
In the wake of his breakthrough season at Arsenal in 2011, the Frenchman largely faded into foot-balling obscurity. Subjected to prolonged periods of inactivity, Coquelin was forced to seek out loan moves abroad in order to attain regular first-team football. Spells in France and Germany did little to attract the attention of his manager, Arsene Wenger, who seemingly remained unconvinced about the abilities of Coquelin.
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Once again in the run-up to the recent January transfer window, the Arsenal faithful were persistant with their calls for Wenger to sign a defensive minded midfielder. Speculation amongst the fans and media alike as to who should sign sprung up all sorts of names from around the globe, but never was Coquelin given a mention. With his contract nearing its end, the forgotten man of The Emirates looked to be heading out of the back door as just yet another Premier League failure. That was until a rather innocuous loan move to Charlton Athletic changed everything.
Despite only playing five games for the Addicks during his brief spell there, it had been enough for him to display a distinct improvement that prompted a quick recall to Arsenal following an injury crisis. Seizing his long awaited opportunity, Coquelin quickly played his way into the starting line-up and his impressive return to the fold has rejuvenated Arsenal of late.
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Proving to be effective at staying deep and winning the ball back from the opposition, he has allowed the likes of Ozil, Carzola and Sanchez, to persue their natural attacking duties without fear of being left vulnerable at the back. His unexpected rise to prominence may even prove Wenger right to resist the calls to sign a defensive midfielder, as he looks more then accomplished at that role.
Although his return to the starting line-up is still in its early days , Coquelin's assured presence in midfield looks to be the answer to the fans cries. Weather out of pure luck or judgement, Wenger may just have finally found his man to plug the hole in midfield and relieve pressure upon himself.
If only he had known that man was there all along.
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