Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has revealed what he perceives to be the turning point in his career, crediting the season-long loan spell at Bundesliga outfit Freiburg as having the biggest effect on him mentally.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise to first-team prominence at the Emirates Stadium this season, despite spending the early part of the campaign in the Championship with Charlton Athletic.
Since returning to north London at the end of last year the Frenchman has established himself as an integral part of Arsene Wenger's starting XI, and Coquelin feels that would not have been possible without the experience of playing in Germany.
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"The period in Germany helped me a lot, it was a tough, tough experience mentally," he was quoted saying by Sky Sports. "That was a turning point in my career. I'm happy I went there and learned a lot."
The Gunners ace is very grateful for the amount he learned after embracing the challenge of testing himself in another foreign country, and now the Premier League giants are reaping the rewards as Coquelin continues to excel in England's top-flight.
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Wenger says Coquelin's recent success is thanks to his renewed focus on playing to his own strengths and specifically the attributes that have helped cement his place in the side as an important shield that provides additional protection for Arsenal's back four.
"He analysed well what he is good at - defending in midfield," explained the French tactician. "He was in between a bit the playmaking position and a box-to-box player. He is not that. He's a sitting player who can win the ball.
"He restricted his game to that and you make success in life with what you're good at. You don't have all the qualities but you have to express what you're good at and he's good at that."
Coquelin's coming of age couldn't have come at a better time following injuries to fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta, which is ultimately what paved way for his chance in the team.
Wilshere sets end of season target
Jack Wilshere has set himself a target of playing at least some part of Arsenal's end of season run-in after completing 90 minutes for the Gunners U21 side at the Emirates Stadium last night.
The 23-year-old midfielder stepped up his recovery by playing the full game for a strong second string side that also featured fellow first-team stars Mikel Arteta and About Diaby.
Wenger told to forget about Cech
Arsenal have been warned against making a summer move for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech because the Blues have no desire to sell the 32-year-old to a direct Premier League rival.
Arsene Wenger has been told not to bother wasting his time pursuing a player that is ultimately unattainable, despite recent reports that Roman Abramovich would allow the veteran custodian to join whoever he wants.
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