Francis Coquelin is the defensive midfielder Arsenal have always needed

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It was two months ago today that Francis Coquelin made his first Premier League appearance of the season, replacing Santi Cazorla as an 87th minute substitute in Arsenal's resounding 4-1 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium.

Recalled from a loan spell at Championship outfit Charlton Athletic early after Mikel Arteta underwent ankle surgery back in December, his inclusion ended a 20-month exile from Arsene Wenger's senior line-up.

Coquelin was handed a surprise start in the 2-1 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park on December 28, and he's not missed a single game since - that's how impressive his impact has been since returning to north London.

The 23-year-old's meteoric rise to prominence has come at a perfect time for the Gunners, as they look to cement their place in the Champions League places and successfully qualify for Europe's elite club competition again next season.

For all the exciting attacking talent that's been on show in 2014/15, Arsenal have once again been let down by the absence of a defensive midfield enforcer. However, in Coquelin they have a player ready to reaffirm their position in the higher echelons of the table.

The revitalised Frenchman must now be regarded as one of Wenger's most important players, a crucial cog in the Gunners' engine room that needs to maintain his current level of performance if the club are going to see off the top four challenge from local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and high-flying Southampton.

With Chelsea and Manchester City all but guaranteed the top two places, Manchester United are the only other side embroiled in the same scrap for third and fourth spot, and on current form you wouldn't bet against the Gunners surpassing Louis van Gaal's under-performing team.

Coquelin caught the eye once again in Tuesday's unconvincing 2-1 victory over Leicester City, putting in his fair share of tackles, although he could be held accountable for Andrej Kramaric's goal after failing to close down the advancing Croatian striker before he fired a low shot past David Ospina to set up a nervy finish.

However, it's these type of resolute displays when Coquelin can really earn his corn, ensuring that the back door is kept shut when the flair players struggle to get a foothold on the game. Rolling your sleeves up and grounding out vital victories is an art in itself, and part and parcel of any successful team over the course of a season.

Arsenal bounced back from last weekend's disappointing derby defeat at White Hart Lane at the first attempt, and will look ahead at their next run of fixtures confident that they have what it takes to sustain their charge.

"I always had confidence in myself, so I knew I could do big things," - Francis Coquelin

"The most important thing is for us to get into the top four next season," Coquelin was quoted saying by the Daily Mirror after the midweek win against the Foxes. "It is going to be hard for us to win the title as Chelsea are quite far ahead, (but) if we stay consistent and keep winning games, you never know what can happen.

"I always had confidence in myself, so I knew I could do big things. Arsenal are a big club with quality players so when you get a chance you have to take it and show what you can do.

"It took a bit of time for me, but in the end I got my chance and I am just trying to do my best for the team."

If Coquelin carries on performing like this then there will be no need for Wenger to go back into the transfer market for another high-profile acquisition in the summer. The solution to Arsenal's long-term midfield problem was under his nose all along.

Arsenal fans: Do you think Francis Coquelin is good enough to make the holding midfield position his own? Or, would you like to see Arsene Wenger sign someone else in the summer? Have your say in the comment box below...

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