Francis Coquelin is the Premier League's best defensive midfielder on current form

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Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has made more interceptions than any other Premier League since making his first start of the season against West Ham United on December 28th.

That is just one in a series of key statistics which show how important Coquelin now is to Arsene Wenger's side, even if his series of combative displays over the last two months won't be enough to appease Arsenal fans desperate to see a world-class holding midfielder arrive at the Emirates this summer.

Coquelin was only brought back from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic because of a raft of injuries to experienced players like Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, but is now surely ahead of both in the Arsenal pecking order even when they return to full fitness.

Stats make for impressive reading

The French midfielder has certainly justified Arsene Wenger's decision to keep him on the books despite a disastrous loan spell with Bundesliga side Frieburg last year, with a mix of tenacity, drive and perhaps most importantly the mobility to cover ground for 90 minutes allowing him to make the most of a surprise first-team opportunity.

Wenger must have toyed with the idea of letting Coquelin go for good in 2014, but there's a growing weigh of evidence to suggest he's got a long future as a key member of his Arsenal squad moving forward.

Critics of Coquelin are wide of the mark

A look at the data behind Coquelin's impressive rebirth as an Arsenal player by the Daily Mail proves that he's a valuable asset, with the most interceptions and duels won by any player in the top flight over the last two months.

Coquelin has got the better of an opponent in 97 duels during that time, with nearest challengers Christian Benteke and Ashley Barnes trailing well behind with 76.

There's also clear daylight between Coquelin and Manchester United midfielder Daley Blind in second place when it comes to tackles won, while only Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta has won more tackles than the French enforcer.

Coquelin should be kept ahead of Flamini & Arteta

Wenger is likely a little surprised himself with how quickly Coquelin has adapted to the demands of providing a protective shield for his back four, with the numbers impossible to ignore.

The 23-year-old signed a new long-term contract last month and must not be relegated to the reserves even when Flamini, Arteta, Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey are fit, because he's got the potential to improve and has earned his place.

Realistically Flamini's shelf-life as an Arsenal player looks limited, so there's no merit in keeping him beyond this summer now Coquelin has taken his chance to shine.

Arteta is also past his prime, so even if Wenger does splash the cash on a new midfielder this summer he should make sure there's room for an emerging talent in Coquelin.

Arsenal fans, how impressed have you been by Coquelin in recent weeks? Does he deserve a chance long-term or should Wenger still sign another holding midfielder? Let us know by having your say in the comment box below!

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