Arsenal need a back-up option for Francis Coquelin

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It was one of the stranger, yet most satisfying stories of last season. 

Francis Coquelin, having started the campaign on the fringes of the Arsenal squad with his contract ticking down towards its conclusion, suddenly found himself rushed back from a loan spell at Charlton Athletic and, within a few weeks, was established as the lynchpin of the Gunners' midfield.

The fairytale didn't end there, with the Frenchman ending the campaign with an FA Cup winners' medal as well as a new four-year contract.


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Perhaps the biggest vindication of Coquelin's talent and progression, though, is the fact that manager Arsene Wenger has, so far at least, seen fit to persist with the 24-year-old as his first-choice defensive-midfielder with the new campaign rapidly approaching.

It's worth remembering that Coquelin's emergence didn't exactly come out of nowhere. Today marks the seventh anniversary of him joining the club and, right from his first game, in a pre-season friendly against Barnet, his qualities were abundantly clear as he snapped into tackles and played short, snappy passes to his teammates.

Coquelin's emergence

Over the next couple of seasons Coquelin featured intermittently for the Arsenal first-team, but he was heavily involved at youth level, most notably playing a major part in the FA Youth Cup and Premier Academy League double-winning season of 2008/09.

There were some signs during the 2012/13 season that Coquelin was edging towards a starting berth, but those hopes were rather put paid to by a torturous loan spell at Freiburg the following campaign, where he found himself playing out of position on left wing and, for many games, he wasn't involved at all.

The loan to Charlton appeared to be the final straw as far as Coquelin's Arsenal career was concerned, with even Wenger seeming resigned to releasing his compatriot at the end of the campaign. 

Few would have envisaged what has happened in the interim and it is now up to Coquelin to prove why he should be Arsenal's first-choice defensive-midfielder for the foreseeable future.

His partnership with Santi Cazorla was the bedrock of Arsenal's hugely impressive second half of last season and Coquelin will now want to cement his position in the side by enjoying another fruitful campaign.

Coquelin's emergence, though, doesn't fully solve Arsenal's defensive-midfield problem, particularly in this era of the rotating squad.

Arsenal need cover for Coquelin

If he is able to play the majority of Premier League games this season at the level that he demonstrated last campaign, then it might not matter all that much who Arsenal's back-ups are in that position.

If, though, Coquelin was to suffer an injury or an unexpected drop in form, Arsenal's current alternatives in defensive-midfield aren't exactly inspiring. 

Mathieu Flamini has been in decline for several years and has been linked with a move away from the club, whilst club captain Mikel Arteta has never been a natural fit in that position (his qualities are better suited higher up the field), with the Spaniard having suffered severely with injury problems in recent years.

Krystian Bielik, the promising youngster signed from Legia Warsaw in January, could perhaps be a long-term answer to the problem, but he is not yet ready to play regularly and Arsenal would do well to recruit another player in that position to supplement Coquelin.

With Arteta having recently signed a new one-year contract with the club, such a scenario seems unlikely, which may cause considerable consternation to supporters if Coquelin, owing to injury or misfortune, is unable to continue his rapid rise. 

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