The surprise of the season is definitely Arsenal’s French midfielder Francis Coquelin.
It look liked his Arsenal career was over after being sent to Freiburg last season and having a falling out with the manager. His attitude was questioned and looked like he may have blown his chance.
However, Coquelin returned and was not sold in the summer due to lack of numbers but he was not getting game time. In November, Wenger decided to send Coquelin on loan to championship side Charlton to get some game time however, this was cut short due to the injury crisis at Arsenal.
Coquelin was to be given his chance due to the lack of numbers in the Arsenal team and was determined to prove a point. Coquelin was first used as a substitute but showed glimpses of his quality and this was just the start.
He started his first game away at West Ham on the 28th December and has not looked back since. Coquelin has become pivotal in the midfield allowing Arsenal’s creative players to roam forward at will but knowing they have protection behind. It is of no great surprise that Arsenal have tightened up at the back since being offered this defensive shield.
Coquelin has been a key performer in Arsenal’s recent run and once again showed his class away at Manchester City and Wenger was keen to pay tribute to the midfielder after the game;
"I took Francis Coquelin from France at the age of 16 and he is now 24. He has gone through some difficult periods, but he is a learner and I always kept faith in him. “
"A few months ago, I told him he had to play, he accepted going down to Charlton and had some convincing performances. He came back and I have played him, and he's done very well.”
Coquelin has come back with a different attitude to that which was reported in Germany. Additionally, the loan spell at Charlton has allowed him to find a maturity and make him a man. He is far from the finished article as he can sometimes be reckless but this is expected as he is still a raw player but the signs are promising. For example, Coquelin did not look reckless against City but looked calm and composed winning balls on the edge of his own area.
A player who loves a tackle but also has footballing ability is improving game by game and is getting enormous praise form the fans alike. This is now being shared by many pundits especially after today with the most notable praise coming from Souness and Neville.
As reported the other day his stats are up there with Matic who is praised every week and this is only positive for Arsenal. Further to this, the Mirror are reporting that Coquelin will be offered a new deal and this is just in time as his contract runs out in June. His performances have obviously been noted by Wenger and now he needs to get him to commit.
Overall, Arsenal fans are delighted with the rise of Coquelin and he thoroughly deserves the praise he is getting. Many would argue that a defensive midfielder is still needed but after today’s performance fans may have to rethink that for the short term anyway. One thing is for sure, Coquelin is a fighter and has showed the right attitude and was determined to prove a point by stepping down a division. Wenger may well be vindicated if his performances stay at the level they currently are. It is important now that Coquelin puts pen to paper so that he continue his development at Arsenal and hopefully become the player he has the potential to become.