In 2008 we should have won the Premier League. Why we failed can be argued. The loss of a flying Tomas Rosicky, the Eduardo incident and resulting implosion at St. Andrews, or the resulting loss of the dressing room by then skipper William Gallas.
However, what is certain is that we had an incredibly talented and fluid midfield, with Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas, playing in a foursome anchored by a certain Matthieu Flamini.
So good was the 2008 ‘French Enforcer’ that he kept the World Cup Winner and ‘Invincible’ Gilberto out of the team. His performances and form behind Fabregas made him undroppable.
The reason for this history lesson is quite simple. I was blown away by the quality of Francis Coquelin last night against Shrewsbury.
He along with Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the show and I am wondering whether it might be Coquelin and not Frimpong pushing Alex Song for the enforcer role this season and further. Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that Frimpong has come through the ranks at Arsenal and I admire his drive, determination and enthusiasm. However, seeing the two talents alongside each other last night it was the Frenchman, rather than the Anglo/Ghanaian, who did it for me. His tackling was crisp and well timed, and his distribution was intelligent and simple when required, but I also counted at least six 25-30 yard cross field balls as well. So do we have a new Flamini style ‘French Enforcer’ in our ranks?
There is little doubt that Arsene Wenger rates him highly, because there was talk of him returning to Lorient on loan or permanently this past summer, but the manager ruled it out. Last year, whilst not an automatic starter in the French top flight, Coquelin did play on 13 occasions for Lorient, scoring once and assisting once also. Let’s bear in mind he was only 19 last year.
Over the summer he starred for France in the Under-20 FIFA World Cup, playing every game (7 in total) on a run that saw France make it to the semi-finals before defeat to Portugal. Now without turning into a complete statto what interested me was that in those 7 matches, in which he played all 90 minutes, he committed 11 fouls, but did not get booked on a single occasion. This would appear to be in stark contrast to the over exuberant Frimpong, whose double yellow and subsequent red, probably cost us two points against Liverpool at the Emirates earlier in the season.
Wenger was certainly delighted with both Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain who he singled out for praise last night:
‘We took a gamble and it worked because you could see some players, who we haven’t seen so much of like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Coquelin, have done extremely well and that is positive for the future.’
I knew about Oxlade-Chamberlain and have absolutely no doubt at all that he has a huge future for Arsenal and England, but before last night I had not really seen Coquelin in the flesh.
I was more than impressed and repeat my contention that he looked a more complete midfielder then Frimpong at this stage. Having said that, we have seen many players shine in the Carling Cup in the past few years and not progress, but I would be interested to hear your views.
Can Coquelin follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman and become a new ‘French Midfield Enforcer’ in the Arsenal first-team?
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