Arsenal midfielder comes of age on triumphant return to Manchester

PUBLISHED: 17:20 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 17:21 19 January 2015

Arsenal's Francis Coquelin tackles Manchester City's David Silva (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal's Francis Coquelin tackles Manchester City's David Silva (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

2015 Getty Images

It’s almost three and a half years since Francis Coquelin made his Premier League debut in Manchester – an occasion that remains lodged in the memory for Arsenal fans.

Not for the right reasons, however. The young Frenchman, along with the rest of his team-mates, was left floundering as Manchester United ripped their visitors to pieces with a ruthless 8-2 thrashing.

Coquelin’s presence in the side, perhaps unfairly, was seen at that time as symbolic of the Gunners’ decline, underlining the urgency of their need for reinforcements.

A decent sprinkling of first-team appearances followed during the next two years, without any real indication that Coquelin might be regarded as a long-term mainstay of the Arsenal midfield.

Loaned to Bundesliga side Freiburg for the whole of last season, Coquelin had probably faded from the thoughts of most Gunners supporters.

Not so from the mind of Arsene Wenger, who decided last month that the time was right to recall Coquelin from his loan spell at Charlton after just five weeks away from the Emirates.

The 23-year-old went straight onto the substitutes’ bench and was then elevated the starting line-up for the Gunners’ 2-1 win at West Ham just after Christmas – and he has remained there ever since.

Returning to Manchester on Sunday as one of the key figures in Arsenal’s unexpected 2-0 success against the champions, it seemed that Coquelin’s fortunes had turned full circle.

Now, rather than being cited as an example of the need for Wenger to add to his squad, Coquelin’s mature display will have left many wondering if he is, in fact, the man to fill their defensive midfield vacancy.

“I took him from France at the age of 16 – today he is 23,” said the Arsenal boss. “He has gone through some difficult periods but he’s a learner from his experiences.

“I’ve always kept faith in him, because I told him three months ago that he needed to play somewhere.

“He accepted to go down to Charlton and had convincing performances. Now he’s come back, I’ve played him and he’s done very well.”

Coquelin’s run in the side has, of course, been aided by the absence of club captain Mikel Arteta, who is expected to be out until at least April following an ankle operation.

However, even before Arteta was forced to undergo surgery, questions were being raised about whether he was best suited to a role protecting the back four in any case.

In the meantime, Mathieu Flamini – one of Arsenal’s more consistent performers last season – suffered a dip in form and Wenger has only used him sparingly in recent weeks.

Both Arteta and Flamini are now the wrong side of 30 and, whether Coquelin proves to be their long-term successor or not, it can be argued that the necessity for new blood in that position has lessened.

Despite their third consecutive clean sheet, it seems clear that Arsenal’s threadbare defence is – as Wenger keeps stressing – the area most in need of strengthening over the course of the next 10 days.

If it comes down to a choice between recruiting another midfielder, or a new man to ease the burden on the back four, Coquelin’s coming of age should have made that decision an easier one.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Yesterday, 18:09

Mark McCall called his depleted Saracens squad “amazing” after they fought back to beat Sale Sharks 31-25 and maintain their unbeaten start to the Gallagher Premiership season.

Yesterday, 15:44

Gallagher Premiership: Saracens 31 Sale Sharks 25

Fri, 17:00

Sarries back in league action on Saturday after exertions in Heineken Champions Cup and Premiership Rugby Cup

Fri, 11:00

Haringey Aquatics’ Shakil Giordani won a fantastic five gold medals at the London Winter Championships.

Fri, 10:00

Hampstead & Westminster’s Harry Martin admits he is starting to feel old, as he prepares to compete in the World Cup in India later this month.

Fri, 09:00

Hampstead & Westminster had a National League win double at Maida Vale to maintain their fine start to the season.

Fri, 08:00

London All-Stars and London Titans are gearing up for an epic weekend of wheelchair basketball, as the Lord’s Taverners Junior Leagues returns for the 2018/19 season.

Thu, 19:00

Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira says the intense rivalry between Uruguay and Brazil will make their encounter at the Emirates Stadium a competitive and full-blooded affair.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now