Looking back at the start of the season (I know it has only just begun and we haven’t played that many games but allow me to indulge in it) and especially after the departure of Alex Song, at that time I really thought that Francis Coquelin would be a confirmed starter. It’s no rocket science that he is one who could play in a similar role to the one vacated by Song. It would never have crossed my mind to see Mikel Arteta being given a chance there.
With the Spaniard starting off on the front foot in the deeper position, the question that begs to be asked is whether this will signal the end of the road for Coquelin at Arsenal Football Club. From a personal point of view, I hope it doesn’t. Every single time that the young Frenchman has put on the Arsenal kit, he looks a very decent player. One with the awareness required of a midfielder in the more defensive/withdrawn role and the robustness, all action, tough tackling charateristics to match.
The 21 year old is not short on confidence that he is capable of staying and getting game time. Ultimately, that is the most important thing, game time. For a youngster at his age, Coquelin needs every bit of minutes on the field in a competitive match as he can get in order to continue his development as a footballer. If he’s not getting that, he will definitely seek to find it at a different club. Which is fair enough because unlike so many others, this is not a case of financial reward.
Given the results that we have achieved since the start to the league season, it would be easy for Arsene Wenger to resist all temptations to change or alter his starting line-up. Arteta’s performance in screening in front of the defence has been top notch that it makes no sense to remove him from there. One could point to the fact that Coquelin did rather well as a right back last year and could gain some match fitness by being played there. However it would not be helpful to anyone to have a player playing in a different position when there is a specialist right back available.
Coquelin only just extended his contract with Arsenal early this year. So, technically we could still have him for a couple more years. There’s no doubt that in between, there will be plenty of game time available for him. What with Arteta’s getting older and the possibilities of injuries to the rest of the midfield. Will the French U21 international be patient enough to wait for the chances is another matter.
From one player who’s not getting even chances to one who’s being given all the chances. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played and contributed in England’s win over Moldova, yet received an earful from his manager over a listless second half. Since his return from his injury, AOC has started a game each for Arsenal and England. On both occasions, it meant a place on the bench for Theo Walcott. Make of that what you will.
After being eased into first team action last term, AOC looks like being tasked for more responsibilities this season. Just like with Coquelin, if our current midfield persists with the quality of performances, AOC will find his chances limited in central midfield. That is where he wants to end up and that’s where he has featured for us during the pre season training and friendlies. One thing that AOC has ahead of Coquelin though, is a little bit of luck.
Now, we know Coquelin makes a right back in addition to being a central midfielder. As for AOC, he is well capable of producing the goods in wide attacking positions too. This is where the luck ends for The Coq but starts for the The Ox. Carl Jenkinson is there to block off any notion that Coquelin should be playing there until Bacary Sagna returns. Yet, even with Gervinho and Walcott being fit, AOC still looks a better bet for the wide attacking role. Luck in this case being that competition is a little easier for AOC.
In so many ways, AOC is less frustrating to watch than Gervinho and Walcott. The younger of the former Southampton players shows a lot of maturity beyond his age. His assuredness and composure on the ball belies the lack of experience compared to his compatriots. He not only wins on the attacking side of the game but also in the defensive side. We’ve not conceded any goals this season and that comes down to the defensive organisation and how we defend as a unit. Gervinho and Walcott did their part in the first 2 games but there’s no doubt that AOC is a much better positionally aware than the first two.
In any case, with everyone being fit, it is a nice problem for Wenger to have. Deciding who to leave out is not easy but it is definitely better than trying to find enough good players to fill the starting eleven. The problem becomes an even bigger one when Jack Wilshere returns.
Now, that is what I call a sweet problem.