Despite putting together a string of impressive performances over the last month, Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin faced his first major test of the season on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. The 23-year-old defensive midfielder not only held his own during the massive match in Manchester, but Coquelin passed the test with flying colors and was arguably the second best player on the pitch during the 2-0 victory for the Gunners.
The impressive win was Arsenal’s first away victory over The Citizens in over four years, and also kept them two points clear of bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table.
Arsenal’s defensive performance was brilliant during the match, something that they have lacked at times during the season. While credit surely goes to the team’s back four of Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, Coquelin’s contribution just in front of the defense was immense.
According to Squawka.com, Coquelin racked up 11 clearances, six interceptions, three blocks, won 88% of his aerial duels (seven out of eight), and had a passing percentage of 87% during Sunday’s match.
Following the game, one of Arsenal’s star players, Aaron Ramsey, was full of praise for his central midfield partner. Ramsey said of Coquelin, “He has done well. He’s at that age now where he understands the game a lot more and he has done really well in the last few weeks.”
“It is funny how quickly things can change in football. One week he was on loan at Charlton and then he comes back in and he has been in the team every week. He has done a very good job defensively for the team.”
“He wins it back, keeps it simple and just keeps things ticking over. Hopefully he can build on his performances that he has been showing of late and he has got every chance of turning into a top defensive midfielder.”
Coquelin’s recent form has surely surprised most, if not all, of Arsenal fans and pundits around the world. The 23-year-old has not been thought to be in the team’s plans for the future and had not featured in a match for the Gunners in nearly two seasons before coming on as a late substitute in mid-December.
Arsenal has been widely considered to be in the market for a defensive midfielder during this month’s transfer period. While they are currently working on introducing 17-year-old phenom Krystian Bielik this week, it remains to be seen if manager Arsene Wenger will put full trust in Coquelin (and Mathieu Flamini and possibly Bielik) or opt to sign a “world-class” defensive midfielder.
One thing, however, is for sure: the Gunners must reward Coquelin of his recent form and offer the young Frenchman a new contract, as the 23-year-old’s current deal expires at the end of the season.
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