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Francis Coquelin happy to provide balance at Arsenal

Francis Coquelin

Arsenal's new midfield enforcer Francis Coquelin will have no problem reining in their attack-minded big-name stars if it means keeping the team into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

The Gunners moved back above Tottenham and Manchester United, who host Burnley on Wednesday evening, with an edgy 2-1 victory over bottom club Leicester, which saw both Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez pick up injuries.

It was far from an all-conquering display Arsene Wenger's men as they aimed to recover from defeat in the north London derby, but they looked comfortable leading 2-0 at half-time before allowing a spirited comeback from the Foxes.

Nevertheless, Coquelin, who returned from a loan spell at Charlton to help steer the team to a battling win at Manchester City last month, insists when the likes of Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Sanchez are all marauding forwards, someone has to keep the balance of the team dynamic in check.

Asked by Press Association Sport if he would have any problems with telling the forwards to track back, the Frenchman said: "If it needs to be said, I am the one who is saying it. Everyone can tell each other off, so that is a good thing.

"We are all fighting for each other and the spirit is good in the team, so everyone can say what they think."

Coquelin, who has just signed a contract extension, added: "With every player we have got going forward, you need a man with a defensive mind as well.

"If I can give the team a good balance – because we have got quite a few players going forward – hopefully we can get back to keeping clean sheets soon.

"The most important thing is for us to get into the top four next season.

"It is going to be hard for us to win the title as Chelsea are quite far ahead, (but) if we stay consistent and keep winning games, you never know what can happen."

Coquelin graduated through the Arsenal Academy, but was then sent out on loan to first Freiburg and Lorient before his spell at The Valley was cut short following injuries in the Gunners' midfield.

The no-nonsense performances of the 23-year-old over the past few weeks have drawn great praise.

"I always had confidence in myself, so I knew I could do big things," Coquelin said.

"Arsenal are a big club with quality players so when you get a chance you have to take it and show what you can do.

"It took a bit of time for me, but in the end I got my chance and I am just trying to do my best for the team."

First-half goals from Laurent Koscielny and Walcott put Arsenal in control. However, Andrej Kramaric's first Leicester goal since a £9million January move set up a tense finale at the Emirates Stadium.

Walcott insists the result is all that matters as Arsenal now turn attentions towards Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Middlesbrough.

"At these crucial stages in the season it is always important to get the three points and we managed to dig in and get the result. We need to move on from it now," Walcott said on Arsenal Player.

"It (the FA Cup) is a great opportunity when you consider the teams that have gone out, but Middlesbrough will be tough, they are doing well in the Championship and can't take them for granted."

Arsenal are waiting to discover the extent of injuries to Ramsey (hamstring) and Sanchez (knee), but both are expected to miss the cup tie.

Foxes manager Nigel Pearson, meanwhile, was all smiles when spending the first half in the director's box and dismissed suggestions of a rift with club owners following reports of his dismissal on Sunday evening.

Croatia forward Kramaric hopes Leicester can use their performance at Arsenal as a springboard to climb off the bottom and towards safety.

"The performance gives us hope. We played very good football, and the only way is up," Kramaric said on Foxes Player.


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