Francis Coquelin is 2015 Premier League’s top defensive midfielder

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When Arsenal recalled Francis Coquelin from a loan spell at Championship side Charlton in December, not many Gunner fans were overly excited about the news.  The former France youth international first signed with the north London club back in 2008 and was not particularly a fan favorite over his six-and-a-half years in and out of the senior squad.

In fact, most assumed that the 23-year-old Coquelin would see out his expiring contract while on loan and leave the club at the end of the the current campaign.  Fast-forward four months after his return from loan and not only has Coquelin played unbelievably well for this Arsenal team and was awarded a new four-year contract, but the once forgotten man has been the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League of 2015.

Since being brought back into the squad, Coquelin has led Arsenal to 14 victories out of 17 matches in league play (including eight consecutive wins).  Coquelin’s immense play has created balance and helped solidify the Gunners in the middle of the pitch.

Perhaps Arsenal’s most glaring need over the last few seasons was an enforcer in the midfield that bullied opposing players on the ball.  Coquelin’s passion, tenacity and toughness, along with quality, has brought something into this current Arsenal side that was certainly lacking in the squad in recent memory. He’s been pivotal to Arsenal’s resurgence that now sees them as the hottest team in Europe right now.

Following a narrow 1-0 victory away to Burnley at the weekend, the Frenchman was hailed by former Arsenal legend and fellow countryman, Thierry Henry.  Henry stated, “I thought (Coquelin) was brilliant today.  He was our man of the match.  He senses the danger and is there straight away.”

“He went away a bit before coming back to Arsenal and maybe that helped him.  Maybe he realized, ‘I don’t want to go on loan anymore.  I want to play and show everyone I can play for Arsenal.’  He understood he had to be that type of player to play for Arsenal.”

The Arsenal manager was also quick to praise the Arsenal enforcer subsequent to the Burnley match as well.  Arsene Wenger said of Coquelin, “He gives the ball quickly and well and is good technically.  Overall he has contributed to the balance of the team.  This is a player who has been with us for seven years.  Sometimes you have to be patient.  I’m very happy for him because it shows great mental strength.”

While praise from two Arsenal legends is surely noteworthy, Coquelin’s statistics for the 2014/15 season speak for themselves.  Many of the French enforcer’s numbers eclipse those of other top Premier League players at his position.

       Coquelin           Matic     Schneiderlin    Fernandinho
Interceptions*          4.34            2.12           2.65          2.33
Blocks*           .42             .21            .22           .24
Tackles Won*          3.43            2.79           3.14           3.14
Clearances*          4.41            3.60           2.06           1.95
Aerial Duel Win %          66.2%           63.2%          44.4%          55.9%
Total Duel Win %          58.5%           50.4%          43.7%          45.7%

* – Stats are shown per 90 minutes of play

If he can continue his high level of play and finish the campaign on a strong note, Coquelin could conceivably be included in the Premier League team of the season (albeit an outside chance, as he has not played a full season).  He has been that good.  How many fans/pundits thought that was even imaginable at the start of the current campaign?

 

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