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Francis Coquelin is great, but Arsenal need backup in defensive midfield

francis-coquelin

Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has been an absolute revelation since he was implemented into the starting XI last December.  The defensive enforcer has given the Gunners grit and tenacity in the middle of the park, something that the club missed for some time.  Coquelin’s attitude and playing style are, however, not just a smoke screen or a gimmick.  The 24-year-old Frenchman can play.

Although Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic is widely considered the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League, Coquelin’s statistics outshine the Serbia international’s.  Through the first two matches of the 2015-16 Premier League campaign, Coquelin has collected more tackles and blocks, and has a higher percentage of aerial duels won, total duels won and a better pass completion percentage than Matic (all while playing 60 less minutes than the Chelsea star).

The Frenchman also racked up more blocks, interceptions, and tackles per 90 minutes last season than Matic as well.

Coquelin’s impressive numbers and inclusion in the Arsenal team coincided with the club’s upward climb in the 2015 calendar year.  The Gunners have only lost five total matches since January 1st with Coquelin as the starting defensive midfielder.  While the 24-year-old is talented and worthy of a starting XI spot in the team, his immaturity and ruthlessness can be exposed at times.

Though Coquelin has yet to be sent off during a match with the Gunners, he has come extremely close to seeing red (including this past Sunday).  If, or perhaps when, the Frenchman gets sent off, there is not much faith in the current team for a short-term replacement for Coquelin.  Mikel Arteta, the club’s current captain, is still a technically sound player, however, at 33 years of age, the Spaniard is not the same player that he once was.  Also, Arteta’s playing style is vastly different from the persistent and relentless Coquelin, qualities that this Arsenal team needs.

Fellow Frenchman, Mathieu Flamini, is also available as a backup to Coquelin.  Nevertheless, the 31-year-old is also not the player that he used to once be and is perhaps even more reckless than Coquelin.

Although most of the transfer talk for the Gunners this summer has been about bringing in a world-class center forward, Arsenal would benefit from buying an additional defensive midfielder as well.  Grzegorz Krychowiak has been the latest player that the Gunners are rumored to be interested in.  The Poland international may not be a household name (yet), but he was included in the La Liga Team of the Season for the 2014-15 campaign.

The 25-year-old Krychowiak would be a solid addition to the Arsenal squad, however, if the north London outfit fail to agree on the reported £22 million price tag for the Sevilla player, Barcelona’s Sergi Samper would be an astute option for the Gunners.  While just 20 years of age, and yet to make a senior La Liga appearance for the Catalan club, Samper is regarded as one of the top defensive midfield prospects in all of Europe.

Arsenal has previously been linked with an £8.5 million move for Samper, but nothing has come to fruition as of yet.  With Coquelin firmly in Arsenal’s starting XI, the Gunners would most likely need an adequate player for a handful of matches if the Frenchman were to be injured or suspended.  Bringing in Samper could be an ideal situation, as the signing would be one for the future and Arsenal could slowly give the Spaniard playing time.  One point that may work in Arsenal’s favor is that Samper is good friends with Gunner defender, Hector Bellerin.

 

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