Arsène Wenger says that Francis Coquelin is “doing a great job” as Arsenal’s first-choice defensive midfielder.

The 24-year-old established himself as a key part of the first team when he was recalled from loan in December 2014, and has developed an impressive partnership with Santi Cazorla at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield.

Coquelin has made the most interceptions of any midfielder in Europe since his first start of last season, and Wenger believes his exceptional ball-winning ability is vital to Arsenal’s gameplan.

You watch football like I watch football and you will see that defensively, Coquelin is doing a great job

Arsène Wenger

“It is difficult always to find the balance in a team,” he said. “You want a balance between attacking well and defending well and sometimes that depends on one player with specific characteristics. But I think we have had that debate for a long time now, that Arsenal do not buy defensive players.

“Coquelin has [some of] the best defensive statistics and numbers in Europe. You watch football like I watch football and you will see that defensively, Coquelin is doing a great job.

“Since January, we have conceded less goals than anybody else. You know in football you have to accept that anybody can be right. The only thing I want is that when people have opinions, it is documented and worked-out before.”

Although Arsenal have been strong defensively they have only scored in one of their opening three games, but Wenger is confident they can return to their fluid best at Newcastle United on Saturday.

“We have to play quicker, be more incisive, combine quicker in the final third and we work hard on that,” he said.

“We create chances, but at the moment, we analyse well after the game the number of chances and the number of expected goals we should score with the chances we create. At the moment we have a little deficit between the chances we create and the number of chances we score.”

Most interceptions in Europe - midfielders

Player Number of interceptions
Francis Coquelin 86
Wesley Lautoa 80
Christophe Kerbrat 77

Most tackles in Europe - midfielders

Player Number of tackles
Gelson Fernandes 88
Maxime Gonalons 88
Allan 87
Nicolas Seube 84
Augusto Fernandez 83
Francis Coquelin 82
Claudio Yacob 81
Emre Can 78
Álex Bergantiños 76
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Max Jones 27 Aug 2015