'I had a fantastic time... Arsenal brought me up'

Francis Coquelin went from callow youth to Premier League enforcer during his time with us - and admits the club still means a lot to him.

The French midfielder now plays for Valencia, and while he is suspended for Thursday night's Europa League semi-final first leg, he is looking forward to facing us in the return match in Spain.

"I’m really excited to play against to my former club," Coquelin said. "Everyone knows I’m suspended for the first leg, which is a big disappointment for me, but as soon as I saw the draw I was really pleased to be able to play against Arsenal for the first time in a different shirt.

"[The club] means a lot. I was at Arsenal since the age of 18, I spent nine years there and I met many great people, I had a fantastic experience as a person and as a football player. Arsenal brought me up so I am grateful for everything they did for me.

"I was able to play under one of the best coaches in Europe in Arsene Wenger, which was a chance for me. Obviously in my first year [in 2009], I won the FA Youth Cup with a great team with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury, Gilles Sunu. 

"It was my first trophy as an Arsenal player, in the youth team, and after that in the senior team we won the FA Cup twice. Those two trophies are some of the best memories I have.

"I am still in contact with a few players, such as Laurent Koscielny. We were really close when I was there and he did the same injury as me, with the Achilles tendon, so obviously got even closer because of that. I am still in contact with Alex Lacazette and Danny Welbeck, and a lot of people but they are the ones I am closest to."

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