Arsene Wenger admits Francis Coquelin’s renaissance has even taken him by surprise.
The 23-year-old was out on loan at Championship side Charlton Athletic when he was recalled in December following an injury to Mikel Arteta.
Since then he has established himself as a key member of the first team, and Wenger is delighted with his progress.
"He was not [in my plans at the start of the season]. I told him to give absolutely everything until Christmas, then we would see together where he was"
“It is a surprise to everybody,” the manager said. “The only thing I do is that I never say never to anybody. In my job you have to be open-minded like that. You have to make decisions at times. But never close the door completely for anybody.
“He was not [in my plans at the start of the season]. I told him to give absolutely everything until Christmas, then we would see together where he was. If you respect that you have done a big part of your job.
“In myself, [I thought] if he doesn't play at Christmas at all, and there's only six months of his contract to go, I [would] let him go somewhere else.
“He wasn't happy when I called him back [from Charlton]. He played there and he thought I just called him back as cover. He expected in fact to play against QPR and was not playing and was surprised when I played him against West Ham.
“He knows it's an opportunity for him now. Sometimes when you wait for such a long time to get your chance and you get it… the human being is a strange animal - the more you have suffered before, the more you enjoy it.
“On that front I think he has gone through a lot of doubt, questioning himself, certainly at many times being discouraged that he didn’t get a chance. Now that he has a chance he doesn't want to let it slip away. But he is a winner and he wants to win - that's why he is so committed.”
Wenger believes a key factor in Coquelin re-emergence has been his ability to play to his strengths at the base of the midfield.
“I think he analysed well what he is good at, defending in midfield,” the manager said. “He was in between the playmaking position and being a box-to-box player, but he is not that - he's a sitting player who can win the ball.
“He restricted his game to that and you make success in life with what you're good at. You don't have all the qualities but you have to express what you're good at and he's good at that.”
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