Arsene Wenger believes Francis Coquelin has been a success because he has played to his strengths this season.
The French midfielder arrived at Arsenal when he was 17 but only started 26 times for the first team before his loan spell to Charlton Athletic in November.
Since returning from his loan spell, Coquelin has started 21 of Arsenal’s last 26 games, establishing himself as a key member of Wenger’s squad. Speaking at a Barclays event, the manager told the story behind Coquelin's rise to prominence.
"He has not moved out of the team because he sticks to what he is strong at - winning the ball and using it well... he’s also very good in the air because he has a very good leap"
“I explained to him that what I liked most was his ball-winning potential rather than his playmaking potential, so I sent him out on loan to France for experience,” Wenger explained. “He played without being convincing in the box-to-box role.
“He then went to Charlton and I sent somebody to watch him. The reports were positive and I called him back after five weeks, and he wasn’t happy. I said to him, ‘why are you not happy?’ and he said, ‘I was playing regularly for Charlton and you called me back just to cover and not to play me’.
“We went into the first game and I didn’t start him. Then we went to West Ham United and I started him. He was surprised because we played at home against QPR and I didn’t play him, but I did away at West Ham.
“Since then, he has not moved out of the team because he sticks to what he is strong at - winning the ball and using it well. What is also surprising is that he’s very good in the air because he has a very good leap.
“I always remind him that we have gone through a long period of suffering and I tell him not to forget that - always remember who you are. That is a very great example for young kids because you make a career with one dominant quality, but sometimes you forget who you are.
“He’s a good example but the other good example is that he arrived at 17 and has finally made it at 24. It’s unbelievable how patient and open-minded you have to be.”
Arsene Wenger was speaking at a Barclays #spiritofthegame event to inspire the next generation. To win tickets and other footballing experiences search: Barclays spirit of the game.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.