By Walter Broeckx
Of course the headlines were about Alexis and Mesut Ozil, they were well earned and deserved. Alexis with two amazing goals and Ozil with a goal and an assist. They were the main stars of the show, at the end-point of some great attacks from Arsenal.
They were involved in the build up before the last pass. The backheel flick from Alexis involved in the second goal was also an incredible moment of great skill. Those things catch the eye and brings big headlines although of course the whole team played in a brilliant way during the whole 90 minutes. Goalscorers always catch the headlines.
And it is difficult to not praise all the players. But…
I do want to pick out one player in particular. In my article about Arsenal and top matches I said that I had a player in mind when picking the date of January 1 to start having a look at our results against the other top teams.
That player is Francis Coquelin. His loan spells didn’t work out completely as one would have hoped. When he came back to the first team last summer in the last year of his contract it seemed that we had another young talent that just missed that last step of making it.
That last step is the most difficult to make. Some take it with no problem at all and others have to take it half a dozen times before they really make it… or never make it.
Of course we will never know who did what and who said what a year ago. I have seen reports saying that Coquelin has given a lot of credit to Robert Pires for his development. If so, then this is really great to hear.
A legend still helping the team when he comes to train with Arsenal. It shows that seeing these former players on the training field from time to time is not just a friendly gesture from the manager and the club but it also brings something to the current players.
What was wrong with Coquelin in my opinion was that he wanted to be a box-to-box midfielder and he tried to play as one. I always liked his defensive work but I thought that when attacking he was just lacking that extra bit that you need to really have a big impact.
I sometimes felt he wanted to do too much. As a result he did not make some important balls and made it difficult for the rest of the team.
"An amazing defensive midfielder and almost for free… unbelievable!"
He was called back from loan, came in to the team and now is probably the first person on the teamsheet. Although, in reality we have a few names who can be seen as first on the teamsheet.
I have been amazed by the way Francis has developed over the last 10 months. I was completely wrong in losing my faith in him. I am a supporter who in general is not quick to lose my faith in a player or the team. But I did, no point in hiding it and I have never felt so much joy in being so wrong.
As a defensive midfielder, I don’t think there is any better player out there at the moment in the Premier League. He has it all in his locker and displays it at every opportunity.
I still see some room for improvement with Coquelin. But, he has really grown over the last months and I think he could get better. His forward passing is an area where he can still grow.
He will never be an Ozil or Cazorla but that is not his job to create things. Let him win the ball and then play a good pass to one of his more creative team-mates.
I remember when he came to the first team and a lot of people were in doubt. After Manchester City I was sold and I really started to believe in him.
From then on, each new test the doubters threw at him was passed with flying colours. I now even dare to say that the biggest reason for us not winning at Chelsea was not Mike Dean or Diego Costa… it was the fact that Wenger had to take Coquelin off with a minor knee injury.
The moment he had lost his footing coming down from an aerial duel, we suffered. Having to take him off at half-time and the red card from Dean was too much in the end. I am convinced that with a fit Coquelin we even might have overcome the sending off of Gabriel.
Thanks Francis, after 10 months the only thing I want is that you will do this for another 10 years for Arsenal. I know for a few in the outside world you will always be seen as inferior because you have no expensive price tag but for us that is the greatest thing about what you are doing.
An amazing defensive midfielder and almost for free… unbelievable! More of the same please, Francis.