Francis Coquelin says his first-ever training session at the club was “war” and left him wondering whether he would come back.
The French midfielder was 16 when he travelled over to London Colney for a week-long trial and, despite a thigh injury, he impressed enough to earn a move.
But Coquelin - who has gone on to establish himself as a key member of the first team - admits he had reservations about accepting the offer when it came through.
"I remember seeing two players fighting in training, and I had an argument with Jens Lehmann as well and I was thinking, ‘Wow, where am I?’"
“When I left Arsenal I wasn’t sure whether I would come back,” he told the Arsenal Magazine. “I remember my first training session with the first team and it was war. I said to the boss at the door when I left, ‘This is different!’
“I remember seeing two players fighting in training, and I had an argument with Jens Lehmann as well and I was thinking, ‘Wow, where am I?’
“Two weeks later we had the European Under-17 Championship and I was more worried about whether I would be alright to play in that [than whether I would get a deal].”
Coquelin realised the opportunity was too big to turn down, but says his early months at the club were a steep learning curve.
“It was a difficult decision because I had to leave my family in France,” he said. “But I thought it was time for me to go, so I went.
“It was tough at first. When you’re young, staying in a hotel room and not doing anything, not seeing your friends, not speaking the language, eating different food… it’s hard.
“Then I was straight in training with the first team, so I wasn’t really in with the reserves who were my age, and the only guy I could talk to was Gilles Sunu. He was injured at the time so the first month was difficult for me.
“But what helped me a lot was when I moved in with my first lodging family in Enfield. I’m still really close to them now and actually feel like part of the family.
“It really helped because I was talking to them every day so it felt a bit like home. On the pitch I felt much better too, and then I got to speak the language. My first year was unbelievable to be honest.”
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