Coquelin 2 could be the sequel that’s better than the original?
Think about the movies Jaws and Jaws 2. Or how about Caddyshack and Caddyshack 2? Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2? My point is that in each case the original movie was special, a game changer, and the follow up movie was a giant failure.
There can be a ton of reasons why the second film doesn’t work. A lot of times they will change writers and directors, or the sequel will try too hard, or they will follow the formula of the first movie too closely, or they will simply cash in. But it usually comes down to the fact that the surprise is gone. What makes great movies special is that they come out of the gates as a totally new take.
There are exceptions to this. For example, the Dark Knight reboot of the Batman franchise is fantastic. But that’s because they changed the series by flipping it on its head: they took the goofy faux horror of the Tim Burton Batman and turned it into something actually sinister.
In football you see this as well. The great managers, guys who revolutionised football like Herbert Chapman, Valeriy Lobanovski, Arrigo Sacchi, and Arsene Wenger create a hugely successful first team and then struggle to replicate that success in subsequent seasons. Players are the same way, it’s easy to find players who have had one great season and then fallen off the cliff and much harder to find players who improve consistently.
But consistent improvement is exactly what has happened with Francis Coquelin.
He has stepped up his game and taken it to a new level. He has kept the same feisty tackling, the same great positioning, and added passing, dribbling, and shooting.
The thing Coquelin is probably best known for is his tackling. He’s got a flair for the dramatic and fans love to see him recover from being out of position. Like all other stats, dribbles could be interpreted as good or bad: you don’t want your midfielder dribbling a lot because that usually means that your midfielder is taking on an opponent in a one on one duel and if he loses the ball he’s taking himself out of the defensive picture and putting the defenders in real trouble. But sometimes the midfielder has to dribble out of trouble and if he can do so at the rate Coquelin is then that is a special player indeed.
This summer there were a number of ludicrous articles written about how Coquelin “kills” Arsenal’s attack. These were mostly based off the fact that Coquelin wasn’t a very refined distributer last season. That’s why the one place most Arsenal fans wanted to see improvement was in Coquelin’s passing and he has improved.
His passing accuracy is outstanding for any midfielder at 92 per cent and that is very rare among players of Coquelin’s age (24). That high percentage is usually something that only players who have played the game for decades can achieve. The six-point improvement in his passing is down to the fact that Wenger and Coquelin have worked on passing all summer.
"Coquelin was easily last season’s surprise player of the year"
But most impressive is the fact that he is now accurate with 71 per cent of his long balls. This is another hallmark of a top centre midfielder with decades of experience. And remember, Wenger isn’t just playing with Olivier Giroud up front for Coquelin to lump balls to. He’s started Theo Walcott as well and Coquelin is finding outlets with long passes all over the pitch.
Finally, there was a moment in the match against Everton where Mesut Ozil teed Coquelin up for a shot with a nice little drag back. Coquelin let rip from 20 yards and didn’t miss by much. So far this season he’s only taken five shots but that’s the same number of shots he took all of last season! I have no problem with Coquelin taking speculative shots from distance, especially if he can start to get some on target. They will no doubt cause havoc among opposition defenses.
Coquelin was easily last season’s surprise player of the year and by improving his passing, while maintining his fierce defending, the midfielder could be in line for most improved player of the season and the rare award for “sequel that is better than the original.”