Arsene Wenger says that Francis Coquelin’s rise to first team prominence was something of a surprise to him, and that he expected a decision about his future to be one about letting him go rather than offering him a new deal.
Indeed, he’s revealed the midfielder wasn’t best pleased when he was recalled from loan at Charlton as he felt he was going to just provide cover for the bench rather than playing, but after impressing massively since his return to the club he’s been given a new contract and given Wenger pause for thought in the transfer market.
“He wasn’t happy when I called him back,” said the Arsenal manager. “He played at Charlton and he thought I just called him back for cover. He expected in fact to play against QPR and was not playing and was surprised when I played him against West Ham.
“I told him, at the start of the season, to give absolutely everything from the start of the season until Christmas.
“Then we will see together and see where you are. If you respect that you have done a big part of your job.
“Did I think the chat in mid-season would be about him leaving? Yes. In myself, if he doesn’t play at Christmas at all, and there’s only six months contract to go, I let him go somewhere else.”
Football has that ability to surprise, and Wenger believes Coquelin has taken his chance through determination and simplifying his game.
“He knows it’s an opportunity for him. He has gone through a lot of doubt questioning himself, being certainly at many times being discouraged that he doesn’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.”
And on his game and effectiveness since his ‘promotion’, the Arsenal manager said, “I think Coquelin analysed well what he is good at: defending in midfield.
“He was in between a bit the play-making position and a box-to-box player. 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.
“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.”
It’s an amazing turnaround, by any standards, and one which has left the manager trying to decide if he’ll buy a holding midfield player this summer.
But that’s a worry for then, in the meantime let’s hope he can continue his good form until the end of the season and, perhaps, help cap a remarkable story with some silverware.