Wenger: Coquelin has paid a heavy price

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Wenger on midfield balance without Cazorla

Arsene Wenger says his decision to switch formation has seen Francis Coquelin pay a heavy price.

With his side stuttering in the league and low in confidence, the boss begrudgingly introduced a three-man defence against Middlesbrough back in April last year.

Up to that point of the season, the France midfielder had made 18 starts in the Premier League. Since then, he’s made only three starts from a possible 29 games. His only start this season was in defence at Manchester City.

While there has been game time in the Carabao Cup and Europa League (six starts in total), the boss told Arsenal.com that life has been unfair on Coquelin.

“He is 100 per cent professional, Francis, and an example for everybody, and all the young players. Life has been a bit unfair with him, it’s true.

“That’s also down a bit to our change in system – he paid a heavy price for that – but overall he’s in a very good shape.

“We’ll have games, many games now, so that will help him keep his focus and maintain his quality at a very high level.”

While the change in formation hasn’t worked in Coquelin’s favour nor has the injury to Santi Cazorla.

The Frenchman played his best football alongside the Spaniard in the centre of the park, often winning the ball back and making quick passes to his more skilful teammate to spring attacks. Santi has now been sidelined since November 2016 and Francis hasn’t really struck up a similar partnership since.

Coquelin will likely get game time in this weekend’s FA Cup match with Nottingham Forest. Ahead of the trip to the City Ground, Arsene Wenger explained why he’s looking forward to starting the defence of his FA Cup crown.

“It’s welcome, in the sense that in the FA Cup we have positive experiences. I overall believe that our recent performances have been very strong.

“It’s another opportunity in a different competition to give some competition to players that deserve it but also to show you can maintain the quality.

“You know that the first round, or the third round as you call it, is very important. It’s always a very difficult one.”

He added: “I will select a team that is always adapted to the difficulty we face.

“We have some fresh players who are top quality and will try to take advantage of that.”

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ronaldo
ronaldo

so what, whats the point….

jack jack jack
jack jack jack

Le Coq has paid heavy price for being essentially bang average. More Ainsley, s’il vous plait!

Too Drunk To Be Offside
Too Drunk To Be Offside

BTW have read reports of Wenger looking to sign David Luiz from Chelsea. I think the defence is sh!t enough as it is, but I guess Wenger is a perfectionist who doesn’t want to leave the job half finished.

Bertieme
Bertieme

We miss Cazorla.

santori
santori

For 4 years now…nothing done to rectify the shortfall. Its ridiculous.

SB Still
SB Still

Hope Wenger does rotate and still gets the result.

Happy Fun Football Times
Happy Fun Football Times

Coq and Wilshere?

or lets try this for a minute, that crazy ass talented right footed Defensive midfielder with bundles of pace.. maitland niles and Wilshere.. ooo.

Louie
Louie

Another one of Wenger’s favourites, don’t think he’s good enough. Rather Maitland Niles Conservative be given a run in the middle.

Ttaiye
Ttaiye

Yes AMN is the new flavor until fickle fans move on once he dips. “Don’t think he’s good enough”. Iwobi, Coquelin, to name a few. Next in line? AMN

chrispy
chrispy

Oh please. He gives us nothing.

Damo Dinkum
Damo Dinkum

How short people’s memories are. When he was alongside Cazorla he was widely regarded as one of the most crucial members of our best XI. Statistically better than Matic when Matic was at peak form for Chelsea

db10s
db10s

Yup exactly. I even remember some comments back then saying how has Wenger overlooked him for DM and sent him on loan to Charlton.

A Different George
A Different George

There was tremendous praise for his energy, his commitment, his bravery, and his fire. He was never a player of the highest technical ability, but the rest also has value. He is not the man to play alongside Ramsey or Xhaka (for different reasons), but I am not sure he would not do pretty well alongside Wilshere.

Samgunz
Samgunz

If my memory serves me well Jack and Coq came through the reserves round the same time and played together a lot, so I think you might find they will gel together very easily.

santori
santori

I think we need to find the right combination be it with Jack and Coquelin or even Coquelin AMN or Coquelin Iwobi. For that matter even with Granit and Jack, we need to find alternatives that can settle and have sufficient balance going forward but also covering the back line with sufficient discipline and concentration for 90+min.

One of Bellerin\'s Cornrows
One of Bellerin\'s Cornrows

To be fair, I think Cazorla masked a lot of Coq’s deficiencies and bad habits. I remember numerous games, pre-Cazorla as a holding Midfielder, where Coq took it upon himself to leave his defensive area, bombing up the field, ONLY to make a bad pass in the final 3rd and leave us totally isolated for a counter.

Working with Cazorla meant that his role was to stay put and be the defensive “policeman” or “Columbo” as Henry put it, that’s what he was best at. Without Cazorla, he for some reason feels he needs to or is instructed to play like Cazorla, which is far from his game.

ArseAboutFace
ArseAboutFace

A victim of not being good enough and the managers blind and misplaced faith.
Not good enough but its not his fault…

Euradick
Euradick

dude he isn’t the most technically gifted player we have ever had but we don’t have a midfielder who can win a tackle other than him. He gives the ball away less than xhaka. Fans bitch about no one playing hard and this guy gives it all. Quit hating brosef.

Drew Dewsall

I actually like it when Francis plays, he offers energy and is a better player than many give him credit for.

PeteyB
PeteyB

As do I. Given a fit Jack Wilshire is arguably the closest like for like Santi replacement I wonder if there could be an effective partnership there.
Of course as good as Jack is he’d still be a downgrade on Santi at present. Time to improve if he stays fit though.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

We simply cannot function with a 2-man midfield.
Wouldnt mind a 3-man with Coq and Jack. But the extra CM has to be one of Xhaka or Ramsey. Ramsey provides penetration but lacks technical security in possession. Xhaka provides technical security but utterly lacks athleticism.

I feel only there was a way to combine Xhaka and Ramsey.

santori
santori

Ozil has been playing more responsibly so we effectively have 3 in midfield regardless. Ozil drops deep now when necessary to cover.

Samgunz
Samgunz

Everyone that goes on about his lack of technical ability are idiots, simple, he has brilliant feet and close control. Wenger is right, he’s been unlucky, cazorla’s injury effected the whole team and he has ended up wearing the brunt of it.

Parth
Parth

I know many people do not rate him but he was pivotal in the 15-16 season with Cazorla. Don’t know if it would be bad to give him a chance in the first team given he is the only DM in our side…

baz00r
baz00r

Defensively he is a better player then Xhaka. At least he can fucking tackle.

Michael Bolton Wanderers
Michael Bolton Wanderers

And he tracks back as well

db10s
db10s

And he doesn’t really carelessly give the ball away. The only thing he lacks is receiving the ball under pressure which where Santi excelled. So without Santi, Coq’s flaws become an issue for the whole team.

emob
emob

Too bad he’s on 100.000 a week now, awesome planning, as always.

Spanish Gooner
Spanish Gooner

Francis loves Arsenal, so I love Francis. Hope he plays and scores his first goal for the club – it’s been a long time coming!

Ben
Ben

I love his attitude but he’s exactly where he should be in a top team: on the bench

foreverinourshadows
foreverinourshadows

Coquelin is one of the worst players I have ever seen play for Arsenal and the fact the clown earns £60,000 a week proves what a clown Wenger is, throw Bellerin,Iwobi into that mixture as well. Niles playing at Left back shows how Wenger ruins players

foreverinourshadows
foreverinourshadows

Xhaka as well, now that is an useless player

JBsmooth
JBsmooth

Are you high ? Granit is a top player. Needs to be more dominant in the team. Swiss v France in the euros he totally bossed the midfield vs all those top French players.

Art Van\'Delay
Art Van\'Delay

That shows exactly how much you know.

Arsefull
Arsefull

It might just for the sake of evidence be interesting to see how well we have fared with Coquelin not starting. I mean since Ramsey (until injured) and Xhaka have become the favoured starters, how has the team performed in the league? Have we improved based on the results? I am not claiming Le Coq is the answer to all that ails us but I find it interesting how certain players become the whipping boys for supporters (Theo, Welbeck, Coquelin, and now increasingly Iwobi) despite the fact that they are not regular starters when everyone is healthy. Meanwhile, some folks get very sensitive when you have temerity to criticize the likes of Xhaka or Ramsey by asking whether some of our blue-eyed starters are good enough to compete for a title. I mean is Coquelin really keeping Maitland Niles out of the starting midfield for FFS? Wenger likes to use to term balance, so here is a question: have we had a more balanced midfield pairing than Santi and Coquelin in say the last 5 to 7 years? Is our current midfield better balanced or was the formation changed to mask the weaknesses/tendencies of our starters, especially in the centre of the pitch. Narratives are build sometimes for convenience and sometimes for the sake of deflecting blame from where it belongs.

eddymc2
eddymc2

I think many of us here are doing that thing we always do (“Player X, who we are so familiar with is (insert negative hyperbole here), relative newbie Player Y is the greatest thing ever”). We’ve done that with Sagna-Debuchy, for instance, and unsurprisingly we moved on to Debuchy-Bellerin.

I guess what I’m saying is, Coquelin had/has his uses and shouldn’t be dismissed so easily, and Ainsley shouldn’t be heralded as the second coming just because we all want to see him in midfield: If he turns out to be less than perfect, whatever new signing/academy graduate comes in next will be his Player Y.

Corporate Man
Corporate Man

Coquelin is mediocre

Gunnerdog
Gunnerdog

We should give Francis credit for the sacrifices he’s made for our team. Seems that many fans have forgotten that he was an attacking MF for us before going on loan. He came back during an injury crisis and became an effective DM, a position he hadn’t played before. That spring, he surprised everyone with his consistency. There are not many players who have that ability and discipline (I understand that Francis’ discipline can be questioned at times…)

Some claim he is “bang average”, but I generally enjoy watching him play. If his tackling instincts were less card-worthy, I would consider him in the top 1/2 of DMs in football.

Greg
Greg

Top 1/2. I like your style

Bryan Clayden
Bryan Clayden

If you are going to make our comment like this please make sure you are correct, Coq was never an attacking midfielder before he left, he was a box to box midfielder for our youth cup winning team and when bought up to the senior side he played his football at RB,LB when needed and as DM in the cups on a few occasions

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

Lolwut? Did you just make that up? Coq has never ever been an AM.

Where did you get that from?

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

Coq is a true victim of Wenger’s own dislike for “pure” DMs. Outside of the Santi connection, due to Wenger’s statements of always saying he doesn’t like DMs, he tried to turn Coq into some low-rent Kante; making him an average box-to-box CM, rather than leaving him as a DM (something we’ve seen when he turned Song from a DM to a box-to-box CM, and Flamini from a DM to B2B CM). Coquelin is not Kante, and never will be. He is a DM, play him as a DM in a midfield 3 or don’t play him at all. I hated seeing Coq instructed to make darting runs into the box.

In addition, we’re seeing Wenger’s dislike for DMs affect academy players. He either turns academy DMs into CBs or B2B CMs, and Bielik and Shaef are suffering that fate (being turned into classic Arsenal CBs with great passing but now being caught out of position).

Quite bizarre, considering Wenger’s successful teams were built on having WC DMs.

Goonerink
Goonerink

Both song and flamini were prone to attacking runs but only flam was actually a dm. Wenger tried to make song a dm because of his physical attributes but he never really was.

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

Not just Song…Denilson, Arteta, now Xhaka….Arsene has lots of history of trying to put players at DM who simply don’t have the tools to succeed there. It’s amazing really – the only times in the last 12 years that we’ve looked like potential title winners were when we played Flamini or Coq there…proof that even a decent DM makes us a better team…..yet actually going & getting a really great one doesn’t seem to interest Arsene at all. It’s incredibly bizarre.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

Song came to the club as a DM and went on loan as a DM. Not sure where you got that from.

He then tried to make him a
CB but to usual Arsenal CB effects. His absolute stand out season was when he played as a DM, much like Coq and Flamini, and in all 3 occasions, the next season Wenger had them turning into CMs (except for Flam, who didnit halfway through his best season, as Cesc reported) to disastrous effect to both their form and the team’s defensive stability.

It’s quite amazing how Wenger consistently repeats the same mistakes. Even when he stumbles on a solution, he then changes it.

Post Vieira it’s been said this team lacks a commanding DM. Every time we’ve looked half decent it’s with a DM, then Wenger changes it

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

Sorry Faisal, I meant more Song’s qualities than anything else. What this team has needed for a long time is an enforcer/dirty/aggressive/whatever word you choose DM. The periods with Coq/Flamini in the team proved it : not only defensively but attacking too – the attacking players were better when they knew someone had their back (not just in terms of protecting the back 4 but in terms of standing up to the dirty players for the oppo)
Song for me was just too ‘nice’ for lack of a better word to be suitable for an Arsene team post-Vieira.

Samgunz
Samgunz

Song had a huge ego, thought he was Pirlo or some shit, wenger doesn’t like big heads in the squad, which is proof Sanchez was only ever a pressure signing cos it’s obvious he’s another self centred cock. Sorry, talented cock.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

I hear you.
I actually really liked Song as a DM. He was one of my fav academy players. His positioning and stand-up tackling was astute and he was so damn strong. Not the best option, but after years of nothing having anyone like that, he was a breath of fresh air (much like Coq).

Alas, Wenger wasn’t happy, and turned them into crappy playmakers.

Samgunz
Samgunz

You forget Gilberto.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

I didn’t. I regard him as part of that Vieira period, so when I say “post-Vieira”, I mean the moment of early Vieira (with Petit) to final Vieira with Gilberto. Even with Patrick leaving, Wenger was already making plans to phase out Gilberto, which was part of his move to move away from DMs.

Andy Mack
Andy Mack

Unfortunately the need to change to a back 3 was partially caused by Coquelin being off form. When he’s good he’s one of the best in the PL but he started last season poorly and we suffered. Now the few games he’s had this season he’s been pretty good but clearly not match sharp.

Woolwich Shepherd
Woolwich Shepherd

For years we we’re missing that badass enforcer. I loved what he brought to the team: Somebody who would battle and go in hard. When they brought him back from Charlton he asserted himself and was critical in a defensive role. I think he started passing really well too. But it does seem like he’s not in top form lately.

Gun4Gun
Gun4Gun

Arsenal fans will write you off so quickly. It’s not his fault if Wenger is struggling to find a perfect midfield partnership. He try’s one thing and stick to it while other potential players sit on the bench and not trailed out…

Yagunnersya
Yagunnersya

Let’s see Coq and Wilshere run the midfield and add some fire and willpower to our team?

baz00r
baz00r

I’d like to see Coquelin/Wilshere with a back four. Unsure if this has happened before. I feel it’s the closest we would get to Coqzorla.

A Different George
A Different George

Coqshere. Pronounced cocksure.

#MAGA
#MAGA

Coqshere!

Bai Blagoi
Bai Blagoi

I would prefer to try AMN-Jack combination first

Manu petits left boot
Manu petits left boot

The problem is Wenger.He got the coq playing as a weirdly rampaging anchor man flying here there and everywhere.Coq is at his best as a screen who sits shadows ,tackles and makes a simple lay off.He may be limited but in a team where there are issues regarding defensive solidity he would be perfect.Its the basics we are lacking

Guns&me
Guns&me

Initially he played a more defensive role.. the perfect DM for us letting others attack and providing a perfect cover for our back 2.. Just watch our famous Man City win that season.. He was phenomenal!
Dunno what changed, either his mentality or Wenger’s orders to him, he started moving higher up the pitch.. I still think he could do a good job for us in a defensive role.. He is pretty good with interceptions and an amazing tackler..

santori
santori

Coquelin showed great promise next to Santi.

But we don’t have a Santi to cover the faults of others.

I wonder if Coquelin and Iwobi or AMN may work.

The trouble is at present Granit has flaws but he also has asset in moving us forward quicker with his long range passing.

Santi encompassed what Jack and Granit have to deliver in tandem.

Coquelin probably needs someone like Iwobi (or AMN) with quick feet and strength but they have to play more discipline closer to Le Coq to be effective.

BUT our right flank is a bit bare at the moment with only Walcott as an experience wide man if we switch to a back 4. Of course we could try young Reiss.

Otherwise the burden on the right tends to fall on Bellerin.

Hopefully we can find a solution out right as well to add a bit more nuance to our attack which will allow the midfield to settle a bit deeper should we try to go back to a flat 4 in defense.

Currently the team seems to still struggle for balance both in midfield and going forward on the right.