Can Arsenal Cope if Coquelin Gets Injured?
Since his emergence in the mid-way point of last season, Francis Coquelin has been one of the first names on the team sheet for the Gunners. Following a magnificent campaign with the Gunners last season, Arsene Wenger’s resolve was tested when the Gunners were heavily linked with a move for Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin but the French gaffer folded his arms as the midfielder joined Manchester United for a reported 25 million pounds or so. A couple of other names were mentioned but Wenger made his intentions clear that he was going to stick with his Coq (no pun intended) and it was a welcome move for some faction of the Arsenal faithful, while others felt that an addition was needed in that department bearing in mind that Coquelin’s ‘replacements’ weren’t all that.
These replacements are club captain, Mikel Arteta and forgotten Frenchman, Mathieu Flamini – two players that are odds on to move elsewhere at the end of the season. Arteta has served the team with pride and valor but at his age, his legs can’t cope with the rigors of playing in the Premier League and his frailties were exposed again when the Gunners faced Dinamo Zagreb last week. The midfield was overrun by younger Zagreb midfielders and Arsenal finally got some stability in the middle of the park when Coq came into the pitch. Arteta is the kinda guy that can make the odd substitute appearances to shore things up in midfield but it might be a struggle featuring him consistently if Coquelin suffers an injury of some sort.
Then there’s Flamini that is clearly out of favor at the club. It’s sad to see how badly Flamini’s stock has fallen at the club but it’s the reality of the situation. He’s more or less living on borrowed time and he may probably feature when the club is going through some crisis in holding midfield.
Just how important is Coquelin to Arsenal? How good is he compared to his peers in the Premier League?. Thanks to the folks at WhoScored, I was able to pull out some stats (Premier League only) of Coquelin, comparing him with Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic, Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin and Manchester City’s Fernandinho.
|Appearances (subs)||6 (0)||6 (0)||5 (1)||6 (0)|
|Tackles made (per game)||3.8||3.7||3.3||3.5|
|Interceptions made (per game)||2||2.3||2.8||2|
|Fouls committed (per game)||0.8||2.2||2||2|
|Dribbled Past (per game)||0.8||1.5||1.3||1.5|
|Clearances (per game)||0.8||1.8||1.5||1.7|
|Aerial Duels Won (per game)||1||2||1.2||1.5|
|Blocked shots (per game)||0.3||0.2||0||0.2|
|Long Balls (per game)||2.7||2.7||4.2||2.2|
|Pass Completion percentage||90.6%||90.3||91.1||90.8|
|Bookings (Yellow/Red)||1 / 0||2 / 0||2 / 0||6 / 0|
These specialist holding midfielders in their respective clubs have their strengths but some edge out their peers in some departments. Coquelin is obviously the player with the most tackles per game in the Premier League. He also edges out his rivals in blocking shots to protect his rearguard. Matic commits the most fouls, makes the most clearances and as you’d expect from such a towering figure like him, he has the most successful aerial duels. Schneiderlin is a very good distributor of the ball and Fernandinho is the most ill-disciplined of the lot.
At Arsenal, it’s going to be a massive challenge if Coquelin gets injured because sadly, I don’t trust Arteta or Flamini to do his job properly. Aaron Ramsey is a player that has featured in that role but he lacks the discipline to hold his line and sweep things up. He prefers to be part of the act, rather than watching it.
The Capital One cup game against Tottenham would offer Wenger another chance to feature some of the fringe players and I expect Arteta to get the nod ahead of Coquelin while he recuperates. We would need him against Leicester in the King Power Stadium.
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