Yes Coq? No Coq?

by .

Morning folks. Apologies for the late post, but things have gone apoplectic at work and my boss has turned into a swearier Malcolm Tucker. The show must go on however – I have my priorities right, I know which way my bread is buttered.

The general consensus amongst large sections of the media, along with much of our fan base, is that a central midfield addition should be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s shopping list this summer, along with the mystical – and mythical – world class front man, a packet of hob knobs and a fresh set of string vests. I am very much of the view that we will not be signing a midfielder this summer, but this made me consider whether we need one at all?

Francis Coquelin has been lauded for his performances in 2015, with his introduction coinciding with our upturn in form. The populist view from the non-existent straw-poll I conducted seems to point to a player to play with Coquelin, or to cover him. Whilst this is understandable, given both his performances and the paucity of proper cover in our squad, I can’t help but feel we would be causing far more concern to the likes of Chelsea if we were to make a ‘first XI’ signing at the expense of Coquelin.

To revert to my initial statement that I can’t see us signing a midfielder, this comes down to how Arsene views our midfield – does he look at our options qualitatively, or quantitatively. Wenger often mentions ‘numbers’ in a position as he did only yesterday, referencing his wide options. In terms of quantity, there is no debate – Coquelin, Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere, Santi and Chamberlain are all vying for a midfield role; with my fear being that the manager will see the number of players he has covering two positions and be happy with his lot.

Aligned with this, Arsene has often tended to view midfielders as a homogenous ‘one’, without pocket holing players into a nuanced role. This can be positive, as it engenders versatile players and flexible systems, but equally we have suffered as a result of lacking someone more specialised in the holding midfield role in particular. For all his deficiencies, which I will touch on, Coquelin highlighted what a player of his ilk can offer, with our upturn in results being testament to that.

I can’t imagine this will be a popular stance, but an upgrade on Coquelin is required if we are to truly push on next season. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of his ability as a player per se, but more a misalignment between his skillset and the way Arsenal – and our rivals – set out to play. The much feted midfield destroyer is a dead-duck if you have serious ambitions about winning the big trophies – think Xabi Alonso, not Lee Cattermole. If you were to analyse the teams that have won the major prizes throughout Europe over the last couple of years, I struggle to recall one who plays with a ‘destroyer’ in the conventional sense. Busquets, Alonso, Schweinsteiger, Matic – first and foremost they are ball players – distributors from deep. They all possess tackling ability and immaculate positioning, but they perform a far greater function for their sides than protecting the back four without the ball – they protect them with the ball too. They provide a constant, safe out-ball for defenders under pressure; with these players’ ability to receive the ball under pressure crucial to easing periods of sustained strain.

This is where Coquelin falls short. For all his defensive capability – which is considerable – his unwillingness to receive the ball under pressure is hugely restrictive and can prove costly in big games. The match that highlighted his deficiencies most brutally was at White Hart Lane; where we were under heavy swathes of pressure and defending exceptionally deep. The pressure was exacerbated by the lack of cool head to receive the ball from the back four and dictate play from deep – be that driving forwards or slowing the game to halt Tottenham’s momentum. This game, more than any, was where we missed Arteta. Despite proclamations of his legs being ‘gone’ – where exactly to, I don’t know – his skillset remains hugely important to Arsenal’s midfield.

Coquelin isn’t a bad passer – at times, when he’s given space he is very good indeed – see the FA Cup final. The dichotomy is that when the team are under severe pressure, he is both our most valuable and most ineffective asset. His energy and ability to snap into tackles, along with the discipline to remain the most deep-lying midfielder is important, but his inability or unwillingness to be the main outlet from defence remains a critical blockage to our chances of competing at the highest level.

In recognition of Coquelin’s weaknesses, Wenger took drastic action, with the net result playing Santi Cazorla in a deep lying midfield role. Whilst he performed magnificently, it robbed us of our best central midfielder – Aaron Ramsey. Santi had to utilise his unsurpassed ability to receive the ball under pressure and mitigate for Coquelin’s inability to do so, but the manifestations of this move are far reaching. For instance, were Ozil to get injured or need resting, Santi is our only convincing deputy for the number 10 role. Shifting Santi further forward would then leave us with an unbalanced midfield partnership of Coquelin and Ramsey.

Furthermore, it is no coincidence that Arsenal’s most dominant period in some time was with a Ramsey-Arteta pivot. This illustrates the blueprint we should be adopting, which would allow Ramsey to also play in his best position.

Beyond this, Coquelin can’t play every game and given Arteta’s increasingly paternal cheerleader role and Flamini’s ever-increasing gut, someone else needs to be able to perform that role.

In light if this, a 25 year old Mikel Arteta would be the best signing Arsenal could make this summer – a ball playing, deep-lying midfielder who can receive the ball under pressure, whilst offering the requisite protection to the back four and one who doesn’t need babysitting by Santi Cazorla. Sadly those players aren’t widely available and those who are tend to be in high demand. In terms of names, the most similar to the one I’ve described above is probably Ilkay Gundogan, who possesses the right skillset. The concerns with him are his injury record, his rotund backside and his new contract at Dortmund.

It may seem I have been harsh on Coquelin, who has performed admirably over the last six months. He has an important role in our squad and would certainly get plenty of game time, but his limitations restrict Arsenal going forwards and backwards. I fear he will continue to do so, unless we find that 1989 Arteta.

Until next time x

Give me a follow on Twitter @James_Willson2

381 Responses to “Yes Coq? No Coq?”

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  1. gonsterous

    Just seen terminator genesys (this that how it’s spelt ? )
    I had no vibes before the movie and I have no vibes after it.. I could just feel the director and producers taking my money !!

  2. Marko

    Bild are reporting Leverkusen are looking to sign Kovacic from InterMilan. With Kramer also returning it could make Lars Bender become available

  3. gonsterous

    Northern gunner

    I do see some similarities in red. They both have that annoying habit of thinking they are always right, not to mention the fact that they both like the color red and also they never seem to listen to anyone else !!

  4. tunnygriffboy

    Listening to talkshite in the bath. Interesting transfer news

    DiMaria to Psg. Was a Woodward not a Van Gaal signing.

    Sterling £49 million. 175 k a week. Wince ! Will have to hit the ground running. He’s not a young up and coming player anymore. City play differently to lpool. Lpool were about pressing and pace. Sides will park the bus more v City. Will his technical ability be questioned ?

    If Sterling worth that how much Wilshere, Ramsey and the Ox worth ?

    Shaquiri has sorted a move from Inter to Schalke apparently. Another wide forward. Could he be replacing someone looool

    Villa buying a £13 million pound left back from Nice. The world has gone potty 🙂 🙂

  5. tunnygriffboy


    A ha. So we have a Lars Bender and a Julian Draxler transfer conspiracies Looooooool.

    Those two would do me this window.

    Think he’s keeping his pot of gold for Benzema hoping it’ll come off. Have to see if king of hissy fits plays CF in pre season.

  6. tunnygriffboy


    Of course they are. Walcott, Gnabry and Welbeck also are. Sterling can’t use his left foot and my two year old niece has a harder shot than him when we play in the back garden.

  7. gonsterous


    I don’t think anyone on this site is an AKB ! He is our manager so of course we agree with him to an extent.. but everyone can bloody think for themselves, which means everyone will have an opinion and wengers opinion is to not hijack MS or BS move to man utd at this moment in time.

  8. tunnygriffboy


    Agree he’s still young but with that fee and salary he has to produce Neymar like performances. Liverpool and his own actions have put him in a real pressure situation now. Big ask for the kid. You just know the scouse media and pundits will rip him to bits as soon as he has a poor game. The knives will be out

    Apparently his young daughter has had threatening texts and some have racial connotations. Very said.

    If he is worth £49 million then I reckon Wilshere, Rambo and the Ox could fetch close to £40 million. They have to.

  9. tunnygriffboy


    Ditto. Got this feeling he’ll pick a big one out of the hat. It may even be close to the end of the window.

    With Alexis away it’ll be a massive bunfight between Walcott, Ox and Welbz for that second wide spot. They aren’t bad options to be fair.

  10. northern gooner


    Spot on with all observations about RedRuth.
    Saying that though as far as classic comments on here she is up there with the best.

  11. Wallace

    Wenger reckons Alexis might be back for the 2nd league game of the season.

    starting to appreciate how much more time it buys us not having those CL qualifiers this time around.

  12. Danish Gooner

    Once again Wenger decides to cheapen out !!!!! Give me a break Wenger,Aston Villa are signing a 13 mil player and they are skint and we stop at an 11 mil goalkeeper,seriously !!!

  13. PieAFC

    If Cech is the only signing, then I’m afraid business as usual at Arsenal again next season.

    No way will we keep all our players fit for a combined period of a season. Hasn’t happened for years.

  14. Hitchy

    Pedro’s buy out is currently £21.1 accounting for the current exchange rate (€30M) would anyone else seriously be tempted by that? 27 year old, huge experience. Think the options of 2 from Walcott, Sanchez, Giroud and Pedro. Plus a ‘wide playmaker’ as Wenger likes to play could actually make a challenge on the league.

  15. London gunner

    Sterling may just turn out to be a Ben arfa/ Nani not as talented as people thought

    Or Quarasema not reaching his potential.

    Just because Sterling is a flashy dribbler doesn’t mean he is or will be a great player.

  16. Dan Ahern

    lmao, lon-gun was the only other poster brave/dumb/troll-y enough to rubbish Sterling, and Red turned on him immediately.

    territoriality issues?

  17. salparadisenyc

    Front three of Sterling Aguero and Nasri with Silva pulling the strings isn’t making Bouldie’s Tiger beer go down any easier.

  18. Dan Ahern

    “If Sterling worth that how much Wilshere, Ramsey and the Ox worth ?”

    Well, that would depend heavily on the buyer, wouldn’t it? But let’s play anyway.

    Wilshere £27m

    Ramsey £45m

    Oxlade-Chamberlain £16m

  19. salparadisenyc

    RedtruthJuly 14, 2015 20:35:15
    london ginnerThe problem with you and your ilk is that you can’t spot a good player.

    Red speaking the truth.

  20. Marko

    If Sterling is worth 45 million then Ramsey is certainly worth more. Bigger goal threat and harder working

  21. northern gooner

    Sterling like all prem players will make a living most can only dream of. There will probably be plenty of better players that wont win as much but good luck to him.
    At least we have theooooo……..

  22. Marko

    With Diaby and Flamini likely to be off the books too we’ll have some squad spaces need filling and the wages to do it too

  23. tunnygriffboy

    Dan Ah

    Sterling £49 million

    Wilshere £27 million , Ramsey £45 million, Ox £16 million

    Surely you have to be joking about Wilshere and the Ox at those prices compared to Sterling. Wilshere is possibly Englands best player has a wealth of experience including CL. Also the Ox. He’s very young as well and will have time on his side.m £16 million. Sheesh you can at least double that the way prices are atm for English players

    Sterling £49 million
    Ozil £42 million
    Alexis £32 million.

    Work that out. It’s bizarre. Ver very few clubs could afford/would pay £50 million for Sterling. Perhaps City the only one and only because they are desperate for home grown

    They can also afford to take the hit if he struggles and flops eg Negredo and Jovetic. Be interesting to see how he goes. For that price we’re looking at Neymartype performances

  24. Bamford10

    “[must be Bamford because] he said: “If you disagree I would like a full explanation on why””

    Except that I actually don’t say things like that. One, that’s not my prose style. Two, it should be “of,” not “on”. Three, I would never ask for explanations from you clowns because I don’t value anything you have to say. I’ve seen enough of your “reasoning”; I’m not impressed.

  25. Dark Hei

    James Wilson puts in an interesting dilemma.

    What do the grovers think?

    Coquelin-Carzola or Ramsey-“Arteta”? Also can Ramsey emulate Carzola’s role? Or is it a damn waste to have Ramsey in a deeper role since he is a great goal scorer?

    I have “Arteta” in inverted commas to show the type of player we are looking at. In case someone mentions for the 1000000000000000 time about legs.

  26. Wallace

    Dark Hei

    i think the Arteta/Ramsey combination is currently our second best CM partnership(although i’d like to see Coq & Jack together). both solid defensively, and Arteta’s possession game a good complement to Ramsey’s running.

  27. Wallace

    after holding out for 49m for Sterling i guess Liverpool can no longer tell Villa that 32.5m for Benteke is ridiculous.

  28. Leedsgunner

    If reports are to be believed Özil is to be given prime responsibility for the adv. playmaker role. Better late than never I suppose, and it will mean no more silly experiments on Özil on the wing. Özil and Rambo are coming into their prime so I would play the in their strongest positions in our toughest/crunch games.

    This I’d imagine would be our strongest 11 on present the present squad, if all fit. I would play this team versus title rivals, toughest UCL games, crunch matches and mid table teams

    Debuchy — Mert — Kos — Monreal
    Coquelin — Cazorla
    Walcott — Özil — Sanchez

    Then against lower EPL teams I would play to keep our strongest 11 fresh and injury free

    Bellerin — Chambers — Gabriel — Gibbs
    Coquelin –Arteta
    Welbeck Rosicky Ox

    Then against lower league cup opposition and relegation/promoted teams I would play

    Bellerin — Chambers –Gabriel –Gibbs
    Arteta — Bielik
    Gnabry — Zelalem — Ox

    As you can see imo although on paper we have enough depth, it heavily relies on everybody remaining fit… especially in the DM position. Basically unless one shifts Wilshere to the DM position if Coquelin gets injured we are heavily reliant on Arteta which will ironically increase his likelihood of injury.

    At the beginning of the season I suspect Wilshere, Arteta and Theo will do quite well because they will be fresh (having basically not played last season). Hopefully for Wilshere and Walcott we can but. Hope they will over their injury ridden pasts and get stronger as they are still young enough.

    In Arteta’s case we shouldn’t be deceived… unless he’s rotated his body doesn’t have the stamina to last the whole season. This is the reason why many of us will be disappointed if we don’t sign a DM.

    The striker situation is not ideal, but if fit we have the bodies to muddle through. In the DM position apart from Coquelin we lack depth all together.

    Goodness help us if he loses form or gets injured!

  29. mysticleaves

    re your teams above, we have to use some kind of voodoo on opposing teams and officials so they don’t realise we are playing with 12 men.

  30. underrated Coq

    Leeds you have twelve players in all your teams. I guess you left out the ” / ” part.
    I am interested in seeing a Coquelin-Wilshere central midfield. Could work nicely.

  31. Wallace


    fairly confident those 3 teams would win every game they played. our good name would be mud though, as playing 12 players isn’t looked upon favourably for the most part.

  32. ADKB

    Coquelin-Wilshere in central midfield? Could work nicely – but I don’t have much faith in that formation.

    Coq had a fantastic half-season. We can’t predict what will happen over the course of a full season. Wilshere has been hot n cold, yes n no over the years. I’ll be wary of handing both of them our midfield.

  33. ADKB


    Re your best “12” sir 🙂 If I were to leave out a player, that’d be Walcott. We’ve got speed (Sanchez) and guile (Ozil) behind Giroud.

    Another interesting one will be swapping Walcott for Giroud up front.

  34. underrated Coq


    You are right but I wasn’t suggesting we go with that combination as our first choice all season.

    I just feel Wilshere-Coq would complement each others’ strengths better than Ramsey-Coq. Then there is also the fact that those two were part of our youth cup winning midfield. So, its a choice Wenger has.

    Will be interesting to see who he goes with next season. If we fix Coquelin as a guaranteed starter, you have three good players in Santi, Rambo, Wilshere fighting for one spot. And by the end of last season, Ramsey had already started to word his dissatisfaction at having to play on the wings. Don’t know how Wenger will be able to keep all of them happy.

    Perhaps Coquelin would have to make way for Wilshere in some of the easier home fixtures.

  35. ADKB

    Yeah, I don’t get the point of Ramsey on the wings either – another square peg in a round hole. Hmm, I’ll have to think about Ramsey-Coq vs Wilshere-Coq as the former sounds better for me.

    Anyway, this is my pecking order for our current midfield:


  36. Wallace


    the guy who covers Arsenal’s younger players – George Bird(?) – thinks Bielik’s injured. otherwise he’d have gone to Singapore.

  37. ADKB

    @SomeRandomGunner: “Wilshere – Ramsey – Ozil” and leaving out Coquelin completely? Our back 3/4 and GK will be overworked.

  38. Dark Hei

    It seems that everyone is in agreement that the Ramsey-Coq combination is unlikely to work.

    Personally, I think it can work, provided Ramsey puts his mind to it. Also we cannot put Walcott out on the right if we play Coq.

  39. SomeRandomGunner

    @ADKB Arteta-Ramsey has worked . It is not impossible to see Wilshere – Ramsey working . Wilshere already plays deeper for England. That said both Wilshere and Ramsey have to be extremely intelligent for that to work.

  40. gonsterous


    Even though your idea of rotating sounds good and may work in fifa.. it’s not the same as in real life.. players need to gel on the pitch coz only with more games can they know how the other player plays.. not everyone is thinking the same.. also making wholesale changes can be very unpredictable as shown by our constant failure in the carling cup..
    Furthermore, if a keeper can’t play 30 games a season, I think we may need more than 3 keepers .. dint Koss the boss play more than 30 games last season .. So your plan is pretty flawed

  41. ADKB

    @SRG: Nothing is impossible. Different combinations might have worked against different oppositions in the past but we’re looking at the best formations for the current team.

    Arteta’s “sgel” and age suggest he shouldn’t be playing a major part in our plans.

    And yes, Coq-Ramsey can work. If we’re talking about a partner for Coq between Wilshere and Ramsey, I’ll go for Ramsey.

  42. Le Prof


    ‘If reports are to be believed Özil is to be given prime responsibility for the adv. playmaker role. Better late than never I suppose’

    This is what I mean. Truthfully when was the last time you actually watched an Arsenal match? You do realise that since Ozil came back from injury, that’s where he’s been playing….the no10 role in front of Coq and Caz.

    His position isn’t fixed he has license to roam and finds space on either flank.

    Better late than never that you’ve read about this I suppose.

  43. Wallace

    Ramsey can pick an excellent pass, but he’s also quite erratic with his distribution. he needs someone alongside him – like Arteta -who’s a metronome with their passing. it’s one of the reasons Ki makes sense. a solid player defensively who is also comfortable in possession. he’d allow us to bring Ramsey back inside.

  44. Leedsgunner


    You are of course entitled to your view.

    If one is not going to rotate what is the point of a big squad?

  45. Dark Hei

    Another current scenario to consider is Walcott’s position in the team.
    1. He makes great runs, is very quick and can finish
    2. He is a terrible pass outlet and he can’t do much with the ball unless he has a lot of space.

    Thus, I will hesitate to put Walcott out on the right if Coquelin is in the midfield. Right now Coquelin is surrounded by wonderful pass options; Carzola on his left, Ramsey on his right, Ozil ahead and Mertesacker behind.

    So if Coq is on the team, the only place to put Walcott is up front. And it works, as long as our midfield is able to dominate (and it should, it is a 5 man midfield with a superb and very mobile ball winner)

  46. Gregg

    Talksport going with Monreal leaving for Bilbao. Dissapointed with this if it’s true. He’s been a very solid performer for us.

  47. SomeRandomGunner

    @Dark Hei, I feel the Walcott is useful only when lot of space argument is not too true. Most of the teams we play against packed defences and he has done quite well against those defences goals and assists wise.

    Any ways Coquelin takes way too less touches for an Arsenal midfielder. It is not really his ability to pass that is under question. He certainly has good enough passing range , but for some reason he does not touch the ball enough for the position he plays.

  48. Bamford10

    “For some reason” Coquelin takes fewer touches — read, is less involved — than an Arteta?

    It’s because he’s not as polished on the ball. This has been obvious from the outset. While he may grow into a more complete CDM in time, we’d be better off with a more complete CDM in the XI. This would allow the CM to do CM-work on the ball and not have to compensate for what Coquelin cannot do.