I knew if I got the chance, I was ready – Coquelin

Francis Coquelin has had one of the most exceptional seasons of any player this year. Being dragged back from bottom half of the table Charlton, to fill in a midfield void left by yet another injury crisis, undoubtedly left many with raised eyebrows. 

The Frenchman has been at Arsenal since he was at 17, and 7 years down the line at the prime age of 24, you would be forgiven for thinking he was never going to make it at a top club. The majority of youth products who are successful at the higher end of the football hierachy are breaking into the first team around 20, at the latest.

We just have to look at Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, and the surging 19 year old, Hector Bellerin this season.

But Francis wasn’t happy about his recall to a side he thought he’d never play for again. Understandably, having never been an Arsenal regular, he was frustrated to have to leave regular first-team action at Charlton to return to the bench.

In an interview with The Telegraph he said:

“The boss came to me and said, ‘you don’t look happy’. I said, ‘yeah, it’s true’. I wasn’t happy when I came back. I was playing regularly even if it was in the Championship and obviously to be back on the bench was frustrating. Then, out of the blue, against West Ham, the game that I didn’t expect to start, I started.

“We were sixth at the time. West Ham were fifth. Massive game. It shows in football you really need to be ready at any time.”

“I wasn’t an Arsenal player in my eyes,” he says. “I followed it. To come back from 2-0 down was quite unbelievable. I was looking but I wasn’t part of it.”

“It was always going to be a bit of luck,” he says. “If I play against West Ham and we lose 6-0, I don’t think I will play again. I always had hunger. I knew if I got the chance I was ready for it. I just needed the chance. I was full of confidence and ready for a fight.”

It wasn’t his first appearance in the Premier League though. An infamous 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford lurks in the memory. After that game, Sir Alex Ferguson criticised the Arsenal side, and Coquelin, as being ‘completely out of his depth’. Yet the context of his return to the fold just 3-days after the Under-20 World Cup is often neglected.

“If I am coming back from a month and a half competition, and I get three days’ holiday, it means Arsenal have no players,” says Coquelin. “I knew it was going to be tough because no one was there. I think Armand Traoré was going the next day to QPR, Carl Jenkinson was making his debut, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was making his debut and Alex Song was suspended. They had a full squad and we had reserves; people who were just starting in the Premier League.”

The 24-year old thinks the hardest thing however, would have been having to leave without getting a real chance to prove his worth.

“It would have been hard because I would have got a feeling I didn’t get the chance,” he says. “I would always have been thinking, ‘I could have’. I would have been really disappointed. If someone said tomorrow, you have to leave now, I would be ‘OK, at least I got the chance to show what I could’.”

But this is just the beginning for the young Frenchman. He is just really starting out in what has the potential to be a phenomenal, and truly inspiring career.

“I want to win trophies with this club. We have got a good chance next week to get a trophy – a first trophy for me. I have been here since I was 17. If I could stay here all my career I would love it, too. This is the dream.”

Wenger believes Walcott is ready for central role

Theo Walcott put in an outstanding performance against West Brom, scoring a hat-trick in a resounding 4-1 win which saw the Gunners go 4-0 up at half-time.

Walcott got off to a ferocious start with a thunder strike within the first 5 minutes, giving him the much needed confidence to go on and take the following opportunities that came his way, leaving the manager with a selection headache for the Cup Final.

Arsene Wenger believes Walcott is now ready to play through the middle as the central striker he has always strived to be, and hopes that he will stay at Arsenal for a long time to come.

“I always said that he could play through the middle, because he has good movement, good finishing, and he did that well today.

“He is a good goal scorer, but he has been out for a year. A year in football is a long, long time, and it takes time to come back to your best, your sharpness, your confidence.

“He’s the right age. 26 years old is a good age for a football player. I wish that he stays free of injuries now. He has had a few downs on the injury front and you have to be consistently present to express your full potential. “

Having shown what he is capable of today, it now remains for Theo to prove himself on a consistent basis. Perhaps he will still be able to stake a strong claim for that much needed, world-class, clinical striker we have been searching for.

However, Wenger is yet to rule out signings in any positions this transfer window, and I’m sure no Arsenal fan would turn down the opportunity to bring in more talent of Sanchez and Ozil’s ilk this summer.

Ramsey Gunning For Cazorla’s Position

Get back out wide Aaron!

Aaron Ramsey has become increasingly frustrated with being played out wide, and wants to return to a more central and defensive position alongside Francis Coquelin, where Santi Cazorla is currently playing. 

The Welsh star has spoken out about his frustration and admitted that he has had several chats with boss Arsene Wenger about it, although accepts that he has done what he has needed to for the good of the team.

“I’m not hiding away from it, I want to be playing in the middle. I’ve had chats with the manager about it. I showed at Manchester United what I’m capable of doing when I go into the middle of the park.

“But the manager said he wants me do a job out there for the moment and obviously I’ll do that for him. But I prefer to play in the middle.”

However, he was glad to return to his preferred role for the Sunderland game on Wednesday despite a jaded performance from the whole team which resulted in a 0-0 draw, making it three consecutive games without a win at the Emirates after what had been the most successful run of form at the ground since it opened in 2006.

The 24 year-old wants to play alongside Coquelin so that he can help drive the team forward, but he has performed well on the right-wing despite an arguable lack of pace, certainly compared with the likes of Walcott, Sanchez and Chamberlain, producing a very good return of goals and assists from his time spent there.

Ramsey also said the manager was very willing to chat to him about and this epitomises the good spirit there is within the team.

“Santi Cazorla is the one in my position. He’s the one who plays alongside Francis Coquelin and tries to get forward. I am trying to get that back.

“I like to get the ball and drive the team forward. I’m not a No10, playing with my back to goal. I’ll try to play between the lines now and again if the game demands that and we’re pressing quite high. That can be a dangerous position to take up.

“But I like to start from a defensive position and drive the team forward with little one-twos around players. That’s where I prefer to play.

“The manager respects ­everyone’s opinion. His door is always open, which is a good thing. He’ll have his reasons but will also respect your reasons and value your opinions.

“It’s harder to get involved in the game when you’re on the wing, which is why I don’t really enjoy playing there. I’m used to getting the ball a lot more in the middle of the park.

“I like to be involved in ­everything, in starting attacks. I’m relying on other people to get me into the game. It is a bit frustrating. I am having an impact on the game but I prefer to be much more involved.”

Yet this shows his passion and desire to play and earn back his position in central midfield at Arsenal, which can only be a promising sign from an Arsenal fans perspective given the impending rumours that are set to come about with regards to his future, with the supposed £50m bid from Barcelona probably just the beginning.

Wenger on Walcott’s “Special Destiny”

As we all know, Theo Walcott has been at Arsenal since the tender age of 16, but 10 years down the line at a prime age of 26, we have not seen him reach his full potential as we had once hoped. 

Arsene Wenger is determined to keep the Englishman on his books for the foreseeable future though, despite speculation over his future with halting contract negotiations and only a year to left to run on his current deal.

Having just made his 300th appearance for the club, Wenger commented on Walcott’s “special destiny” in his programme notes, and reiterated his point in his press conference today.

“Special destiny because it’s unusual that a boy at 17 years old goes to the World Cup.

“After, he had the problem when England went to Brazil he was not selected by Capello… In 2014 he was injured.

“It’s special when a boy goes at 17 to the World Cup, you think he will make four or five appearances [at World Cups].

“He’s a special player with as well special tests on the mental front, and he overcame them all.

“He will have a special destiny as a player because nothing happens like planned with him, but he always responds in a very strong way.”

Walcott has spent much of this season out after being hampered by an injury he picked up in last years FA Cup Third Round win over Tottenham. Despite coming back into the fold during the latter stages of this season, he has be unable to break back into the starting eleven following a great run of form by the team.

However, Arsene Wenger claimed his desire to keep Walcott at the start of May: “Being 26 to 32 is the best age as a striker and I wouldn’t like to miss that golden age.”

The manager thinks there’s a lot more to come from Theo, and hopefully he’s right.

Tomas Rosicky Commits to Arsenal

Fan favourite, Tomas Rosicky, is set to stay on at Arsenal for another year having just extended his current contract with the club until summer 2016. 

At 34 years of age, this is something we rarely see from Arsene Wenger who often neglects to keep players on too long after 30, demonstrating the quality and energy that Rosicky still has to give on the pitch; traits we have always admired.

Yet speculation was rife over his future earlier on in the season, with it looking very doubtful this one-year extension would happen prior to now.

Speaking back in March, Tomas said: “Since the start of the year things have improved, the team has started to play better football and what’s more I’m playing. Compared to the first six months, it’s much better.

“I don’t really know [why I didn’t play]. It’s a good question, I would also like to know.

“We had talked about [me leaving in January] in previous meetings back in September and October, but then the market closed and I couldn’t do anything.

“When you don’t play a single game in December and the market opens, [the prospect of leaving] is obviously on the agenda. Then you start to have second thoughts.”

Following the January transfer period though, Rosicky started to rack up more game time again proving his worth as a valuable member of the squad as Arsenal went on an incredible run of form (bar the Monaco game).

This season the Czech Midfielder has started 7 games and come off the bench on 15 occasions, scoring 2 goals and providing 1 assist. He has proved time and time again he is a valuable asset to the squad. A player of huge talent who is willing to sacrifice himself for the team, and accepts a lack of game time despite his clear capability to play more.

However, with the team looking “jaded” as Monsieur Wenger has claimed, Rosicky could still have a pivotal role to play off the bench in the FA Cup Final.