Arsene Wenger has today confirmed Arsenal have recognised Francis Coquelin’s recent good form with a four-year contract extension.
It caps a quite remarkable turnaround for the young Frenchman who seemed destined for same slow descent into obscurity suffered by so many Arsenal academy products after being loaned out to Charlton Athletic in November.
Mark Randall anyone? Sanchez Watt? Jay Emmanuel-Thomas? Fran Merida?
Yet a rash of midfield injuries made recalling Coquelin from the Valley a necessity and he has now featured in all ten Gunners games since, starting six times.
His return has coincided with what has definitively been Arsenal’s most successful period of the season, with eight wins, one draw and one defeat.
Wenger’s men have won five of the six games in which the spoiler was given the nod from the off, including the watershed away victory against Manchester City.
If these statistics seem coincidental then a perusal of the numbers that relate to Arsenal players’ defensive contributions this term define Coquelin’s contribution more succinctly.
Averaging 2.8 tackles per appearance he is comfortably ahead of next-most consistent contributor Mathieu Flamini on 2.3.
In terms of interceptions, the 23-year-old, who spent last term on loan at Freiburg, cuts out 2.6 passes a game, as good as any other Gunners midfielder.
However, his ability to win the ball in the air is arguably the way in which Coquelin most clearly sets himself apart from his rivals for the holding berth.
Coming out on top of a mean 2.5 mid-air collisions per outing, he is way out in front of any other Arsenal midfielder, with Flamini next on 1.2, followed by Mikel Arteta on 1.1 and Aaron Ramsey on a measly 0.6.
Having started the Gunners’ last five Premier League games Coquelin is officially in from the cold and can expect to start when the Emirates side attempt to justify 6/5 odds about north London derby victory next time out.
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