With Arsenal’s midfield bereft of players with defensive skills and more important defensive output, I was somewhat surprised that Arsenal and Wenger sanctioned the sale of their one midfield option who actually possessed proven skills in that area, Francis Coquelin.
Coquelin could best be described as a front footed aggressive tackling midfielder who was also very effective at pressing opponents to force interceptions.
On the ball, he was a very accurate passer, averaging 85% passing accuracy during his time at the Gunners. The only criticism that could be level at Coquelin was his lack of transitional output (1.5 accurate long passes per game and 0.8 forward dribbles per game). That said, Wenger’s slow possession hoarding attacking approach and desire to have his side compress the game into the opponent’s final third, effectively denied Coquelin the opportunity to display any transitional skills.
Coquelin was undoubtedly a victim of playing in a system of play that failed to accentuate his strengths (pressing, tackling, interceptions) and exposed his weaknesses (creative passing). Funnily enough though Coquelin’s strengths actually make him well suited to playing in a side whose manager, like Wenger, likes to compress the game into the opponent’s final third. Unfortunately though Wenger doesn’t value or require his midfield (or even Arsenal’s wing backs) to actually contribute defensively Rather, Wenger places the side’s entire defensive onus on Arsenal’s centre backs, whether it be two or three. As a consequence Coquelin was frequently overlooked and undervalued, despite being Arsenal’s most productive midfielder defensively.
His departure from Arsenal is definitely in Coquelin’s best interest and I expect him to thrive at Valencia under Marcelino, who sets up his side to aggressively press opponents. I wish him all the best in the future.