It says it all…
Arsenal fans are now wondering about whether Mikel Arteta has a future in Arsenal’s midfield despite being first choice for a number of seasons, as a direct result of the form of a man who was out on loan in the lower leagues just a few short months ago.
Coquelin put the ghost of his last appearance at Old Trafford (8-2, ugh) to bed with some aplomb, through a masterclass of a performance at the base of the Arsenal midfield.
We’ve come to expect tackles and interceptions galore from our pet Rottweiler, since he leads the league in those type of stats.
What was less expected was the discipline and intelligence he displayed in nullifying Marouane Fellaini.
While he’s generally excellent in the air despite his modest size, he gives away about half a foot in height to the Belgian, but Coquelin showed great awareness to use his strengths to get around that.
Early on that took the form of allowing Fellaini to chest the ball, before using his superior speed and ability to dispossess the taller man.
Indeed, Fellaini was disposed a whopping six times and forced into poor control on a further four occasions.
Later on as United placed more emphasis on lobbing the ball up to Fellaini and getting players up alongside him to try to feed off the knockdowns, Coquelin got closer to him and with a centre back behind him in support, they cut off the supply.
Rare is the game where Arsenal face a big man in the final minutes of a match with a one goal lead, but it was comfortable, and in no small part because of our French fulcrum.
The telling statistic was the number of fouls Fellaini made – eight – compared to just three by Coquelin (Arsenal’s entire team only made 11!) .
In every fifty-fifty, Coquelin got his body in great positions, used his strength to outmuscle the Belgian and drew fouls and advantages on a number of occasions. Coquelin was fouled six times compared to a solitary occasion for Fellaini.
The United player even bloodied the Frenchman’s nose (again) early on, but Coquelin simply increased his dominance.
The other thing that was particularly notable and impressive was the way in which our young midfielder stepped out of midfield with the ball on a number of occasions, beating a player and kick starting Arsenal counter attacks.
There was one moment especially where he picked up the ball under pressure, drove forward, sidestepped a couple of aggressive challenges and then played a brilliant ball through for Alexis.
We have such an abundance of talent that we don’t need him to be beating players and striding forwards on a regular basis, but it is certainly an asset to be able to do it as required. We’ve seen teams actively target Per Mertesacker as a weak link, giving him time and space on the ball and simply cutting off his passing options.
It’s good to see that Coquelin is not only willing, but also able to take responsibility for making things happen sometimes.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised any more when Coquelin turns in a Man of the Match level performance.
What is most impressive though is the way he continues to grow from game to game, in maturity and influence.
Matic may be flavour of the month in the media at the moment, but Arsenal have their very own holding midfield maestro operating under the radar.