After being recalled by Arsenal while out on loan at Charlton Athletic, Francis Coquelin has been something of a revelation – the missing piece of the puzzle.
In a fantastic piece in the Guardian, the young Frenchman has spoken about that fateful day he got told to come back, not long before the deal to the Championship side was going to be made permanent. “I was on the sofa with my wife watching TV and I got a call from Arsenal saying: ‘You have to come back’,” he said.
The midfielder went on to speak about his role in the team and how he views his job, explaining, “If I can take away 10% of their defensive duties then they can have 10% more to attack and score goals and win us the game and I’m delighted. I remember Zidane and a lot of great players saying when you took out Makelele you took out the heart of their team. I think players who play this position don’t want the spotlight. They like to do their job and then they leave the bling-bling for other players.”
The 23-year-old started playing football at 10, relatively late for someone who would be playing for Arsenal by the age of 17. He started out with other sports, like Judo and tennis, “I couldn’t serve properly and I remember we had a tournament and at the semi-final this guy beat me. It was the first game I lost and I stopped,” he admitted.
While playing for Stade Lavallois, Coquelin got offered a week trial with the Gunners.
“I thought I was going to have a nice little week in the reserves. I never trained with the first team in Laval. I saw Gallas, Bac Sagna, Clichy, from the French national team, and I was thinking: ‘What am I doing here?’”
It seems the trip was a memorable one – one of his first experiences in an Arsenal shirt was being shouted at by Jens Lehmann when the Frenchman didn’t understand the shout of ‘keeper‘ from behind him and proceeded to clear the ball.
“He went absolutely crazy on me!” Coquelin said. “I didn’t know what was happening.”
It got even stranger when apparently Emmanuel Eboue and Cesc Fabregas got into a fight because one kicked the other.
“I was thinking: ‘Is every training like this? It’s war in here!’” The midfielder admitted.
The youngster didn’t expect anything to come from his brief trail and returned to school in France until he got the call that changed his life.
“I had missed a week of school and everyone was asking how it was at Arsenal. I was in my class and my phone rang and I looked at it. It was some weird number +44. I couldn’t answer the phone so they left a voicemail. It was the boss. In France he used to do the commentating on TV so obviously everyone knows his voice. I was listening: ‘Hello, Francis, how are you?’”