by Helen Trantum
That winning feeling.
It’s a pure adrenaline rush that is simply unequalled in football.
For one of our boys in particular, ending the season with his hands on the FA Cup trophy can’t have seemed less likely – when Francis Coquelin was farmed out on loan to Charlton this season.
On Saturday evening, our French fighter stood up to be counted, delivering a masterclass in nipping in and stealing the ball to defuse any Villa attacks before they had even truly started.
Not only that, pin-point diagonal passes to both full backs were a regular feature of his play, and he demonstrated time and again his ability to change the tempo of the play by sending fierce passes forward.
It’s one of his talents which is underrated in a midfield blessed with riches in every position, but Coquelin is direct with the balls he plays, and although the odd one may go astray, when they do come off they can open up strong opportunities.
Francis’s aerial excellence continues to impress, as well as the nous that accompanies it – much has been made of Mertescielny’s dominance over Benteke in the final, but it was a common sight for Coquelin to be dropping back in front of the Belgian and effectively sandwiching and nullifying him.
That combination has epitomised his season – a potent mix of natural talent and sheer determination to improve which has seen his tactical presence develop exponentially.
It should stand Coquelin in good stead for the future that he clearly has a strong focus on how far he has come to get to this weekend’s dizzy heights. Amy Lawrence recently reported back on a visit he made the Arsenal Community hub, where he was asked to decorate the wall with a message. He wrote, “The most important thing in life is to never GIVE UP.”
He demonstrated that again in this year’s cup final.
I’m getting married next year, and one of the pieces of advice that I’ve been given a number of times is to take five minutes on the big day to step back, and just observe what’s going on. Let the emotion and the reality sink in (the reality that I have to wake up next to a Spurs fan every day for the rest of my life…).
After the players had returned to the pitch to lift the cup for a second time, and the celebrations were beginning in earnest, Coquelin walked away and sat down amid the silver streamers behind the podium.
Deep in thought, he looked to be drinking in the atmosphere and mentally pinching himself.
Penny for your thoughts, Francis?