At what point does Francis Coquelin start to be described as world class?
On a day when a man most would deem worthy of that description – Nemanja Matic – was sent off for two bookable offences, which would ultimately cost his side any points, Arsenal’s main man in the middle delivered anther midfield masterclass.
The first half was a mix of dazzling attacking play featuring some slick interchanges between our most technical players, but when Everton did settle on the ball for a pass or two, they were set upon almost instantly by our dynamic defensive midfielder.
While Anthony Taylor is a terrible referee, continuing his trend of not believing in the existence of free kicks, this benefited Coquelin in committing to his challenges (and indeed both centre backs, who ushered Lukaku under the ball as if he were as light as a feather).
Silencing the doubters
Perhaps the most impressive side of his game, though, was the range of passing he displayed. His Hollywood diagonals are now saved for when they will be most effective, and simpler passes are played firmly and efficiently. Coquelin also has a great eye for a pass, and made a number of reverse passes to set players clear in the box. Ozil’s impeccable first touch on a couple of such occasions helped to split the Everton defence wide open, yet the source of the ball is rarely credited with such skills.
It was also particularly notable the confidence with which he would take a delicate touch with his left foot, allowing the ball to roll across his body, before spraying a pass wide to Bellerin or Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Most importantly, this was often done at speed, under pressure, and by fizzing the ball across the width of the pitch at speed it opened both Everton full backs up to two on one situations on a number of occasions.
The performance was not perfect; a rash challenge saw Francis play over an hour on a booking, even if it was soft. While Taylor was correct in blowing a foul for the challenge on Galloway, to also pull a yellow card from his pocket was preposterous.
However, our Frenchman’s discipline for the rest of the game was impressive, checking move after move from Everton without ever looking close to the ragged edge.
As Tuesday’s tired legs started to impact our game, with the likes of Alexis out on their feet, it was noticeable that Coquelin stepped up his game to run the extra yards and cover for teammates who were clearly struggling. He was ably abetted by Santi “the machine” Cazorla, and touch wood, both men seem to have that invaluable attribute of appearing to be made of Teflon!
We have come to expect a certain level of quality from the Coq, and this performance was another to add to a list of high calibre games.
When will lazy punditry stop mentioning how we need a top drawer defensive midfielder? We have one, and his name is Francis Coquelin.
Well played sir.