Coquelin is unlike most Wenger youth products.
The majority have had regular first team exposure throughout their late teens. By their mid-20s they have racked up hundreds of top flight and European appearances. And should apply such experience accordingly.
Coquelin’s situation is a different kettle of fish.
He is a player who was never fancied or trusted by the manager despite an excellent youth career. He has done most of his maturation on loan for weak teams in weaker leagues. This has come in much more advanced positions, often out wide.
Regarding real top flight competition, he hasn’t gone through the same frustrating process of making mistakes at that level for anyone, let alone with the responsibility of doing so for a club of Arsenal’s level. He’s had about 80 games for the club in all competitions, and although stupid, this was his first red card, despite playing in an aggressive ball-winning role.
There is also the factor of a player who is no longer propelled by the adrenaline, excitement and fear of having his first and only window of opportunity.
In US sports, they call it the ‘sophomore slump’, where an emerging player often suffers a little downturn in form in his second real season.
This is also the first season of Coquelin’s career where he has been a first choice defensive midfielder for more than three months. He is also one of the only Arsenal players to have no experience of ‘crunch time’ in a season involving a genuine pursuit of major honours.
There has been much comment on the disappointing level of form demonstrated by Coquelin since he returned to the side.
To me, this almost ignores the reason for his absence in the first place.
Lest we forget, it was a significant knee injury that kept him out of the side.
Despite the manager’s clear initial intention to bring him back gently into the first team, the inability of Flamini to sustain any real level of performance against good sides has led to Coquelin being pressed into action in key fixtures.
At the crunch time of the season without more than a couple of starts to get up to speed, he has looked a little off the pace and the timing of his tackling has been below his usual standards.
There is also a related issue, which further demonstrates his comparative lack of experience. As the player said himself at the time; “This is obviously the biggest injury I have had.”
Because so many of our squad have such familiarity with the treatment room that they know how to come back from a significant amount of time out seamlessly, many fans forget how difficult it is to do.
As a player that has never missed more than the odd week, asking Coquelin to return ahead of time from a significant knee injury and be up to speed in a couple of weeks is a tough ask.
Sure he’s been back a while now, but he’s never got back to the level he was before his injury.