When Francis Coquelin was brought on in the 72nd minute against Bayern Munich for Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal fans everywhere groaned internally.
The midfielder has been terrible as of late and while many could argue that he’s perhaps, bar a handful of performances earlier in the season, never been brilliant, his recent displays are concerning.
Coquelin was taken off against Liverpool at the weekend and instantly the team looked livelier and more creative going forward. He had a similar affect against Bayern except in reverse; when he was brought on, Arsenal slowed down and appeared devoid of inspiration.
When Coq came on, Arsenal were only 2-1 down and while the team were never going to stage a miraculous comeback, we could have – again – exited the competition with our heads held high (sort of) if we’d have won at home.
With Coquelin on the pitch, this was never going to happen and while having Laurent Koscielny sent off also contributed, Coquelin’s lack of versatility and ability to compliment the midfielder he’s playing next to definitely played its part.
His positioning, where he hovers too high up the field, consistently leaves the defenders without protective and creates massive gaps in the midfield.
For Bayern’s third goal, Coquelin lacked the speed to get back in time in order to make a real difference and instead lamely put a leg out, which prevented nothing; for the fourth, Coq was nowhere to be seen and for the fifth, he was too busy waving his arms around at the linesman claiming offside to even make an effort to get back.
It was another gutless performance from the Frenchman.