After joyfully watching Arsenal comprehensively beat Manchester City on Sunday, two players came to mind: Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin.
With almost ten years apart in age they now appear to be at opposite ends of their careers and both players’ contracts are due for renewal at the end of the season.
Francis Coquelin moved back to the Arsenal squad only a few weeks ago amidst a midfield injury crisis and like many other fans I was sceptical when the Frenchman returned from his loan at Charlton.
Coquelin’s future at Arsenal looked bleak; a group of poor loans and fringe appearances saw him destined to follow in the footsteps of Armand Traoré and Ignasi Miquel.
Instead, Coquelin seems to have proven his critics wrong by offering Arsenal their first proper defensive midfielder since the departure of Alex Song. The Frenchman has passion, fights for the ball in every game and gives the team a real drive; the pinnacle of this came with his performance against Manchester City.
The media this week has showered Coquelin with praise and some media outlets have gone as far as to announce him as the next Patrick Viera. The story summing up the bandwagon nature of the British press. One exuberant journalist went as far as to declare Coquelin a better defensive midfielder than Chelsea’s Nemanja Matić based on Squawka statistics. Matić has made 14 more appearances than Coquelin this season so it is too soon to be jumping to such strong conclusions.
This is the type of unnecessary pressure that could cause the inexperienced Frenchman to crack. However, if Coquelin can maintain this type of form then he may be the answer to Arsenal’s prayers in the midfield.
This spells trouble for Mikel Arteta, the squad’s captain who is currently out with a prolonged injury.
Before the rise of Coquelin a number of fans would not have placed the Spaniard in their starting eleven. Now it seems that Arsene Wenger may follow with the same line of thought.
Different sources suggest that both players are currently negotiating new deals with the club. With Coquelin’s running out in six months the Frenchman has clearly done enough to show he has the ability to warrant a new deal. Arsenal must learn from the mistakes made with Mathieu Flamini who was at a similar age when he left the club to join AC Milan for free.
Arteta also has six months left on his current contract.
The Spaniard has been a fantastic player for the club and is a very consistent performer. For example, for the last two seasons Arteta has had the highest pass success percentage for any midfielder in the Premier League.
At 32 I could see him taking on a similar role in the side to that of Tomas Rosicky. However I fear we may unfortunately see a repeat of Thomas Vermaelen’s example with our captain spending most of his time on the bench.
I know that Wenger’s philosophy is to have a number of captains on the pitch but last season was embarrassing for both the player and the club. The decision on Arteta’s role needs to be made now while the club are negotiating a new deal with player so that a transition to a new captain can be made smoothly.