Francis Coquelin has established himself in the Arsenal team since getting his chance last summer, and has been speaking about fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry.
The Arsenal legend turned 38 on Monday, and Coquelin has told Arsenal.com how the superstar inspired him to watch Arsenal from afar at a young age.
When Arsène Wenger arrived at the club he had already sealed the arrival of teenager Patrick Vieira. Following him were starts like Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pirès, Sylvain Wiltord and, of course, Thierry Henry. As a result the Gunners suddenly got more attention in France than any other English side.
“When I was nine or 10, at Christmas I got the Arsenal shirt with my name on the back,” Coquelin said. “It was because there were a lot of French players there and Thierry was one of them.
“Even the people back in France who didn’t watch the Premier League back in the day – it is quite famous now – supported Arsenal because of the French core they had and Thierry was one of, if not the best player. So he made French people follow the club.”
When Coquelin was just nine or 10, Henry wasn’t only about halfway to 100 Arsenal goals. A few years, and a lot of goals, later our old number 14 became the club’s all-time record goalscorer, and it is hard to see his tally of 228 Arsenal goals being beaten any time soon.
Coquelin even had the chance to play alongside Henry on a couple of occasions when the club legend returned on loan during the 2011/12 season.
“When I first saw him, it was like the feeling when I first came to Arsenal and saw all the big players here, it was something special. But I soon realised he is really straightforward and he’ll talk to you and give you advice.
“It is nice to see that a star like him can be straightforward and you can talk to him and he’ll give you advice like that,” the current Arsenal midfielder explained. “I text him now, and have a laugh when I see him – if you had told me that 15 years ago I would have said, ‘Yeah alright!’”
Thierry Henry isn’t just a club legend for Francis Coquelin, but a national legend and the reason he started paying attention to Arsenal before he even moved to England to play for the club.
Sometimes it’s pretty funny how things turn out.