Francis Coquelin returns to face Arsenal in the Europa League semi-final this week, although he won’t feature in the first leg thanks to a suspension.

Francis Coquelin during his Arsenal days

Coquelin spent 10 years with Arsenal, joining as a youth player and making 160 appearances for the first team before finally moving on to Valencia in January 2018. Now he has the chance to play against his old club with his new one, as the two face off in a two-legged semi-final starting on Thursday night.

The French midfielder admits he’s disappointed not to be able to take part in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, but he’s still really happy that the draw came out as it did.

“I’m really excited to play against to my former club,” Coquelin said. “Everyone knows I’m suspended for the first leg, which is a big disappointment for me, but as soon as I saw the draw I was really pleased to be able to play against Arsenal for the first time in a different shirt.”

Given he only left so recently, it’s no surprise to learn that Coquelin still keeps in contact with a lot of the current Arsenal squad, and he named the three he’s still closest with.

“I am still in contact with a few players, such as Laurent Koscielny. We were really close when I was there and he did the same injury as me, with the Achilles tendon, so obviously got even closer because of that. I am still in contact with Alex Lacazette and Danny Welbeck, and a lot of people but they are the ones I am closest to.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 01: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 01, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 01: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 01, 2019, in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Arsenal fans will be hoping Lacazette makes sure Coquelin doesn’t enjoy his return to the Emirates too much on Thursday night. The French striker has three goals in his last two Europa League semi-final home legs, so the Gunners will be relying on him to add another in his third appearance.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that by the time Coquelin is back facing up against Arsenal, the tie is all but over.