Arsene Wenger has spoken about Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin ahead of our clash with West Ham, praising the balance the two midfielders bring to the side, as reported by Arsenal.com.
We’ve struggled to find the right pairing in midfield this season, with Santi Cazorla’s injury really impacting us. We’ve tried numerous different combinations, with Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Calum Chambers, and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain mixing and matching in the midfield pivot.
Some were better than others, but none really offered us the right balance between attack and defence. Often the midfield was too disjointed and defensively minded, unable to connect smoothly with our forwards and consequently making our attack slow and predictable.
Other times we were left too exposed, with the likes of Ramsey and the Ox just not offering enough protection. Even the best defensive midfielders in the world can’t do everything by themselves, and protecting the back four is a team effort, not just a job for one man.
That has all changed since Coquelin and Elneny have built their partnership though, and the team looks far better equipped to fluidly move from attack to defence, while also remaining defensively stable.
Wenger sees just how strong this partnership can be, and has praised the pair’s ability to switch roles when necessary.
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“Both of them are improving offensively,” he said.
“When Coquelin plays with Cazorla, Coquelin is the defensive player which made them a perfect pair. Then Coquelin focused more on defending and Cazorla more on attacking.
“Now both [Elneny and Coquelin] share the job, so the balance is a bit [better]. They’re more similar. We have four attackers in front of them so we need people who can defend well in central midfield.”
While it’s unclear whether this is the partnership that we’ll maintain for the foreseeable future or if Cazorla will slot straight back into the side upon his return, it’s at least comforting to know that we aren’t just relying on the fitness of one player.
We have multiple partnerships that can work in midfield and we no longer need to live in fear that if one key player gets injured our season is over. That’s often been a problem for us in the past due to our limited squad depth, but now – in midfield at least – that doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue.
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Hopefully the pair will continue to grow together as they play more games, and we’ll see them really develop a rock solid base in the middle of the field.