Arsene Wenger is as surprised as anyone that Francis Coquelin has become such an important figure in the Arsenal midfield, and claims the French star was set to leave the club permanently before his recall, according to the Metro.
The tough tackling defensive midfielder has filled a void in the team that has been a problem for years, and has eased the pressure on the rest of the team with his defensive work-rate.
Wenger is thrilled with the progress his 23-year-old compatriot has made in an Arsenal shirt, but admits he almost let him leave the club permanently this season.
“It has been a surprise to everybody,” he said.
“I told him at the start of the season to give absolutely everything until Christmas and then we would sit down together and see where we were.
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“In myself, I thought if he doesn’t play at all until Christmas, there was only six months contract to go and I would let him go somewhere else. You let the boy go. You don’t leave him completely out of the squad for six more months.”
Despite being one of the few impressive players in our disappointing Capital One Cup defeat to Southampton, Coquelin struggled for game time throughout the first half of the season – eventually being loaned out just before Christmas.
Injuries saw him recalled from his loan spell at Charlton however, and he hasn’t looked back since. He has grabbed the opportunity eagerly, and has proved hugely important to our success.