The decision to start the young French midfielder Francis Coquelin for Arsenal in the tough away game against West Ham on Sunday was pretty much forced upon Arsene Wenger. With Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere out of the running with their various injury problems and the aging Tomas Rosicky needing a rest after playing just two days previously, Arsenal were left with few options.
Wenger could have gone with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the boss clearly wanted to be more solid in the centre and to give the Gunners more protection to the back four and the decision to play Coquelin next to Flamini really paid off. But Wenger admits that the move was a gamble, as an Arsenal.com report has revealed.
The manager said, “He played very well, especially in the first half. He was very influential and then in the second half he fatigued a bit in the last 20 minutes, but he had a very good performance not only defensively but he also passed quickly, sharply and through the lines. Overall he had a convincing performance.
“It was a gamble but I felt that we needed to protect with two players in front of the defence with Carroll on the long balls – we needed a bit of protection. I feel that he was the right choice.”
Now Wenger needs to decide whether to go with Coquelin again and with Rosicky having had a week to rest and recover, that decision is even harder. But I think we should stick with the young Frenchman; not because he is better than Rosicky, who put in a sterling effort against QPR, but because we need keep the game compact away to the Saints, at least to begin with.
And Coquelin’s confidence will never have been higher, so now is the perfect time to give him another chance to shine.