By Walter Broeckx
Let us now have a look at the probably most mythical position on a football field: the defensive midfielder. For this I took the 3 players who have played in that position: Coquelin, Arteta and Flamini. Coquelin had the most match time from the 3 followed closely by Flamini and then the injured Arteta (captain’s curse anyone?) with the fewest minutes under his belt.
The word in some quarters is to get rid of both Arteta and Flamini. Cut the dead wood as they say. But are they really that ‘dead’? Let us try to find out. Look out for scores with a (1) or a (2) behind the number. More on that later.
|82.1%||Passing accuracy opp. half||91.3%||88.8%|
|59.4% (1)||Duels won %||53.7%||56.4%|
|54||Aerial Duels won||8||22|
|31||Aerial duels lost||8||15|
|63.5% (2)||Aerial duels won %||50%||59.5%|
|81.9%||Tackles won %||81.8%||75%|
|0||Minutes per goal||0||1455|
|0||Total shots on target||0||1|
|3||Total shots off target||2||3|
|–||Successful crosses %||–||33.3%|
When we look at the passing accuracy we see that Arteta is the number one followed by Flamini and Coquelin only has the third highest pass completion of the 3. This order stays the same when we look at the pass accuracy in the opposition half. That Arteta has a higher pass accuracy then the others is no real surprise. I must admit I was surprised that Flamini did better on this than Coquelin.
Let’s move on to duels. And in this we get the order we might expect. Coquelin is the best when it comes to winning duels of the 3. In second place we have Flamini and then Arteta. You might have noticed a (1) behind the number of Coquelin. This (1) indicates that he also had the highest score compared to other defensive midfielders and in this case I compared it to Matic (Chelsea), Carrick (MU) and Scheiderlin (Southampton).
When we look at the aerial duels we see that Coquelin was the best from the 3 Arsenal players. But he also was the second best compared to the same 3 from other teams. Matic did better in the aerial duels. But to put this a bit in perspective: Matic is 1,94m and Coquelin only 1.78m. Coquelin is the smallest of them but only gets beaten by the biggest of them in height.
Back to Arsenal and to the recoveries. Coquelin makes some 9.1 recoveries per match. Arteta made 7.4 recoveries and Flamini made 5 recoveries per match. So Coquelin being the best when it comes to recovering the ball and I think we all expected that. And if we compare that to players from other teams Francis is the number one again.
The same goes for clearances. He was the best with 3.62 clearances on average every 90 minutes. Almost double the number of Flamini who was in second place in this stats. And yet again the best numbers compared to the players from other teams. Matic being in second place for this one.
And for interceptions… yes Coquelin again beats not only his team mates but also the other defensive midfielders. In fact this is getting boring maybe but the stats just show that in most cases in what matters a lot for defensive midfielders the best player out there was Francis Coquelin.
One could say that Coquelin finding the right balance in his own game resulted in Arsenal finding the right team balance. I think the repositioning of Cazorla also played a big part to this in fact but of course we cannot look behind the fact that once Coquelin got his place the team looked more solid than ever before.
What he can improve on a bit is his passing accuracy as has been shown in the stats. But that might be down to being more confident as I seem to remember that he was a bit nervous in the first matches and lost the ball a few times when he tried to pass it on. Something that improved later on in the season or at least that was the impression I had.
So where does this leave us in regards with the shouts that we should get Schneiderlin from Southampton? If we look at the stats it seems that Coquelin has the better stats of the two players. So would Schneiderlin be a better player?
Well I’m not that convinced to be honest. And if we can believe the Squawka stats for defensive score we see that they give Coquelin a 20.56, Carrick a 12.21 and Schneiderlin a 8.38 and Matic only a 7.95. They don’t come even close to Coquelin. This is not my score or the Untold Arsenal score but all based on the stats from Arsenal.com and Squawka.
So I wonder if we just shouldn’t stick to Coquelin and use the older legs of Arteta and Flamini as a backup for when Coquelin can use a breather or when the opposition allows us to rest him.
Coquelin has done extremely well since he came back from his loan spell and each time it was said: wait till he has to play Man City, Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool…. And each time he passed the test with flying colours. So let’s give him the chance to show that he can do it for a full season and I have every reason to believe he can do it. Certainly when he has some older and experienced legs behind him waiting on the bench.
My prediction for the next season: Coquelin will be the main man at defensive midfield. Arteta and Flamini will be behind him and will only play when Coquelin needs a rest or can be allowed a rest. And none of the other names mentioned looks an upgrade compared to Coquelin so I don’t see the need to spend lots of money for a player that might be just as good as Coquelin. Besides we still have the Polish eagle waiting to take over in a few seasons. Until then I think the Coq and Arteta and Flamini can do the job.
Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910