By Walter Broeckx
On the moment I am writing this we still don’t know how serious the injury from Francis Coquelin is. But that it would be a big blow for Arsenal if the rumours of him being out for 3 to 6 months would be correct is something I will not deny.
As usual the moaning and groaning starts immediately. And the cry for “Why didn’t Wenger buy a back up” can be heard left and right. “Wenger should have known this would happen,” can also be heard. Let us first deal with the latter. Could and should Wenger have known that Coquelin would get seriously injured?
Well that is something we can find out rather quickly. We just have to check his injury record from the past to see if he is a serial injured player or not.
And the answer is clearly : NO! In the past Coquelin has hardly been injured. You can check his record yourself if you follow the link. For those who don’t like to navigate away I will give you his full injury history at Arsenal over the years. And this looks impressively small.
In 2012 he had two hamstring injuries one on January 9th and the next on February 18th. So the second looks to be a not completely healed first hamstring injury. and then in 2013 he had another hamstring injury. And then he had a knee injury when he landed badly on his knee in the match against Chelsea. It is interesting to see that in both matches he had to come off with an injury we also lost the match in the end. But the match at Chelsea had more to do with Dean than with Coquelin being injured.
But so far Coquelin has hardly been injured when playing for Arsenal. Oh to set the record correct he also has been injured when playing for Freiburg on one of his loan spells with an ankle injury that kept him out for 22 days in total.
So there is no way that anyone could have predicted that Coquelin would be a real injury risk. Apart from the hindsight managers of course.
Let us then go to the criticism that Wenger should have bought back ups. Well as far as I know we have two backups for Coquelin. Arteta and Flamini.
Now I do agree that Arteta does seems to have a serious problem with a recurring injury. And that is something that is worrying of course. But then we also have Flamini. A player you can always rely on to do a job. No matter where you need him, he will do his job. And he is not that much injured for the moment as Arteta and has had during his career a far better injury record. So for the moment I will rely on Flamini to step in and do his job at defensive midfield.
If the partnership between Santi and Flamini will be as good as it was with Coquelin remains to be seen of course. But we have to keep in mind that when Coquelin was called back from his loan spell he first was played together with Flamini and then when Flamini got a small groan injury the partnership Coquelin-Cazorla was played and with great success. It clicked and worked from the start one could say. Even though we had a little hiccup when we lost at Southampton at the start of the year.
Now if we look at the criticism of “he had to buy a backup” I want to point out that this seems a bit odd. We already have/had two backups. Two players who are willing to sit on the bench and wait their time because their age.
The big problem is that with Coquelin having the best stats in the PL and even in Europe it is clear to see that whoever would be brought in would be at best a back up for Coquelin. And we have another problem in the fact that we only spend money when we can improve on what we have. As Coquelin is statistically the best defensive midfielder in the PL it is very difficult to find better. Should we have spent more than £30M on a backup player to sit on the bench? Well we aren’t City or Chelsea so forget it. We cannot do that. We can afford to spend £30M on a player but not to have him sit on the bench.
And then we have the problem that any player that would be asked to join would look at the fact that he could play. And then we have to keep in mind that at the end of this season we have the European Championship. So each player who plays for a national team wants to be sure that they will be a first choice. And they would risk that by sitting on the bench for Arsenal they could also lose their place in their national team.
And the other players who could come in as a backup also have managers who will look at the chances of having enough match time. Asking a player to come in for Arteta would be a piece of cake. Even the fact of Arteta being captain would not hold them back. They know his injury record and know that it will be only a matter of time before he gets injured and then the backup can walk in the team and take his place. As Coquelin did a year ago.
So if you look at those things it is understandable both from Arsenal point of view and from other possible defensive midfielders point of view that it wouldn’t be wise to spend so much money or to come to Arsenal.
If let us say Coquelin would be out for 6 months as the worst case scenario seems to be then it would be simpler for Arsenal to bring in a big money player in his position. They will know it will be for first time football from the start and that would make the step a lot easier.
And finally for those who want to panic about us losing Coquelin. I would ask them to go back one year in time. And if then Tony or I could have written : “Don’t worry with this injury from Arteta, we will bring in Coquelin.” All of you (even me included maybe) would have shaken their heads and thought: “Untold has really lost it this time”. Nobody (apart from Tony, and of course Arsene Wenger) believed that Coquelin would have a future at Arsenal and be a prominent player for us.
And yet one year later we panic because this player gets injured. Before we really panic let us first wait and see how things unfold. Last season Arteta getting injured was the moment for Coquelin to finally step forward. Who knows what will happen now. We might see another Bellerin or Coquelin suddenly taking his chance and perform in a way we didn’t expect. Last year Flamini guided and assisted Coquelin to his new role of defensive midfielder (remember Coquelin as a box to box midfielder at first) on the field. Maybe Flamini can assist another player to make this transition in the next weeks.
So the answer might already be in the squad but we don’t know it yet. So let us not panic too soon and let us first wait for the real verdict (that probably will be known at the time this gets published) and then see what and who will fill in the gap. Who knows… maybe a call back from a loan spell of some young player might be the solution? Let history repeat itself…..?
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