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October 2016
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No, you couldn’t predict this injury

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…..?


Please do read our notes on commenting on this site, which have just been updated to cover some of the commentaries we’ve had lately

More anniversaries

  • 23 November 1985: Last game for Chris Whyte, first game for Martin Keown.  WBA 0 Arsenal 0.  Chris Whyte played 90 league games for Arsenal before moving onto the American indoor league.
  • 23 November 2002:  Arsenal lost 3–2 to Southampton, conceding three for the first time since May 2001.   Bergkamp and Pires scored but Campbell was sent off after which Southampton quickly scored two.

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37 comments to No, you couldn’t predict this injury

  • Norman14

    According to PGMOB Sports Headquarters, Coq is out for “at least 2 months”

    Nothing on the Official site yet though!

  • Robert

    You’ve got to be kidding? You cant seriously mean
    that arteta/flamini are good enough??
    Last time i read this site – entirely inapt outlook.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Robert

    If you read AND understood the article, you would not be asking such a question. Walter’s assessment is quite clear. To pay £30 million for a replacement to sit on the bench (or possibly keep Coq on the bench so he might get frustrated and leave) would be absurd.

    No of course neither Arteta of Flamini are good enough to be first choice……..hence they are not. Only Chelsea and Man City can afford two £30m+ players for each position and time and time again we see the problems that causes.

  • Arthur

    You miss the point. Playing where he does it is inevitable he will miss a few games injured or suspended. His past record is not a good guide because this is the first season he has played competitive games one after another. All the top teams have two quality DM’s so they can rotate and cover. We have one. It was a gamble that has back fired.

  • Arthur

    Goonermikey accepts that Arteta and Flamini aren’t good enough to be first choice so what is going to happen in the next 2 or 3 months. They are going to be first choice! They are good enough to cover he odd suspension but not several months. I’m assuming Wenger will have to buy a DM in January – which he should have done in the summer.

  • WalterBroeckx

    So Arthur, you surely can tell us all the two quality DM and how much they play.

    Try last season Chelsea as a starter maybe…
    Matic playing 36 PL matches. So not much rotation to see to be honest. I think the matches he missed was because of suspension.
    So even Mourinho will not rest his defensive midfielder.
    Who is the top quality replacement of Yaya Toure? When he isn’t fit they drop points very easily in the past seasons. So whoever his replacement is, it sure is not a top quality player.

    Both teams who have unlimited resources and could buy a benchwarmer for 30M but even they don’t have good replacement.

    Manchester United also a team with much more resources. Ah they bought Schneiderlin. Would he have come to Arsenal to sit on the bench.

    I really don’t think there are top teams who have 2 or 3 top quality defensive midfielders in their team.

  • Gunner6


    Your 1:41pm post contradicts your 1:35pm post. Like you said, sure Coq will miss the odd games but buying a player at his level to only play the odd games is not workable. Which player at Coq’s level will want to sit on the bench and paly the odd games?

    Also, rotation is fine but so is continuity. Would a player at Coq’s level willing to come in as a sub every game and not start? It is up for debate unless this player comes in for the full second half, I doubt he will go for the last 20 minutes cameo.

    Rather than panic and blame Wenger, isn’t it time for supporters to pull together and help the team rather than find faults?


  • Arthur

    Who mentioned 30 million? I didn’t? The point is we all appear to accept Flamini/Arteta and probably Chambers aren’t good enough to be first choice over a lengthy period. But that is exactly what we appear to face. We have reasonably good cover everywhere else but DM. Given our style of play it is a key position. As I said we have gambled. How badly it back fires depends on how long he is out.

  • Zedsaunt

    It’s Flamini as first choice DM alongside Cazorla through the next couple of months with possible backups from a pool of Chambers, Gibbs, Bellerin. These three can be considered for these positions because both fullback positions are already covered and all three are capable of playing around the team.

    Should all this fail/lead to disaster/the roof falls in/Arsenal fall three points behind the leaders in deep crisis – the next transfer window opens in forty something days and Arsene can then throw 35 million at a player who can step straight in and win everything. Magic!

    Back to the armchair.

  • proudkev

    It’s frustrating but this is another of those freak injuries that can happen. We are unlucky but thats the way the cookie crumbles.

    However, as big a fan as Coquelin as I am I can’t accept this is the massive blow everybody is making out. It is very funny how those who never rated him in the first place are the ones crying about this ‘massive’ blow, real irony there.

    As for cover, I think we have seen that match fitness is important and players coming in for the odd game need time to get the pace of the game – for me Arteta is a great player but needs game time, the same for Flamini.

    My own opinion is that we have enough central midfielders to play three teams and all that is required in that role is to sit deep in front of the back four. Arteta and Flamini can do that job, so too can Aaron Ramsey, who prefers a central position. Jack can play there too, although wouldnt be my choice. But the point is, barring injuries, we have a lot of players who play centrally – how much cover do we really need?

    As Walter says, few teams have two world class players for each position, that is unrelistic. Never easy to sign a £25m player and tell him he will be on the bench behind a young lad who spent a few months the previous season on loan in the Championship. Tell Sammi (Khedira) Arsenal have offered £25m but he wont be starting and see the reaction. It is ridiculous all this bloody whining from the Fantasy Football Managers, they never let up. Half of these clowns cant wait for us to draw or lose so they can extole their expert knowledge on all things football related. I find them embarrassing; you never hear anything from them when we win and they’ve all gone quiet on their Giroud baiting I notice.

  • Gord

    Arteta has been struggling with a calf injury for a while, and if this is another reinjury it doesn’t speak well for him appearing on the playing field for us in the future at his age. By all means, attempt to rehab the injury.

    I don’t think Flamini is quite the loose cannon most suggest. I suspect he is capable of moving towards the Coquelin style of DM quite a ways.

    No player is going to be a clone of Francis, and so some adjustment is necessary for any player coming in.

    I don’t think we are limited to Arteta and Flamini as cover. Chambers has central midfield in his DNA, as does Beilik. Both are spending time at center back, which helps to reinforce the defender part of DM. Are there others in the Arsenal system?

    The only “emergency” I see, is what to do for the CL game. I would imagine that practice does occasionally touch on this, I think most people assume that Wenger never practices contingencies.

    It may be that Wenger may look for a DM in the winter window, I don’t think he will. I think he will continue to look for bargains, and spite nearly all of the medja with their never ending streams of improbable solutions/suggestions.

    On the corruption front, the speckled bladderbird is looking for sympathy; “I could have died”. We could have peaches and cream; if we had peaches, if we had cream. But we still hear faintly in the background, “I’m clean, I’m clean”.

  • Josif

    I must admit that Coquelin’s injury looked to me as a very realistic possibility.

    We play 50+ matches per season with very few matches Wenger considers as a chance for rotation (COC, FA Cup matches against lower-league opponents and dead-rubber matches in Champions League).

    Furthermore, call me a paranoid but I have noticed that he has been targeted by the opponents from the match against Chelsea in CS. Le Coq himself doesn’t pull off from tackles either.

  • para

    AW is managing the “injury” situation well i think Coq gets a deserved rest and now it is time for one other to step up. This is the chance they all get every year to impress and seal their place.

    I can’t see AW not being aware of what he has in the squad and it’s up to some one(or two) of them to step up or be thrown in at the deep end. 🙂

    I just hope Alexis will get some rest here and there, maybe not starting him but coming on as sub at 45 or 60 mins, no later.

    I actually think West Brom targeted him deliberately, but other teams do too, and not just him but target other players like Kos, Alexis and Santi.

  • Pete

    Thanks Walter – sound analysis.

    As noted, we have been running with THREE DMs in the squad. So two are injured – we still have one. In addition, Chambers has potential there (as Wenger has just announced today). I also believe that Wilshere is likely to be back before Coquelin – and he seems good enough to play in that position for England. Bielik is also a hot prospect and Ramsey could fill in also. Hayden hasn’t really set the world alight at Hull – but then Coquelin hadn’t done so at Charlton either…

    If Coquelin is indeed out for 2 months, as forecast, that would imply he is back in mid/late January – so most unlikely we will buy a new DM in the January window.

  • Goéland

    I´m with Josif. I wasn´t worried about Coquelin getting injured *by himself* (he´s clearly strong as an ox). But opponents targeting him? Yes, I thought that might happen. At the same time, the tackle that hurt him this time wasn´t criminal, so… Bad luck is still involved. What isn´t a matter of divination is the fact, which Tony, Walter and many commenters have repeated often, that no world-class DM was going to come to Arsenal for a hefty fee knowing that would mean sitting behind Coquelin, especially not this year. Wenger now has to find a new midfield that will perform well enough.

    Personally, I would lean towards Ramsey once again reinventing his role on the team, and showing what a fantastic player he is. He truly can be one of the best players in the world, we know that. But I don´t know what that would mean for Cazorla, because a partnership between the both of them would present too many risks for the defence, I fear. I also don´t believe just putting in Flamini alongside Santi would be ideal, because Flamini, while still extremely decent, has characteristics that are different enough from Coquelin´s that the balance of the two DMs would be thrown off. If Wenger preserves his 4-2-3-1, maybe the best partnership would be between Ramsey´s creative high motor and Flamini´s jack-of-all-trades nature, albeit with two not-inconsiderable downsides: exposing Aaron to more injuries when he´s barely coming back (a lot more contact in the central areas), and asking Cazorla to uproot himself on the right when he´s been a beast as a DM. Not an easy decision at all! I look forward to seeing what magic Arsène will concoct.

  • robl

    What about Gabriel? He’s quick, good in the air and not afraid of the fight?

  • Gord

    To me, considering Gabriel Armando de Abreu for DM in the near term is also a reasonable idea. He is only a slight bit taller than Chambers, both are taller than Coquelin.

    He is only listed as playing right back outside of centerback (at Wikipedia). Has he played elsewhere?

    How do Gabriel and Chambers compare to Coquelin on a short sprint?

  • porter

    Ah they bought Schneiderlin. Would he have come to Arsenal to sit on the bench.

    8 appearances so far for United according to wiki , can’t find out if he has been injured . Remember however they bought Schweinstieger at the same time 13 so far.So as DMs they found a pair that were prepared to fight for their places. It seems to have worked for Theo and Giroud , a bit of competition goes a long way.

  • Fishpie

    I think part of the problem for Wenger during the summer was that he only likes playing with one DM. So having two equally good DM’s in the squad gives him a headache of how to share out the games. And . depending how he does it, creating an unhappy player in the squad. Most teams have two DM’s in their team, or at least they have two physically strong players in central mid who have a high work rate/ winning the ball/ closing down mentality. To play that way you have to have 2 players of that ilk to start off with plus a back up( or two). Cos Wenger like to use a playmaker to be his second central mid player (at least ever since Cesc), he tends to cover that position with other playmakers: Jack, Rosisky. Hence he tries to “get by” with cover for the DM. I can’t help think its a flawed strategy especially as it was obvious what a player of le Coq’s freshness, physical presence and combativeness brought to the team: much much more than Arteta and Flamini. I like this site but when Walter tries to defend the Manager (logically and with a reasoned argument) for what was a blindingly obvious need in the summer, I think Untold might need to, for once, acknowledge that, at the very least, this was a risky strategy by the Manager. I love my Mum very much, but she isn’t infallible.

  • Gord

    Did someone say referee?

    For CL we have:
    Referee _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _Viktor Kassai _(HUN)
    Assistant referee _ _ _ _ _ _György Ring _(HUN) , Vencel Tóth _(HUN)
    Additional assistant referee Tamás Bognar _(HUN) , Ádám Farkas _(HUN)
    Fourth official _ _ _ _ _ _ _Peter Berettyán _(HUN)
    UEFA Delegate _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _Roland Coquard _(FRA)
    UEFA Referee observer _ _ _ _Jozef Marko _(SVK)

    And next weekend’s Mike Riley 😈 raffle winners:

    Saturday 28 November 2015
    K.O. _MATCHES _ _ _ _ REFEREE _ _ _ ASST. REF. 1 _ _ASST. REF. 2 _ _4TH OFFICIAL
    15:00 Aston Villa – Watford _ _ _Lee Mason _ _ _ A Halliday _M Perry _ _ _P Tierney
    15:00 Bournemouth – Everton _ _ _Kevin Friend _ _M McDonough C Hatzidakis O Langford
    15:00 Crystal Palace – Newcastle Stuart Attwell _P Kirkup _ _A Garratt _ _M Jones
    17:30 Leicester – Man Utd _ _ _ _Craig Pawson _ _S Ledger _ _D Bryan _ _ _R Madley
    15:00 Man City – Southampton _ _ Roger East _ _ _R West _ _ _A Nunn _ _ _ A Taylor
    15:00 Sunderland – Stoke _ _ _ _ Mike Dean _ _ _ D Cann _ _ _M Wilkes _ _ K A Woolmer
    Sunday 29 November 2015
    K.O. _MATCHES _ _ _ _ REFEREE _ _ _ _ ASST. REF. 1 _ _ASST. REF. 2 _ _4TH OFFICIAL
    16:15 Liverpool – Swansea _ _ _ _Anthony Taylor _S Beck _ _ _L Betts _ _ _G Scott
    16:15 Norwich – Arsenal _ _ _ _ _Jonathan Moss _ A Holmes _ _S Long _ _ _ R Madley
    12:00 Spurs – Chelsea _ _ _ _ _ _Michael Oliver _S Burt _ _ _G Beswick _ _A Marriner
    14:05 West Ham – West Brom _ _ _ Martin Atkinson M Mullarkey S Child _ _ _K Friend

  • Florian

    Kassai spells trouble for us. He was in charge “of” that infamous defeat at Braga a few years ago, and generally his attitude is an arrogant one. Plus, it’s the second time in 2 when an Eastern European is delegated at the DZ’s matches against us this season. What’s the likelihood of that to happen in a “normal” world?

    Still, COYG! 🙂

  • Florian

    Btw, Ramsey is back in the squad for the CL match.

  • Mandy Dodd

    You raise some very valid points on signing players, as does Fishpie in his point that Wenger only plays 1 Coq type player.
    But will we miss him, we sure will. Should we have predicted it…..If I was Wenger with our injuries this season, I would always predict ….or at least prtepare for the worst. As Tom mentioned over the weekend, like Jack, Coq puts himself in harms way, raising the risk.
    So, has Wenger prepared for such a loss? Critics may suggest Artetas constant injuries make him inadequate replacement for such a player, they are also suggesting Wenger may have wanted Flamini shipped out last summer. I have no idea how true that is. But Flam has become a very important player, he has done a good job when called upon, like the other older players, he is maybe an injury risk….I would add a red card risk, but lets just see how he gets on.
    Should Flam falter, Wenger has also mentioned Chambers. Maybe Debuchy or Paulista? Wenger has a history of emergency postion switches working out ok. Then, there is Jack. Injury prone, and maybe not naturally a Coq type player, but does play a similarish role for England.
    Maybe, expect the unexpected, though I doubt if Wenger will sign in Jan unless things become critical, or he has a target out there, especially, as mentioned, with a big championship coming up.
    An excellent, a big loss, a terrible weekend, and a bad month. I was pretty hacked off with it, as my posts on here and PA will have indicated.
    But not yet time to roll out the white flag of surrender to Liverpool and Spurs, as some of the AAA seem to be doing

  • Pat

    Let’s hope that there are exciting times ahead and that we get another revelation like Coquelin.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Sorry, off topic, but Wenger has clearly ruffled a few feathers over his doping comments.
    It now emerges the club have been visited by TEN anti doping officials. As the article says……coincidence?

    As another blog might say, “football isn’t fixed, it’s fucked”
    I expect a very interesting refereeing performance tomorrow, UEFA have history with whistle blowers currently on Arsenals payroll, whistleblowers going back to the Marseilles scandal…..and now, whistleblowing over doping

  • Polo

    AW been a manager for over 30 years so I think he would know what he is doing compare to some FFMs. I think instead of buying established players we should give some of our youngsters a chance to shine, I would like to see Chambers or Beilik have a go in the DM position, never know they could become ‘world class’. In the past Arsenal attract talented young players because AW give those young players chances to shine.

  • ob1977

    Arthur and others moaning about lack of DM cover, how about also the fact that JW could play there as a DLM as he is proving by being England’s best player from that position… Ramsey could play there if it is Le Coq’s energy we are missing… Not Arsene’s fault that JW, Rambo, Le Coq, quite possibly our 3 1st choice for that position are injured, although people will probably blame Arsene for the injuries…

  • porter

    It seems that a lot of people are blind to the fact that all the players they mention were already at the club and it was only when Coquelin came into the team that the midfield suddenly became a better entity. This is why a similar style player was required and as we do not have a tailor made one in our back up , we needed to buy one during the last window. There is little point in saying that other players can be moved to do the job , before his return they either couldn’t or didn’t and there is no reason to believe that without a complete change of set up they will do now.

  • porter

    I hope we have samples of the bloods taken by Uefa . It’s not that I am particularly suspicious but I don’t trust them . Blackening Arsenal’s name would be the perfect way to make the problem go away.

  • Gord

    It was interesting to see an article in a Birmingham news site, that WBA probably had the grass longer than allowed for that game.

  • Florian


    Pulis took a page from Moronho’s playbook. “Don’t cut the grass in the week before Arsenal comes here”.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Kassai as the ref…. that smells and spells trouble.

  • Josif

    Kassai- Schmassai. We don’t need to worry about the ref as I can see us thrashing Dinamo tonight. They have a lot of problems as Zdravko Mamic and Damir Vrbanovic (UEFA man) were arrested. Also, Mamic’s son – who has an agency that works on players’ transfers – is important piece of the puzzle that will either end as a proof that football criminals are out of reach for “regular” authorities as long as the get along with FIFA and UEFA or as a proof how rotten European football is (mind you, Croatia is part of EU).

  • Brad

    Personally I would like to see a youngster promoted; I am aware Chambers has potential, but Bielik was brought in with a growing reputation and looked the part when he came on against Shefield Wednesday. As for back up generally, we seem to have many central midfielders that can do a box to box/defensive job, but sadly most are injured. Being critical I would say that Arsene must be aware of the facts that Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta and the Ox all have poor injury records (Flam is not too bad, but his age could well dictate that he is not a long term answer and he has had his troubles with injury too)over the past few years. Coq doesn’t, but one has to consider the situation overall and say that he could perhaps of blooded the likes of Bielik a little more in preparation. just a thought.

  • yj

    It wasn’t wise to start a season with only one good DM.Infact its not wise to start a season without having two good player in each position. The Man City example you gave earlier doesn’t hold water because Man City have 2 good players in each position. In actual sense, the position Yaya toure currently plays(AM) belongs to Silva, who can also play wide.Silva therefore covers 3 positions(AM,LW,RW),Fernandinho and Fernando can play as DM, while Yaya Toure or Fabian Delph can play as a box to box midfielder!They also have good cover in every position on the field! Your statement that dismissed the notion that a good player will not be willing to come and be a second fiddle to Coquelin is also in error because Bony moved to Man City knowing he will be a sub for Aguero; Sagna did same knowing he will be a second to Zabaleta. The fact is, you cant tell if a player will be willing to move to a club unless you try hard. Some players are actually willing to fight for their shirts even if they know it will be an uphill battle to displace the regular starter!

  • Pedro

    Why not put kosielny in centre mid, that would allow Gabriel to play alongside mert. Kosielny has all the attributes to be a quality defensive mid, quick, can read the game, good in the air, good technique on the ball, can tackle, good passer of the all. What more would you want….

  • porter

    Or leave Kos and Mert together and play Gabriel just in front of them. He has similar attributes to Kos.