Coquelin and some interesting stats

By Walter Broeckx

How strange football can be is something that we see from time to time. Apart from Tony who has seen his quality all these years ago when his vision was much sharper than it was recently most of thought that Coquelin was a lost cause. Coming to Arsenal at the age of 16. Learning his trade in the reserves and if my memory was right he was part of the team that won the FA youth cup as was Wilshere. Going out on a good loan at Lorient who were keen to take him the season after that. But Wenger didn’t let him go and kept him at Arsenal. And last season he went out on loan to Freiburg. And that wasn’t a complete success as far as I have heard.

So Coquelin came back for his last chance saloon-year. And it seemed for a while that his last chance wouldn’t come.  And going out on loan to Charlton was the final nail in the coffin. So it looked from the outside. But Wenger had seen a change in Coquelin. A change that he described as that Francis was improving in an impressive way in training and needed match practice to see if it would work in matches. To see if he could deliver in a real competitive environment.

He played in 5 matches at Charlton and then was recalled because of all our other more defensive midfielders were out injured our just about injured. Coquelin came on as a sub in two matches and then got his first start of his new Arsenal career at West Ham United. And the rest is history one could say. At first the jury was still out of course. Was it a lucky day? The real test would come against Manchester City. And well… he passed that test with flying colors.

So what changed for Francis over the years? Tony and Wenger saw the raw potential but something was missing. Or from what I could see something was in fact too much. I think that in his earlier years Francis tried to impress too much. But now he plays in a different way. I remember him being over adventurous in a few matches when he played. I remember a match at Chelsea where he was fouled but no foul given (haha surprise) and from these incidents Chelsea could score two goals. Had he avoided going in to the duel by giving the easy pass the goals probably wouldn’t have happened.

In other words he overdid things a bit in his early days. I think for a player who plays in the defensive midfield role it is important to keep it simple. And most of all : never get caught in possession when the other team mates have progressed. That is the moment you have to make sure that you never do something that might make you lose the ball and expose the team and make it vulnerable for a counter attack. And he seems to have worked on that part of his game. And I really think that it was that what was being the difference between being good enough or just not good enough.

Let me take you through a few statistics and compare him with the defensive midfielder of the team who is leading the league for the moment, Matic. As usual we don’t do the statistics ourselves but we believe the stats that we can find on the internet provided by companies who make these things their core business.

 Performances per 90 minutes  Coquelin Matic
 Appearances 13 25
 Minutes 925 2229
 Blocks 0.6 0.2
Clearances 5.2 3.2
Ground duels won 59.1% 49.6%
Defensive errors 0 0.04
Tackles won 48.6% 41.6%
Aerial duels won 68.9% 62.5%
Interceptions 4.2 2.2

Now those are really impressive stats. From both players in fact. But what is the best part of it is that since his arrival at the big stage Coquelin has been the better performer between both players numberwise.

Making more blocks than Matic. Making more clearances than Matic. Winning more duels than Matic both on the ground, in the air and in tackles. And certainly those aerial duels are amazing as Coquelin is only 1.78 (5ft10) meter and Matic is 1.94 meter (6fr4). That is a big difference! And yet Coquelin wins more headers than Matic. So he has a good jump in him it seems.

His reading of the game seems also much better than that of Matic. Making more than 4 interceptions on average in each 90 minutes is a great stat. In fact I have been told that the statistics of Coquelin are the best on all fronts from all the defensive midfielders apart from the number of tackles where Zabaleta from Manchester City has a better number.

What really pleases me however is the stat about defensive errors. For the moment Coquelin doesn’t make defensive errors. And that is what I referred to earlier in my article that has made the big difference. He now knows more than before what his job is, how to do it and when to do it. And in fact I have seen him being involved in our attacks in an excellent way in the last matches but he seems to be more aware of when to take a risk and when not. He also stopped being too aggressive in order to impress. He still did this in his first matches thinking that he needed to do this. But no need to take silly yellow cards like that. He will take a gamble but only when it is really needed. If he can improve a little bit on that…we might have an excellent defensive midfielders for years and years to come.  And one that can play when given the chance but will not risk too much when he can’t take risks. Keep both feet tight on the ground (except when you want to head a ball away), Francis and keep on performing as you do!



The books

24 Replies to “Coquelin and some interesting stats”

  1. I too have always liked Coquelin (can’t find any of my comments from way back though…).

    Not surprised to read this. Right now, I don’t think there is any need to buy someone for this position in the summer. We have Bielik to come through and Arteta and Flamini are still around.

    He is much more disciplined than, for example, Song – although I did think he went a bit too gung ho against Monaco. But apart from that can’t fault him since his return.

  2. Lovely stats for Arsenal faithfuls. I am surprised that the Coq’s stat is better than that of Matic considering how good the media, the biased commentators & analysts made him to be.

  3. I remember when Frimpong and Coquelin were being looked at as serious future options to replace Arteta and later Flamini and I mistakenly thought Frimpong was the better choice! That goes to show you how much I know about DM’s.
    On the ArsenalArsenal website there is a regular contributor known as TotalARsenal whose most repetitive theme is that AFC need a ^beast^of a DM to solve all their problems. Now even he is saying that Coquelin seems to tick all the boxes! TA is quite knowledgeable about tactics and team play so I am pleased to say that Coqueilin seems to have made it!

  4. I normally like to play devil’s advocate but this time all I can say is bravo, top player who will only improve. He is not getting the credit that Matic gets as the media always heap praise on whoever is the most successful team but the stats tell the story. In a sense defensive midfielders are like keepers in that if they are not noticed they are doing well and it is their mistakes that get noticed more than their positive contributions. Alex Song could have been a great DM for Arsenal but he couldn’t resist the temptation to go forward and when the opposition score and your DM is found in the opposing half it’s not good. Very happy for him, he’s obviously worked hard

  5. Interesting what omgarsenal says about Frimpong because I also though Frimpong would go far. Frimpong always seemed the more aggressive but his passing wasn’t as good and it was never quite good enough. Friend of mine supports Barnsley and sorry to say that Frimpong was terrible for them, seems that he lost his motivation because he should’ve been a star in the Championship. As Walter says, and Le Boss has also said, Coquelin had a realisation that he should play to his strengths as a DM rather than a playmaker and that is when he made huge improvements.

  6. The other key factor is that (i) Coquelin cost peanuts and (ii) has been off the radar for a while. Matic, on the other hand, cost £20m+ (although Chelsea had to buy him back having jettisoned for far less a couple of years earlier – looks like Arsenal are far better at nurturing young talen judging by this example!).

    It is really, really boring for the media if Arsenal can gill their “yawning hole” with a cheap/home-grown(ish) player than spending big. It is also much harder to “knock him down” as a subsequent flop (after one bad game usually) if he came cheap.

    As for Frimpong, the guy’s career tanked due to successive serious knee injuries. Major injuries between 16-20 are usually terminal for someone’s chances of making it at the top level. E.g. Miyachi. Ramsey notable exception here – but he had already broken through.

  7. good article
    it still seems a lot of Arsenal fans don’t seem to get that we have a excellent defensive player they want us to spend millions on a new player.
    we should not go for schinderlin imo we should get another young player to play his under study
    le coq is the man for now

  8. I would like to compare his stats to Alex Song. He has gotten way too much credit for his displays at West Ham this season. Yes he does a lot of Nice work in the middle of the park, but he has way way way too many defensive errors giving the ball away easily. Actually its especially that stat that makes Arteta a good defensive midfielder, that and his vision and quick passing. Luckily Coq has that too, and he has also shown some great burst of speed With the ball as well. The only thing I am afraid of when Coq Plays is the red card, but maybe he has matured 😉

  9. It has been very encouraging to see Coquelin develop this season and he has been desperately needed with Arteta and Flamini both injured. He has developed so well that it might be hard for the other two to displace him.

    Coquelin has a bit of pace which helps him recover if out of position and brings a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to the team – complimenting his improved positioning and reading of the game.

    Still a young player, Coquelin can only improve.

  10. Allow me to republish a comment I made when the same stats were published on just arsenal. I posted there under the name The Analyzer.

    “It appears the statistics about Francis and Matic have triggered a very busy morning. The debate is one that has occupied researchers for over a century now, with quantitative researchers arguing that statistical analysis of data generates objective knowledge, while qualitative researchers believe that quantitative methods do not provide rich data about phenomena. I hope my contribution will put this debate (Francis-Matic) to rest.

    First we should ask ourselves what those stats measure. I have analyzed the sqwuaka statistics a lot and noted that they measure activities of players on the pitch. I have also noted that the stats are not always absolute but are proportional in some cases, the latter helps address the problem of differences in situations faced by each player. For instance if one player faces 10 tackles in a game and wins 4, a proportional statistic is one that measures tackles win rate, which in this case will be 40%. If another player faces 100 tackles and wins 38, his tackles win rate will be 38%. This statistic therefore eliminates the problem raised by a lot of people who believe Matic is better than Francis.

    Coming to the statistics relied upon by the writer, three are proportionate while the other four seem to be in absolute terms. tackles won, ground duels won, and aerial duels won are measured proportionally, that is the percentages are expressed in relation to number of tackles attempted, ground duels attempted, and aerial duels attempted. These stats thus measure the success rates in what these players do. These stats have been purified from the noise that may be caused by such other factors as minutes spent on the pitch, formation played, and overall team performance. There is no debate as to the importance of the activities measured, to the qualities needed of a defensive midfielder. You want your DM to be very good at breaking up play, and winning tackles and duels achieves that. So even a qualitative researcher will agree that these are vital stats. Francis is better than Matic in all those, and no explanation can be offered in defense of Matic’s poor stats there.

    The other four stats get contaminated by such other factors as team formation, overall team strength, among other factors. Here there could be an argument in defence of Matic as some people believe Chelsea has better defensive stability than Arsenal. However, i would want to point out that I heard Wenger say Arsenal has the lowest number of chances created against in the league. He said this while pointing to how our defending was costing us. Opposition teams created less chances but were succeeding in scoring, while against teams like Chelsea the opposition created more chances yet would score less. I have watched many Chelsea games and noticed that every time Chelsea opened scoring it could easily have been 2-3 goals down. You can re-watch the West Ham game to see this. This statistic of chances created against therefore put to bed the argument that Matic faces less interceptions, blocks, and clearances compared to Francis. We should therefore accept that Francis is better than Matic in that regard.

    Ironically those that seek to defend Matic ignore the fact that he makes more defensive errors than Francis. If he faces fewer work load and makes more defensive errors then it should be a conclusive testament to his inferiority to Francis. I therefore argue that the stats used in this article do not lie, and if they miss any aspect which you believe makes Matic better than Francis, say it rather than hide behind the old age debate of whether stats tell the whole story.

    The problem with a number of fans is that they believe whatever rubbish told by pundits and the press, a group that does not want facts to go in the way of a good story. These groups have hailed matic as the best thing to have happened to football, despite what the stats say. They have hailed Chelsea as the team with the best defensive record despite the fact that the Saints have more clean sheets and less goals conceded compared to Chelsea. I even remember watching one EPL fanzone program, where the presenter lamented Arsenal’s few clean sheets (it had 4 or 5 then) and wanted to project the image that it was the reason why our title challenge had collapsed. To bolster his argument he sought to bring in Chelsea’s clean sheets only to realize that it had 7 clean sheets, not a big difference from Arsenal’s. He ended up saying “that is the difference which such fine margins can make”. The fact there was Chelsea’s defensive record was not as good as the presenter thought, and what they keep telling us.

    Now people have been confronted with facts that go against the official line they dismiss facts to remain with the official line. How convenient.”

  11. Honestly,

    I thought Coquelin couldn’t make it at ARSENAL. But I am so pleased to see him come good. Hope his upward trajectory continues…..

    Like Omg, even I thought Frimpong was in it for long…… Potential was there, poor attitude did it for him.

  12. I went back to (and turned on some javascript), and got 3 other sets of numbers.

    On the ground duels, Coquelin had 115+63=178 duels, compared to Matic at 193+351 duels.

    Coquelin’s game time is more consistent with 10 games, and Matic is more consistent with 25 games.

    Taking those total ground duels number, I extrapolate Coquelin to 676 per season and Matic to 533 per season. The geometric mean of those 2 numbers is about 600 per season. If we assume that a season is the more reasonable unit of time to count over, we might say that this 600 is a Poisson variable, and hence its standard deviation is about 24.5, and Coquelin is about 3.1 standard deviations over and Matic is about 2.7 standard deviations under.

    I think per game is a more reasonable interval to count over, which means we are guesssing that a mean of 15.8 ground duels per game, and a standard deviation is about 4 (or about 25%). Coquelin is engaging in 17.8 duels per game, and Matic is engaging in 14 duels per game.

    I don’t think using per season is appropriate, in fact I don’t even think per game is appropriate. I think if nothing else, we need data about how many duels were instigated without operating under a caution, and how many duels were instigated when operating under a caution. Is it reasonable to break things into first half versus second half? Home versus away?

    We have data about success on ground duels. for Coquelin it is 115/178 = 0.646. Let’s convert that to per game basis. Attempts 17.8 per game, successful at 11.5 per game. Mean is Np, variance is Np(1-p), so we expect a variance of about 4, or a standard deviation of about 2. Matic is 14 and 7.7 per game, so we expect a variance of about 3.5 or a standard deviation of about 1.9. A guess at a pooled standard deviation is sqrt(1.9*2)=2, so the apparent difference in means divided by the pooled standard deviation is

    We are unsure if Coquelin is attempting to be involved in more ground battles than Matic is, but it would
    appear more likely that Coquelin is more successful than Matic is. The difference between these two players is about 2 standard deviations, which isn’t enough to make a strong statement.

    In other news, Evans has denied spitting and is going to protest the charge. Hearing is tonight, decision tomorrow. Is Evans “innocent” because he is from Manchester United? Cisse has already admitted being guilty.

    I thought the stills from video feeds pretty much showed the spit. I think the only thing that needs to be decided, is can a Manchester United player be guilty? Of anything? From the tackle on Wilshere, we know that Manchester United cannot be guilty of breaking another player’s ankle.

  13. Been very impressed with Coq. Wonder if he is making wenger reassess summer plans? Think his stats are also better than a certain very effective Southampton midfielder we are constantly linked with. Probably better than Khedeira, at least this season, as well.
    Coq and Matic in the same sentence, the AAA will be on here citing blasphemy, they have Matic down as a minor Deity at the very least!

  14. I feel I should bring some balance to these numbers, in the modern game it is important for a DM to provide an attacking base, passing accurately and quickly, helping to control the flow of the game. I feel Matic does that better, I haven’t seen any stats but on a purely qualitative level he is a nice passer of the ball and seems to understand when to break the lines or play a square ball. The Coq will learn, and his defensive numbers are stonkingly good, but Matic might be a better DM…for now.

  15. and lets not forget we signed Bielik. And Bielik is traditional holiding midfielder. More like Arteta. Who apparently is better than Coquelin in ball control. There will be a good competion for place there. And then we could also see, Wilshere+Ramsey deep combination which I think Mr Wenger is keen on establishing. One sits other darts types.

    All in all good for ARSENAL. BUT as of now, I dont see us signing any “DM”.

  16. Coquelin seems to take a booking a lot more than Matic maybe we all know why he plays for Arsenal .
    I think the media see in Matic an elegant left footed player who strolls around the pitch looking unflustered ( George Graham ) Coquelin is all action and some last ditch tackles that seems the difference to me in what the media see

  17. I think one point is amiss here. How well the DM performs also depends on the formation. Apparently, most live matches show that Coq at anchor position while Cazorla and Ozil in front of him. I think Coq has settled down and played better because he has Cazorla in that double pivots. A great combination of power and skill. Probably the Spaniard stepped up his game since teamed with Coq, did anyone noticed? They support each other like brothers. I don’t see anyone capable of breaking them apart from that position now, apart from odd games. The way Coq wins the ball, the way Cazorla wizards his way through and the way Ozil excites the front three with his vision are the highlights of the season besides Alexis. COYG!

  18. Delighted with Coquelin’s form. It’s a really lovely story. Could you imagine next season both him and Schneiderlin lining up together in certain games. Imagine the freedom it would give Ozil and our fullbacks knowing they have that sort of cover behind them ?

    Comparing his stats with Matic is difficult as Mourinho often plays two DMs so Matic often plays alongside Mikel or Ramires so his workload is shared

    No denying that Coquelin’s stats are hugely impressive.

  19. Loved watching that FA your cup winning team. From this distance, all I can remember is that Coquelin and Frimpong looked excellent as a pair.

    That team may partly explain why I’ve always been convinced the only place for Wilshere is further up the field, and why best of all for him would be if he had a couple of notably tough tacklers, or at least defensive-minded players, like those two handling that side of things in the midfield.

    Diaby played deep alongside Coquelin in the televised u21 game earlier this year, and it worked an absolute treat. Bringing in another quality dm, to alternate with Coq or sometimes play alongside him, would, quite clearly, mean something has to give in terms of the high number of midfielders we already have; but it would also mean whoever does get enough playing time (to keep them happy) is allowed to use their strengths to maximum advantage, and has their weaknesses well covered.

    I think Wenger’s classy quote at the end of his Coquelin discussion this week applies not only to him but the rest of the team : ‘He restricted his game to that and you make success in life with what you’re good at. You don’t have all the qualities but you have to express what you’re good at and he’s good at that’

    I blame neither Wenger nor,really, the players themselves, but we have at times put out teams in recent years composed in a way which doesn’t really allow that formula to be used- think Podolski,especially, but jack Wilshere and others also.

    Might be worth ending with a mention of Hayden,though. He was incredible in that Villa game, and is a player I’ve liked every time I’ve seen him. So if no one comes in, it does increase Hayden’s short- and mid- term chances and, emboldened by what Coquelin is doing, I really think Hayden is up to it.

    Having two true dm’s would not mean Wenger has been proved wrong,nor that we are trying to do it the Chelsea way; it would mean, having negotiated the years of constraint, we are now at a different point, and can do this thing which will give us options, fantastic options. More like plan Aa, Ab, Ac, Ba, Bb,etc, than merely plan A and plan B.

    I trust Wenger would know when and how to use that option, and am convinced it would take us onto the next level, which is being very well placed for the title.

  20. After the Man Shitty game , while talking to 2 fans of the Arsenal( but not yet of UA , soon , soon !), they were bewildered by the play of Le Coq and seem not to know that he was one of ‘ours’ .
    I pointed out to them that this site has been tracking his career for the last 5 years or so , and we ,the AKBs were just waiting for him to fulfill his potential and blossom .
    Long may he patrol and guard that DM position.

  21. claude makelele was never a beast of a player and rarely passed the ball further than ten yards, but i posit the position should be renamed the “makelele” in the official records. i challenge anyone to name a better player than he at DM. dunga perhaps? and we know how well that worked for brazil. you don’t have to be 6ft 4 to be great at that position. the triple As thought koscielny was a waste of time too. they likely wrote off rosicky. they lambasted ozil. in time to come they will call gedion zelalem “useless”. they should all go watch cricket.

  22. I think Arsene said in an earlier interview that Le Coq used to want to do too much, he saw himself as a box to box midfielder and invariably got caught doing too much or just the things he should be leaving others to do. I think he has now found his place and knows his own limitations, he wins the ball, covers the spaces, has a decent passing range and does it all at a high tempo which is invaluable for us, I am glad he is coming good here as really like him and love his commitment, I remember him during that FA Youth Cup campaign and thought he was our best player, funny enough as a box to box midfielder

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