I almost let Francis Coquelin go, Arsenal boss admits

Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has become an important first-team regular this year.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has admitted that he was tempted to allow Francis Coquelin to leave at the end of the campaign owing to a lack of first-team chances, The Sun reports.

The French midfielder began the campaign on loan at Championship outfit Charlton Athletic where he struck up a midfield partnership alongside Spurs ace Johnnie Jackson.

However, after a mere five appearances at the Valley he was brought back to North London primarily as midfield cover and against his wishes.

But, as the season progressed, injuries prompted Wenger to start Coquelin in the first team and his performances – notably away at Manchester City – have been to an excellent standard.

As a result, Coquelin was offered a new deal at the Gunners, but not before boss Arsene Wenger considered releasing him when his previous contract was due to expire this summer.

“Coquelin’s form has been a surprise,” Wenger explained to reporters from The Sun.

“He wasn’t in my plans at the start of the season and my view was that if he wasn’t playing by Christmas with only six months of his contract left, I would let him go somewhere else.

“He was not happy when I called him back from a loan at Charlton in December because he was playing there and he thought I just wanted him back as cover for injuries.

“He has gone through a lot of doubt questioning himself and was certainly discouraged many times.”

How important is Francis Coquelin?

It has been a whirlwind adventure for Coquelin this season – almost considered not worthy of extending his deal at the club to now one of the Wenger’s first names on the team sheet.

After his miraculous performance during the Gunners’ 2-0 won over City at the Etihad Stadium, it became evident just how important he is to the first-team XI.

Rather unassumingly, he for the most part allows the array of attacking talent at the Emirates to do what they do best without the worry of being hit cold on the counter.

His ability to hound the opposition out of possession is a key component which has long been missing from the North Londoners’ midfield, with Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini often static when on the defensive.

Coquelin may not be the most gifted with the ball – although he certainly isn’t bad – but he doesn’t need to be and his sheer presence in the XI makes Wenger’s side more solid throughout.

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